Rig Veda, the oldest surviving text of Hinduism, mentions a God named Rudra. The name Rudra is still used for Shiva. He is described as the father of Rudras, a group of storms. Well, the mythology indirectly explains lots of modern day science. The Shiva lived in the high altitude areas, in glaciated regions, where wind (storms), water and ice carve the landscape.
Kedarnath is also one such terrain carved by these natural agencies. During the winters when the entire area is covered by snow, the nature is at work. The weathering of the landscape due to the load of snow and ice and also due to water action continues, silently. Once the climate warms up and snow begins to melt, the erosion of landscape begins. It is a continuous process and the nature never stops. The weathering product is carried down the slope by water or gravity. Generally water aids to gravity and the process of mass wasting is augmented.
Kedarnath is situated on the glacial outwash plain of the Chaurabari Glacier, say the geologists. Appearing to be stable, a glacier is never stable. A river flows forward, likewise, a glacier retreats backwards. A river is seen to flow, but the movement of a glacier is fathomed by sophisticated surveying instruments only.
The weathered product created in a glacial regime as lots of rock flour and piles and piles of assorted rocks. The thickness of weathered products can be enormous. A glacial country is a water world, partially in the form of ice and rest in the form of streams emanating from the glacier, kettles or small lakes produced by trapped ice blocks disjointed from the main glacier and left behind and also often lots of water seeps in to the ground and produces swamp like conditions. As seen in the left flank of the Mandakini in Kedarnath.
The weight of the ice in a glacier is so much that while retreating, it virtually mauls the floor. The thickness of the muck left behind, as already stated is considerable and it can never be a good foundation for a structure to be used by humans as a dwelling. To construct a stable building, in my opinion in such a terrain would require a considerable skill. It is like constructing a three star hotel on a swamp. I am no civil engineer, hence not competent to comment on the stability and quality of structures in Kedarnath, but as a geologist I know it was a wrong choice to have erected so many buildings there.
As a land of the Rudras, Kedarnath or for that matter even Badrinath should never be taken for granted. A small change in the atmospheric conditions and havoc can be created by the three agencies of the nature, which are the wind, ice and water. This is what happened in the recent case in Kedarnath. In such terrains, there may be a bright Sunshine with not even a flake of cloud in the vicinity, but overnight the weather can change with a storm raging and culminate in a snowstorm.
Several times in such terrains I have experienced the wrath of the nature, luckily escaped to write this narrative. It was one such pleasant evening that we reached Thidsi Nala, a hanging valley of Kurgiakh Chu valley in Zanskar. It was a memorable evening; we were camping beside a brook. I and my friend Rajendra shared an Alpine Tent, which was only large enough to accommodate the two of us in a supine position. We could sit only one at a time. Normally, we were used to Petromax for light in the night. But the tent forbade us, being very small, plus made of highly inflammable material. We had only our torches to break the monotony of the evening.
We had our dinner just after Sunset and returned to our perches like the birds. We shared anecdotes, jokes, we abused our bosses for sending us there, we talked of our families and children, but for how long we could have chatted! Finally around eight we said good night and tried to sleep. But it was nowhere around! And after some time we could hear howling winds in distance. Soon our tent was shaking like a dry leaf. We were forced to remain lying as sitting was impossible. Opening the zip of the tent was unthinkable as our only shelter would have been blown away! The storm like a thousand Rudras howled and howled and thereafter it was all quiet.
We could not (rather dare not) see, but we could feel it was snowing outside. All night we remained ensconced in our sleeping bags and prayed for our safety! In the morning with the first light around 5.30, we peeped out. It was all quiet and all white outside. We came out, it was slushy, with snow all around. Our porters too were huddled together with fear written large on their faces. They said this place is haunted. The high altitude makes breathing difficult and the storm was really frightening. Somehow we packed our things, dismantled the wet tent and got moving to a lower altitude (13000 feet) to our main camp. There the Chowkidar said there was storm and thunder in the night, but it was less furious in the main valley.
The purpose behind this narrative was to enlighten the readers that never take the mountains for granted. While in a terrain like Kedarnath, the Rudras can get angry and upset the tranquility in no time. So powerful are these agents of the nature or the Rudras that they can do lots of things which are beyond imagination.
Many environmentalists are blaming the dams and the tunnels and the blasting to be a root cause of the misery of Uttarakhand. Well, in 1867 when the land mass from China Peak (now Naina Peak) in Nainital decided to tumble down, which dam or tunnel was responsible for that landslide. Similarly in 1880 a huge landslide in Nainital created the Flats. In 1893, Birehiganga was blocked at Gohna and a huge lake was formed due to the dam thus created. The lake burst, and there were vast floods downstream. But there were no casualties, because the British government paid heed to the report of TH Holland a geologist, who trekked to the area and pointed out that by August 1894 the dam, would burst. The then government had moved all people in vulnerable areas to safer zones.
Sorry there were no dams then. But yes there were not many people either. In Nainital 193 persons had died due to the landslide of 1880. Now with the place swarming with people, another landslide can cause havoc.
The Rudras (Natures forces) are active in the Himalayas. Therefore before opening the gateways to Kedarnath and Badrinath and also before allowing massive construction activities in towns already bursting with people, the government should learn to respect the nature and dissuade people from crowding these places for their own saftey.
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