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article imageHimalayan religious pilgrimages hit by rains, landslides

By Sravanth Verma     Aug 3, 2014 in World
As rains continued to lash the north Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in the past month, landslides and rivers in spate have blocked pilgrim access to many Himalayan temples.
Most significantly, the chardham yatra has come to a halt, one of many that have interrupted it over the last few weeks. The yatra or pilgrimage is the round trip made by Hindu devotees to four Himalayan shrines, namely the Kedarnath temple, the Badrinath temple, Gangotri — the source of the river Ganga — and Yamunotri — the source of the river Yamuna.
The National Highway 109 to Kedarnath was blocked by landslide debris, while the highway to Badrinath was stalled at two places. The Gangotri highway was blocked at six places. The pilgrimage to Kedarnath has been stalled for 19 days now.
Major rivers such as the Ganga and its tributaries may also overflow their banks. The Ganga at the pilgrim town of Rishikesh was just 20 centimeters below the danger mark, and at Hardwar, 50 centimeters.
The weather and fears of a repeat of last year's flood disaster have significantly impacted tourist inflow this year.
D V Singh, chief executive officer of the Kedarnath-Badrinath Temple Committee, said, "There is hardly any pilgrimage in Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines."
The pilgrimage is the backbone of the Garhwal district's economy, however the government's efforts to revive it are proving futile. The Kedarnath-Badrinath Temple Committee has reported a 90% drop to the shrines since last year, when the pilgrimage generated INR 12,000 crore (2 billion USD).
Uttarakhand Finance Minister Indira Hridayesh said "This is a pretty bad season as far as the economy of the Garhwal is concerned." Nearly 8,800 restaurant owners, priests, and hoteliers along the route depend on the pilgrimage for their livelihood. But the number of those affected indirectly will be much larger.
"The situation in Garhwal region is very precarious due to sharp decline in the pilgrims visiting the Chardham area," said a government official. However, the government hopes that roads and infrastructure will survive the rainy season without damage.
More about Himalayas, India, pilgrimages, Hindu
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