Apdaa ("Catastrophe")

On 16-17 June 2013 Kedarnath suffered flash floods caused by almost 13 inches of rain.  The first one, caused by runoff from the hills at right, was on the evening of the 16th.  The second, more devastating flood was at 7 the next morning, when a glacial lake above the town burst its banks, sending a nine-foot high flood through the town (its path is visible at the top left).  Thousands died, though the exact number is unknown.

The locals who survived still face many problems: the trauma of being forced (by their work) to return to the accident site, living in buildings with no power, water, or sewers,  worries that the government may relocate the entire town, and--since visitor arrivals were 90% lower than in 2013--no one made any money in 2014. 

Kedarnath is so remote and the destruction was so profound that reconstruction has moved slowly, despite the government's best efforts.  In the foreground is the Udak Kund, a small well on the path leading up to the temple.  This was completely obliterated in the flood, but has been cleaned out and is being rebuilt.  The red flags behind it mark where temples used to stand. 

Around it you can the enormous boulders that were swept in the flash flood, as well as wrecked buildings and other debris.  This photo was taken in October 2014, almost 15 months after the disaster. 

 

 

Among the things the flood completely destroyed was a small shrine marking where (according to tradition) the great teacher Shankaracharya--philosopher, preacher, and sage--left his mortal body in the early 9th century. 

Locals have marked the spot with this small statue, and the building may be be rebuilt when time and money become available.  In the midst of the destruction the mountains look down, seemingly unchanged.

 

The Kedarnath temple suffered relatively little flood damage, primarily because the largest boulder in the debris flow (seen in the foreground here) got wedged in directly behind the temple, and diverted the bulk of the floodwaters to each side of it. 

People were quick to see a divine hand in this, and one temple priest--who was inside when the flood hit--described the waters as swirling in through the east door on the temple's left side, circling around the image in the rear of the temple (as if in a gesture of respect), and then exiting through the west door on the temple's right side. 

 

  This large rock, now called the Divya Bhim Shila (Divine Bhim Stone), has become a small shrine in its own right, to mark what is largely viewed as a miracle.  The side of the rock has been smeared with the red powder known as sindur, and the decorated trident placed to one side. 

Bhima was one of the five Pandava brothers in the epic Mahabharata, and since he was known for his prodigious size and strength, this seems an appropriate identification with this stone. 

 

The temple itself had little visible damage--a few stones knocked off the back, and some cracks on the upper right facade--but structural assessments are ongoing. 

The men in the foreground wearing orange dhotis are Kedarnath pandas (hereditary pilgrimage priests).  Aside from them the town had no businesses whatsoever--not even a tea stand, much less a hotel or restaurant.  Since the pandas work is tied to this particular place, the flood has gravely affect them--many of them lost buildings ind property in the flooding, and all of them have been hit by the disastrous decline in visitor numbers.

   
 Two different views of flood damage--landslides caused by  flooding obliterated most of the path above Rambara--the new path is on the other side of the Mandakini.  The floods also scoured away vegetation from the narrow gorges, as seen at right.

There was comparable damage for most of the Mandakini River valley, and the effects are still being felt. 


       
   

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Last modified 31 December 2014