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This article was first published 1 year ago  » News » Joshimath Crisis: What Happens To Badrinath Treasure?

Joshimath Crisis: What Happens To Badrinath Treasure?

January 31, 2023 10:24 IST
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During the winter, Badrinath's 45 kg of gold and 35 kg of silver is kept at the Narsingh temple in Joshimath, located about half a kilometre from the houses which have developed cracks because of the subsidence.

IMAGE: A view of the snow-clad Badrinath temple after heavy snowfall. Photograph: ANI Photo

The sinking of Joshimath has created a major problem for custodians of the Badrinath temple, which is considered one of the most revered shrines in the country.

The gold and silver which have been received as offerings at the Badrinath temple are kept inside a special vault when its portals are opened for pilgrims during the summer months.

In winter, the temple doors are shut and the gold and silver are brought down to be kept inside the premises of the Narsingh temple in Joshimath.

This year, the trustees of the Badrinath temple find themselves accosted by an unexpected problem.

The subsidence in Joshimath has reached such alarming proportions that major cracks have appeared in houses located just half a kilometre away from the Narsingh temple.

Temple authorities are apprehensive that cracks may well appear in the Narsingh temple complex.

Heavy snowfall in Badrinath has worsened the situation triggering off fears that the snow could well be accompanied by avalanches.

IMAGE: The Badrinath temple. Photograph: ANI Photo

A statement reportedly made by Badrinath-Kedarnath Temples Committee Chairman Ajendra Ajay has also upset residents.

Ajay expressed concern where the 45 kilograms of gold and 35 kilograms of silver should be kept in case the Narsingh temple developed cracks.

'There are no cracks yet in the Narsingh temple and its premises. But as a precautionary step we have to come up with an alternative plan where to shift these riches,' Ajay reportedly said.

Amongst the locations explored as part of a standby plan was the nearby town of Pandukeshwar. But that was shot down in favour of a guest house in Pipalkoti as it was found to be a safer, more secure, venue.

"We are all going through such a difficult time. For old people and young children it seems like an unending trauma. Instead of showing concern for the public, the temple committee is worried about where to keep their gold and silver," says an elderly widow in Joshimath.

"They should have used the money for the welfare of the people," says Raturi. What can be a greater calamity than this? People have lost their homes and livelihood and do not know who to turn to. Instead, they are making plans about where to keep their riches."

Ashok Saklani, who has been associated with the temple trust for several years and presently runs a shop outside the Narsingh temple, feels such criticism is very harsh.

"The trust's primary responsibility is towards the effective running of the temple and to ensure that all prayers and other activities take place in a proper manner. The temple trustees are indeed taking care of the poor and destitute to the best of their ability," says Saklani.

Both Ajay and Sanklani have placed their trust in 'Badri Vishal' and believe 'He will protect them and see through this difficult period.'

There is also a debate whether the gold, silver and other treasures valued at crores of rupees should be handed over to the government in the light of an emergency.

IMAGE: A local resident prepares to move out of her home, which has been marked unsafe due to land subsidence at Joshimath. Photograph: Ayush Sharma/ANI Photo

Joshimath is also the seat for Jyotirmath, one of the four maths established by Adi Shankaracharya in the eighth century with an ancient Kalpavriksha tree under which he gained spiritual enlightment.

Adi Mukteshwaranand, the Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath, moved the Supreme Court to get the court to provide relief to the public, but the court ordered that the case be heard in the Nainital high court instead.

The Shankaracharya has not minced words in his criticism for the state government for not showing sufficient empathy for the public.

'Joshimath symbolises the essence of Sanatan Dharam,' the Shankaracharya has said. 'It seems as though our religious beliefs and the sufferings of the public are of less consequence than saving NTPC which is responsible for this disaster.'

'We need to have an impartial enquiry into this disaster,' the Shankaracharya asserted.

IMAGE: Locals protest in Joshimath, January 23, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

"A Kafkasque nightmare seems to have overtaken our city," says Kamal Raturi, secretary, Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti. "The state government has not reached out to the public. CM (Pushkar) Dhami made two brief visits to our town, but interacted only with officials."

"We want the central government to declare this to be a national disaster and give the residents compensation on the lines of what the National Disaster Act has outlined in 2007," insists Raturi.

IMAGE: The Badrinath Highway blocked by a protest after cracks developed in houses in Joshimath. Photograph: ANI Photo

Residents living in unsafe homes move to safer accomodation during the night only to return to their homes in the day time.

"We have made a suggestion to the state officials to move us to two or three safe places all located very close to Joshimath till such time as the situation settles down," says Rasturi, "but they have not responded."

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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