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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 4, January 14, 2023

Joshimath Sinking: Destruction of Nature and Disneyfication of Himalayan Pilgimage Centres | Anonymous

Saturday 14 January 2023


by Anonymous

With Joshimath sinking, the worst prophecies I have made in the past about our disastrous policies for the ‘development’ of the Himalayas are sadly coming true. Joshimath is just the beginning. While I have much to say about how as a government as well as a civil society we continue to treat the destruction of Himalayan ecology with total disregard, the case of Joshimath, Kedarnath, and Badrinath and other sacred destinations has a different dimension. 

This is related to the growth of the most vulgar form of Hindutva, devoid of any connection with those Hindu spiritual traditions which have made these locations sacred. We have little understanding now of how and why these locations, sometimes chosen with great geographical precision as to the axis they formed, were designated as ‘sacred’. What was common to all of them was their remoteness, the difficulty of access and their intimate relationship with their natural surroundings – river, rock, direction of the sun, flora and fauna.

The temples were built to highlight these relationships. Journeying to them – the Yatra , the circumambulation – had to be arduous – a kind of Tapasya and it was the Yatra itself which led to self realization not the entry into a temple. In Kedarnath for example, it is the rock face which is worshipped as the icon.

Hindutva has destroyed this sacredness. We have Disneyfied these destinations. Built hotels, shops, parking lots, houses and made it possible to reach them by Helicopter or built the most destructive four lane expressways. We have forgotten that just fifty years ago a night stay in Kedarnath was forbidden by tradition and a pilgrim after reaching there from the last post from where the final climb began had to return before nightfall. Only the priest was allowed to stay in the complex – no one else. A few Sants lived in the caves around and that was all. All this was a part of the mystique, and critical to its sacredness. All gone.

This is Hindutva as a flourishing industry, a perverse kind of commerce in pop religiosity, cheap calendar art iconography, mythology as Bollywood fantasy, raucous bhajans based on filmy tunes, filthy dhabas selling greasy ‘Prasad’ and travelers in hordes who treat this as a form of guilt free spiritual saturnalia.

In fact it is by adding to all this the layer of muscular, patriarchist, cultural nationalism that the new Hindutva identity is being constructed. It is an identity built on violence against nature and against humanity. There is nothing sacred about our Geography anymore. This is not Hinduism.

The sinking of Joshimath had to happen. Worse may follow.

[The above post from ’After the truth-shower’ — Dilip Simeon’s Blog is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use]

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