As i was returning from office the other day, the hot gossip going on in the local train was how a rock had prevented the Kedarnath temple from getting washed away during the horrifying floods, when all but seemed lost. About how the almighty apparently saved his temple and thus re-established the faith of his followers through this act. While a section of the crowd seemed to agree to this, there were some who didn’t. They argued on the fact that if there was indeed a god, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place. Thousands woudn’t have died at his doorstep. What was in discussion was the following event.
Kedarnath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and situated near the Mandakini River in India in a valley of the Garhwal Himalayas, was constructed in the 8th century and folklore has it that Shree Adi Shankaracharya himself , oversaw the building of the shrine. Considered as one amongst the holiest temples in India, it is on the must-see list of every devout Hindu. For the trekkers, this place with its beautiful landscapes and challenges is nothing short of a paradise. What pains you today is the unfortunate turn of events that has led the temple to be nearly destroyed and thousands of life and livelihoods swept away overnight.
What initially started as a heavy shower on Saturday night on June 15th 2013 in the Garhwal region eventually became something beyond everyone’s imagination. Early Sunday, the tragedy began when a cloudburst happened upstream in the valley. What followed was incessant rains leading to huge floods that took everything along with them . A cloud burst happens when clouds come under huge pressure due to getting stuck in a valley. The result is them’ bursting’ thereby causing the entire water in them to drain down in an instant!
Due to this burst , huge rocks also broke away from the Kedar dome and started rolling in the valley. One of them apparently stopped just before the stone temple, thereby breaking the flow of the muddy water into two. This lead to shops, houses basically everything around the temple to be washed away in natures’ fury, but the temple survived!
While the table tennis has started on whom to blame, whether the govt for its corrupt policies that allow the builder-mafia nexus, who cause irreparable damage to the environment, to thrive. Or the rains, which have been recorded as the highest ever in this region in the last 43 years or so. Environmentalists state the widespread and almost unregulated expansion of giant hydro-electric projects in the region, the incessant construction of roads to serve the burgeoning tourist population, the adverse effect on the fragile ecosystem in the region due to growing human presence and pollution as the major causes for the devastation that Uttarakhand has been subjected to. The administration is of the view that this is solely Nature’s fury.
This debate seems to continue in our living rooms as thousands of lives hang on by a tight rope. As more and more stories come of how the stranded pilgrims spent three days without food, how they collected rainwater and used to distribute the precious water through bottle caps, with each individual consuming one cap of water twice daily, the magnitude of the tragedy just seems to grow!
However there is a debate of another kind that has reared its head once again admist all of this. To believe or not to believe. Is there a god or is religion just superstition. Is there a God’s hand in the rock stopping just before the temple or was it pure coincidence.
"Call it a miracle but the Nandi statue and the other idols in the temple are intact," said a Kedarnath temple committee official post the event."In fact, those pilgrims who were in the temple during the tragedy also survived. But the destruction all around the temple has been terrible," said the official
The atheists say, “If there was god in the first place, why would the tragedy happen. So much of destruction , pain and sorrow. Which god gives that. Now what’s idiotic is to assume that the rock that saved the temple from being washed away is an act of god. It is just coincidence. Now these people will start worshipping the rock too. One should not visit such places only if there is so much danger lurking!”.
To this the sadhus have a counterargument ,“This was bound to happen. Just a day prior to the floods, the administration forcibly removed a Kali mata statue (who is the guardian deity of this region) for a hydro project. Look what unfolded in the guardian’s absence. Even in the past when such a move was made we have witnessed terrible tragedy. But sadly these patterns will never be noticed by non-believers”.
While we leave this debate for some other day, there is a very simple logic why things happen. If you disturb the ecosystem that you live- in, exploit her for your own selfish needs, she will get back like a woman scorned! If you introspect more ,what you will eventually realize that this just the universal law. The law of Karma. And it’s definitely not just for acts against humans. This spiritual law governs us all and the most definitely the environment around us because we impact it and vice-versa.
Hundreds have died and thousands are fear trapped in what remains a huge pile of debris. Every year the temple gets lakhs of devotees and a prompt disaster management system (Human Hand) is the least one can expect rather than leave that to Ram bharose( The God’s Hand). It is too much an ask from him i feel, even the lord would agree! The kumbh mela also is another annual event which sadly sees stampedes happen year after year. Mumbai itself becomes a huge disaster zone every year during monsoons, something which I personally experience and it just becomes frustrating year on year. Even today in the train there were lives hanging on to the doors, simply because in Mumbai you don’t commute, you get transported like chicken.
With such a huge population and strain on existing systems there will always be mishaps and tragedies waiting to happen. Having a system that prevents them from happening in the first place is still miles ahead for us to even imagine, develop and implement. However instead of indulging in loose talk, let’s divert our energies to build a foolproof disaster management system so that the common man--believers and non believers included, can at least survive to tell the tale!
And yes we can then enjoy their debates over god too, on local trains , in print , on national television as to whether a stone indeed saved Mahadev…High time we saved Mankind first!