Zee Media Bureau
Dehradun/Haridwar: A controversy has erupted over the resumption of worship at the Kedarnath temple that stands amid piles of debris and rotten bodies.
At the centre of the controversy is the decision by the chief Rawal (priest) of the temple, Bhimashankar Ling Shivacharya, to shift the most revered symbol of Lord Shiva at Kedarnath, the "bhog murti", or the idol of the deity that must be fed daily as part its akhand puja (unbroken worship), to Ukhimath, 61 kilometres from Kedarnath.
Belonging to the Veerashaiva (Lingayat) community from Karnataka, the Rawal, who’s from the lineage of priests who have been conducting puja at Kedarnath for over 300 generations, began to worship at Ukhimath so as to ensure that the rituals surrounding it remained unbroken. Shivacharya is the 324th Rawal.
Omkareshwar temple at Ukhimath had to be the Lord’s destination after tragedy struck Kedarnath as it is the location where this very idol shifts to in winter months when Kedarnath`s doors close after snowfall. The idol returns to Kedarnath in May every year.
The manner in which God’s idol was saved from the torrent that flattened Kedarnath is nothing short of a miracle. As per a newspaper report, the ‘Bhog Murti’ was retrieved by a young priest named Vageshling. The chief priest Bhimashankar Ling Shivacharya was not at Kedarnath at the time of the tragedy.
As per the religious practice, the sacred idol is brought to the main temple every morning and moved to the priest’s quarters in the evening.
When tragedy struck, the idol was at the priest’s quarters. Vageshling was among the lucky few who survived nature’s fury by taking refuge inside the main temple.
The morning after the flashfloods, Vageshling waded through the sludge to retrieve the ‘Bhog Murti’. He then proceeded on foot to Ukhimath, stopping at places enroute but he ensured that the rituals were performed as per tradition.
However, a group of spiritual leaders, led by Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati, is demanding that the worship should begin at Kedarnath at the earliest.
The Haridwar-based religious guru holds the opinion that Kedarnath idol’s puja cannot happen at Ukhimath before November.
A report quoted Shankaracharya as saying that disruption of puja in Kedarnath even for a few days will be disastrous for the country and demanded that the puja should begin at the shrine immediately after cleansing the temple.
He has since announced that a group of saints will perform ‘kar seva’ at Kedarnath and begin the puja at the revered shrine.
The report also quotes the Rawal as saying that the worship of the original Jyotirlinga cannot be held unless Kedarnath town is purified completely. He goes on to say that the Shankaracharya has no say in the functioning of the shrine, which is bound by their special conventions.
Clearly, the last word on the issue is far from written.