Chardham: Initial rush exceeds all previous records, says chief minister
The rush of pilgrims to the four fabled Hindu shrines in Uttarakhand after the Chardham yatra began on April 18 has surpassed all previous records, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said Thursday.
His statement comes hours after government in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh issued an advisory on Wednesday suggesting people in that state to not undertake the annual pilgrimage in view of the inclement weather. Dust storm followed by rain tore through parts of UP, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan on Wednesday killing more than 100 people and leaving behind a trail of destruction.
“I don’t want to comment on that (the advisory issued by the UP government). However, the rush of pilgrims to the Chardham after the pilgrimage began, has broken all previous records relating to the initial days of the annual yatra,” Rawat said.
He was talking to reporters after reviewing the annual Chardham yatra, the preparations for the forthcoming Tehri festival, and also projects relating to the department of tourism.
Rawat said after the yatra began this year, some 60,000 pilgrims have visited the Badrinath shrine and 51, 000 Kedarnath till Wednesday evening. The other two shrines that comprise the Chardham are Gangotri and Yamnotri.
“The rush of pilgrims to the Chardham has been encouraging,” he said adding the people visit the fabled religious circuit from across the country. Rawat said that the weather conditions frequently change in the high altitude area of Chardham. “However, three times more infrastructure relating to health and medical facilities has been put in place on the pilgrimage route this time so that pilgrims do not face any problems. For instance, cardiologists have been deputed at Kedarnath owing to the cases of heart attacks that are reported among pilgrims in the high altitude area,” he said.
Tourism minister Satpal Maharaj said the state government has ensured that cash was replenished in the ATMs on the Chardham route. “The step is being taken so that the people visiting the Chardham do not face any difficulty. For instance, when the chief minister came to know that there is shortage of cash in some ATMs in Uttarkashi, he directed officials to have them immediately replenished,” Maharaj said.
He downplayed the advisory issued by the UP government. “Incidentally, most pilgrims visiting the fabled religious destination are from Uttar Pradesh only,” he said adding the inclement weather was not a permanent problem. “The weather related problems like thunderstorms and hail storms do not stay forever,” Maharaj said. “Several areas in the state witnessed thunderstorms yesterday but the weather today is sunny.”
He said the Chardham will witness an influx of pilgrims after the weather has turned pleasant. Maharaj said all seers and religious preachers have been asked to discontinue organising their religious discourses in the Chardham till June 15. “An order in that connection has been passed. The precaution is being observed so that pilgrims visiting the heavily crowded Chardham are not inconvenienced,” he added. Maharaj, however, clarified that the sants and preachers who have already booked their programmes relating to religious discourses will be allowed to go ahead.
To a query he said the laser show being presented at Kedarnath shrine tracing the history and mythology of the abode of Lord Shiva has evoked a huge response from the pilgrims. “In fact, the chief minister has received a number of congratulatory messages for coming up with a concept like laser show.”
The chief minister said that the state government had constituted a committee that will chalk out a programme relating to functions to be organised to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. “The panel has been constituted on the pattern of a similar panel constituted by the Centre to celebrate the Mahatma’s 150th birth anniversary countrywide,” he said. Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary will be commemorated for two years from October 2, 2018 to October 2, 2022.