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Religion and religious places have historically influenced Indian society on a political, cultural and economic level. There is a sense of pride associated with the country’s vibrant religious history as the traditions of various religions. Moreover, while a majority of people in India identify as Hindu (79.8%), the blend of religions that exist within the country continually impact contemporary society. There is a rich religious history visible in architecture, and it is not uncommon to find various places of worship, such as a well-known temple like “Kedarnath”. The Kedarnath Temple (Mandir) is a temple devoted to Lord Shiva. Located on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river, Kedarnath is situated in the state of Uttarakhand, India.

Kedarnath is an integral part of the Char Dham Yatra, which includes Yamunotri, Gangotri and Badrinath. In the legendary novels and tales, Kedarnath is believed to have been named in honour of King Kedar, who ruled in the Satya Yuga. The land is around the temple is named Vrindavan in honour of King Kedar's daughter. There's also a legend that says this is the temple where the Pandavas finally found Lord Shiva in order to seek forgiveness for the sin of killing their cousins. But according to the ‘Garhwal Vikas Nigam’ the temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya in the eight century and so existed when the Little Ice Age of 1300-1900 AD came.

The temple is said to be more than 1,200 years old. The ‘Shivling’ at Kedarnath unlike the usual form is pyramidal and is regarded as one of the 12 Jyotirlings. Kedarnath is highest among the 12 Jyotirlingas. One can only walk or take helicopter service to reach Kedarnath temple. Temple opens on the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya which usually falls in April end or first week of May and closes in October or November (after Diwali). The temple is closed for six months because of heavy snowfall. Once winters begin, the statue of Shiva is carried down from Kedarnath to Ukhimath, and later returned at Kedarnath, in the first week of May. The Monsoons are not a recommended time for visiting Kedarnath due to threat of landslides. Bhairav Temple which is close to Kedarnath, is a temple where the god Bhaironathji is ceremoniously praised at the opening & closing of Kedarnath. The belief is that he protects the land around Kedarnath from evil during the time when temple of Kedarnath is closed. Devotees can also perform various Puja-Paaths, Aarti Bhog at Kedarnath temple but at prefixed rates. There are several types of Puja Paath available at Kedarnath temple which includes online Pooja where presence of pilgrim is not required. But there are certain things which can disturb common man's devotion in many ways. A pooja named ‘Astopachar Pooja’ of 8 Minutes costs Rupees 850 and single day's pooja may cost Rupees 26000 (as per norms) And there are several other expensive poojas too, which highly affects the pockets and sentiments of common man. According to a report of ‘Economic Times’ in 2017, nineteen pilgrims climbing uphill for a darshan at Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand died and the sources said that they were forced to sleep in the open in freezing cold and with lack of basic facilities, including food, lodging, medicines and transport. While the administration says up to 4,000 pilgrims can stay near the temple. There are reportedly three points for lodging, this seems to be a huge claim. Moreover, this appears to be only for the privileged few. Many others have been forced to spend the night in the open. Located at an altitude of 3,553 metres, temperature is below zero degrees at Kedarnath after sunset. There are hardly any guest houses at the top and food is also difficult to get even when one is ready to shell out more money.

Keeping apart all of the human mistreatments, the nature also played a terrible game with Kedarnath in June 2013, when the mountain came down rolling across the Kedar Valley and the rivers breached their banks, places like Sonprayag to Kedarnath were completely devastated. According to the official records, 197 people were killed, 236 injured and 4,021 went missing in the flash floods, which affected five districts of Uttarakhand. A total of 2,119 houses were fully damaged, 3,001 severely damaged and 11,759 partially damaged. Between June 13 and 17, the state of Uttarakhand had received unusual amount of rainfall. This led to the melting of the ‘Chorabari glacier’ and the eruption of the Mandakini river. The floods affected large parts of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Western Nepal. The heavy rainfall caused massive flash floods and landslides resulting in the death of residents and tourists as well as extensive damage to property. The worst hit was the Kedarnath valley. Ecologist Chandra Prakash Kala notes in a report that “the approximate cost of damaged bridges and roads was $285 million, dam projects worth $ 30 million and loss to state tourism worth $195 million.” Historical records show the area had been affected by similar natural disasters back in 1893, 1968 and in 1970 when the calamitous impact of the flood had resulted in the Chipko movement. Even if the massive rainfall and cloudbursts are natural causes for the floods and landslides, some environmentalists believe that the disaster was a manmade one. Intensive mining in this unstable ecosystem, unplanned and random constructions, mismanaged tourism and related activities are some of the reasons that made to name this natural disaster somewhat as man-made that increased the intensity of destructions. And to create more mysteries, it is said that during the floods when the entire vicinity of Kedarnath was ruined, but the temple was not so harmed, as a huge rock behind the temple diverted the massive flood water coming towards the shrine.

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As Kedarnath is located in the state of Uttarakhand, it has connectivity with some railway stations and airports. The nearest railhead is at Rishikesh, 221 km away. Pre-paid taxi services are available at the railway station. One has to travel 207 km by road and the rest 14 km on foot to reach Kedarnath. The nearest domestic airport is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, about 239 km from Kedarnath and operates daily flights to Delhi. Taxis are available from Dehradun airport to Kedarnath. Visitors can also board regular buses from Rishikesh and Kotdwar to Kedarnath. Private taxis can also be hired from these places. The National Highway from Delhi to Mana (538 km) remains open throughout the year. Kedarnath is also accessible by foot from GauriKund, which is connected by state buses to Rishikesh, Dehradun, Kotdwara and Haridwar. The bus fares vary depending on the season. There are plenty of options available for overstaying at kedarnath, mostly dorm beds and tents.

Over the years, the number of pilgrims exploring Kedarnath has also exponentially increased. In order to meet with the rising needs of religious tourism, the State Government built a detailed network of roads, hotels, lodges and conducted other construction activities into the remote mountainous areas of the Himalayas. However, it is also true that the unexpected timing of the rainfall and the unusual amount of it also did not leave enough time for the pilgrims to evacuate, thereby increasing the importance of the impact of nature has become a preference for the Government of Uttarakhand.

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Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kedarnath