I dont know who Shiva is. To me, He is a concept of arguably the most liberal Hindu deity. The temple of Kedarnath, dedicated to this God is not accessible by regular traffic. It is a steep trek of 14 KM from a place called Gaurikund in Uttarakhand, India. The total trek is now around 20 KM one way, post the 2013 disaster.
Some pieces of useful information:
Besides your dear feet, the other modes of transportation that can take you to the temple are Pony / Mule (Takes around 4 hours one way / Rupees 1800 as per the current government tariff, but you could never get one unless you throw in another few thousands).
Very difficult ride. Problematic especially for the elderly and can cause much pain.
Doli , Sort of a chair/platform to sit, that will be carried by four individuals, meaning you would be carried by Human. Takes around the same time as horses / rupees 5000 as per the government standards, again, it is never to be had at designated price.
There are even some porters called Pithhu in local language, who offer to carry you in their baskets.
This, to me is the most inhuman way to go to the doors of the God. No price is enough!
For the capable, it is logical to trek, not only to avoid the other transports, but also to enjoy the views en-route.
Now, there is another way to go there from places like Phata, Sarsi or Sitapur. You could take a Helicopter ride from any of these places. The ride is all together of 15 minutes. When we went to Sitapur, our initial goal was to take a helicopter to the shrine and come back the same day to Sitapur and proceed towards Badrinath the next day.
And here comes our handful of Ash…
Not every plan materialises and neither did ours. The reason behind is partly a temporary rush due to some special occasion and chiefly due to mismanagement of the travel agency that we contracted for arrangement of this trip.
We started early from Haridwar and reached Sitapur around 7 PM in the evening the same day. Since there was a huge rush for the helicopter tickets, the helicopter ticket prices sky rocketed to as much as three times the government designated price. They were being black marketed, being sold for the most money they could fetch. It was not acceptable for us to bribe our way to the door of the deity that symbolises simplicity and non-materialistic view on life.
We checked the other modes of transportation too, however, given the huge rush, manipulation and utter chaos my mother decided not go to the temple this time.
Normally, a shuttle service is available from Son Prayag to Gaurikund, but on that day, there was only two cars plying and thousands of pilgrims. So we we went till Gaurikund, which is around 5 km from SonPrayag, on foot.
A grain of Gold…
Suddenly among this despair and heartbreak, there was a small grain of gold that found its way to us. It was a great experience to walk till Gaurikund during early morning. It seemed like a gift from nature, like pure gold, albeit, in a reasonably convincingly bad disguise that left my mom tired and the rest disheartened!
But, during early morning, the sights were beautiful. The view of the mountain with the river flowing beside was one of the most enchanting moments of the entire tour. There were not many people trekking beside us and the only sounds were of the river flowing and the birds chirping.
A cool breeze on my face, we walked some more towards the not reachable shrine whose master had denied us access, this time on. But it takes more than one wave to reach the shore and multiple knocks to finally push the door open. I figured, we need to come back here, for seeing the old temple atop the hill and to see the Kedar range of peaks shimmering in the morning light conversing with the sky from the front of the temple.
And as we stood there in Gaurikund, we asked for forgiveness from the almighty for not being able to go there and paid our silent respects with the feeling in our hearts, that was the gold and the myrrh, that He had provided us during our not so long journey on foot.