In June last year, floods devastated Uttarakhand, taking a huge toll on the lives of residents and pilgrims.
But that has not deterred devotees in the State from making their way to the pilgrimage centre again.
In May, Vivek Varma of Anna Nagar will travel to Badrinath, Kedarnath and Babaji caves in Uttarakhand for the third time.
“Last year, we went with the Uttarakhand tourism department and did not encounter any problems. We are aware the State was flood ravaged but it is going to be almost a year since the calamity, so hopefully, things would have returned to normalcy,” he said.
Mr. Vivek, who is going with a group called ‘Aum Divine Consciousness,’ said the tourism department of the northern State had explained everything in detail.
According to sources in the Uttarakhand tourism department’s office in Chennai, bookings have started in full swing for both the Kumaon and Gharwal regions. Those who cancelled last year have made bookings this year, said R. Anand, public relations officer, Uttarakhand Tourism.
“Many tourists are now making bookings for Kailash, Adhi Kailash and Om Parvath Yatras from June to August. This year, Kumbh Mela is happening at Kailash,” said Mr. Anand.
The Kumaon region has several attractions, including Adhi Kailash and Om Parvath Yatra, and Nainital, Ranikhet, Mukteshwar, Almora and Babaji Cave. The Gharwal region is mainly known for pilgrimage spots including the Char Dham (Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath), Haridwar, Rishikesh and Mussoorie.
Some of those who got stuck in Uttarakhand following the flash floods last year are going back this season. Swami Balananda from Vellore is one such person, who is taking a group of 40 devotees with him. He has booked his tickets for a pilgrimage in the month of May.
“Last time, we were stuck in one place for nearly a week. It was only on the seventh day, there was sunshine, and our mobile phones started working. I am very grateful to Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for bringing us back safely last year,” he said.
After the floods, the Char Dham trip has become a day longer. “A longer route has to be taken and we have prepared two places for night halt in Kedarnath. Though we are not getting as many enquiries as last year, the response is encouraging enough,” said Rana of Gharwal Mandal Vikas Nigam region, a government of Uttarakhand undertaking.
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