Journey to Kedarnath Before 2013 Disaster – Shot in 2012

Hello and welcome to Amrito Bharat. In 2013 the state of Uttarakhand which is known as Dev Bhoomi… …was struck by a terrific natural disaster. Several cloud burst and sudden melting of the glaciers caused unexpected floods in the rivers of this region. The holy city of Kedarnath in Uttarakhand suffered the most damage due to two consecutive floods. Just one year before the disaster we went to Uttarakhand to visit Kedarnath and Badrinath. Kedarnath has changed a lot between then and now. Even the trekking routes have changed after the disaster. How was this holy town back then? Let me show you how the holy city of Kedarnath was back then. We travelled to Delhi from Kolkata via the Sealdah – New Delhi Duronto Express. Our first night of the trip was spent traveling on this train. Next day we travelled to Haridwar from New Delhi via the New Delhi – Dehradun Jan Shatabdi Express. We stayed at a hotel in Haridwar on the second night of our trip. Har Ki Pauri Ghat, Haridwar. Next morning we rented a car from Haridwar for a 8 day trip. We decided to spend the first night on Sitapur. We started our journey from Haridwar to Sitapur at 8:30 in the morning. Sitapur is 230 km from Haridwar. It takes almost 9 hrs to reach there. We reached Rishikesh at around 10 AM. We stepped out of our car to look at the majestic Ganga river. The Laxman Jhula was also visible. This is the view of Ganga from Rishikesh. And that is the Laxman Jhula. The natural beauty of this place is amazing. We enjoyed the views for some time. We got back to the car and resumed our journey because we still had a long way to go. We reached Devprayag. We could see Devprayag (confluence) very well from this height. This is one of the five confluences (Panch Prayag) of the Alakananda river. This is the confluence (sangam) of Alakananda river and Bhagirathi river. This is the birthplace of the Ganges. From here on the river is called Ganga. The river on the left is Bhagirathi. The river on the right is Alakananda. It looks muddy compared to the Bhagirathi. Alaknanda is considered to rise at the confluence and foot of the Satopanth and … … Bhagirath Kharak glaciers in Uttarakhand near the Indo-Tibetan border. The headwaters of the Bhagirathi are formed at Gaumukh at the foot of the Gangotri glacier … … and Khatling glaciers in the Garhwal Himalaya. The confluence of these two holy rivers at Devprayag gives birth to the Ganges. We reached Devprayag which is almost 70 km from Rishikesh. But we still need to travel another 133 km today. So we got back to our car and resumed the journey. From Devprayag we travelled through Rudraprayag and Guptakashi to reach Sitapur. It was already 7:30 PM by the time we reached Sitapur. Our total journey from Haridwar to Sitapur took 11 hours. This is Sitapur. The roads are busy with traffic even at night in this remote region of the Garhwal Himalaya. Today we will travel to Gaurikund (on car) from Sitapur via Sonprayag. Then we will start our trek from Gaurikund to Kedarnath. We left from our hotel at 5 AM. It took us more than 3 hrs to cover a distance of 6 km due to heavy traffic. We reached Gaurikund at 8:30 AM. There is people everywhere. We were amazed to see so many people traveling to such a remote place like Kedarnath. Unbelievable. This is the spirit of India. Like every year, the doors of the Kedarnath Shrine were opened for the pilgrims on May 2012. Traveling to Gaurikund by car was possible back then. The journey to Kedarnath involved an uphill trek from Gaurikund which streched more than 14 km. With the presence of travel by mules and other means of assisted transport… … the journey on foot was quite a difficult adventure on this route. The Mandakini river was flowing along the way. And the snow peaks were visible all along the journey making it quite an enjoyable experience. There were waterfalls, snow peaks and forest all throughout the journey. The whole route was covered in mud. But the excitement of the pilgrims and… … the busy route filled with mules, horses, carts and palanquins made it feel like we were walking through… … a country fair and not in some remote parts of the Himalaya. We reached the mid way of the journey at Rambara in the late afternoon. It was late evening by the time we completed our journey and reached Kedarnath town. We spent our night at an ashram (guest house) of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha… … which is located next to the Kedarnath Temple to its left next to the Mandakini river. The memories of that night stay and the next morning is unique. It is difficult to explain how awesome our experience was. Our 14 km long trek and the cold and windy weather exhausted us. But the experience was of a lifetime. The sight of the first rays of the sun falling on the snow capped peaks behind the temple was breathtaking. This is the Kedarnath Temple and the surrounding area is the Kedarnath Town. The Kedarnath Dham is one of the four abodes (Chaar Dhams) that are major pilgrimage sites for the Hindus. From sunrise to the morning there are various activities taking place in this holy cities. The journey from the night stay to the next day is a fond memory that I will never forget. It is something that will stay with me forever. The place that we saw was like that for several generations. Most of the elements you see here have changed, including the main structure’s base. In 2013 Floods, waters had started cascading at a huge speed from river Swaraswati and Chorabari Tal… … which are located right behind the Kedarnath Temple above the hills… … bringing along with its flow huge amount of silt, rocks, and boulders. A huge rock got stuck behind Kedarnath Temple and protected it from the ravages of the flood. Although the temple withstood the severity of the floods, the complex and surrounding area were destroyed. Shops and hotels in Kedarnath were destroyed and all roads were broken. The area is now a flat land covered with debris and later levelled. The old complex is completely gone. The Kedarnath that we saw in 2012 and the Kedarnath that now exists is very different. Today we will return to Gaurikund downhill through the same 14 km route that we took the previous day. We started the trek at 10 AM. Rambara Helicopter service was also available for a quick journey between Kedarnath and Sitapur. It took more than 6 hours for us to make our journey back to Gaurikund. We often made halts along the way and enjoyed the scenery. We returned to our car parked at Gaurikund. Now we are headed to Triyuginarayan Temple. Triyuginarayan is 13 km from Gaurikund via Sonprayag which is the confluence of Basuki and Mandakini rivers. Triyuginarayan is believed to be the venue of the celestial marriage of Shiva and Parvati. Witnessed in the presence of the holy fire that still burns eternally in front of the temple… … in a Havana-kund or Agni-kund, a four-cornered fireplace on the ground. Pilgrims have been offering wood to the fire in the havana-kund (fireplace) since the three Yugas… … Satya Yug, Treta Yug and Dwapar Yug – hence the place is given the name “Triyugi Narayan”. An amazing place to visit. The natural beauty of this place is stunning. Stories of Hindu Mythology, the majestic Himalaya and the tranquility in this incredible natural beauty… … makes this place an unforgettable experience. END

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