In his second visit to Kedarnath in 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday reached the shrine ahead of its closure for the next six months. He was accompanied by Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and other state and central government officials.
The priests at the Lord Shiva shrine and the locals welcomed the prime minister. He sat in the sanctum sanctorum, offered prayers and performed the Rudrabhishek a day after Diwali. He also laid down the foundation stone for a new 'Kedarpuri', which was ravaged by flash floods in 2013, killing thousands. The area surrounding the temple was destroyed in June 2013 after the Chorabari Glacier lake breached following heavy rainfall that caused flash floods in the river Mandakini.
Modi also lay foundation stones for reconstruction of the 'samadhi sthal' of Adi Shankaracharya and construction of a museum. He then addressed the gathering of 5,000 people, most of whom were BJP workers. Starting off with chants of 'Jai Jai Bhole', he said that Lord Shiva wanted him to serve 125 crore Indians.
"Through the work we are doing in Kedarnath, we want to show how an ideal 'tirth kshetra' (pilgrim centre) should be like, how it should be pilgrim-friendly and the well-being of the priests should be given importance. We are building quality infrastructure in Kedarnath. It will be modern but the traditional ethos will be preserved. We will ensure the environment is not damaged," Modi said.
He promised three-storey houses for priests which will have one floor for devotees, one for the priest themselves, and one for their guests. He also said that the width of the road will be increased and all modern facilities will be provided to the residents as well as those visiting.
Making a strong pitch for tourism in Uttarakhand, he invited those who were interested in adventure sports to visit the state. He also called for friendly competition between the hilly states to attract tourists and development.
He further insisted that he wants to turn around the old saying which says that a mountain's water and youth are never used by the mountain itself. By promoting adventure tourism, hydroelectricity and water sports, he wants to make sure that a mountain's water and youth benefit from it as well.
He also attacked the Congress for denying his proposal in June 2013 when he was chief minister of Gujarat for the redevelopment of the revered Himalayan shrine of Kedarnath, that was badly damaged in the catastrophic flash floods.
"The floods of 2013 had made all of us extremely sad. That time I was not the prime minister, I was the chief minister of Gujarat. I came here to do all that I could for the victims," Modi said.
"I had met the then chief minister (Vijay Bahuguna) and the state government officials and offered that Gujarat would redevelop Kedarnath. During the meeting, they agreed. And I announced it outside in the media. But when the news was flashed on television, and it reached Delhi, the people there (UPA government) panicked and within hours the state government was pressurised to announce that it will redevelop Kedarnath itself," Modi alleged.
Modi said after the BJP government came to power in Uttarakhand earlier in 2017, "I understood that the work of Kedarnath redevelopment will be done by us".
In June 2013, Bahuguna and the Congress party had rebuffed Modi's offer for the redevelopment of Kedarnath and his Rs three crore cheque, which was in addition to a Rs two crore his state had donated for rain disaster relief. The Congress and other parties had criticised Modi for trying to be the "Rambo" of rescue. The Congress had alleged he was trying to communalise a natural calamity.
Praising the work done by the Uttar Pradesh government in building toilets for the poor, he also said that the work of building toilets was as important as the reconstruction work being done in Kedarnath. He said that he recognised this was the way to ensure that India progresses.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Oct 20, 2017 13:57 PM