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Third time lucky! President Pranab Mukherjee finally reaches Kedarnath

Raju Gusain | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

After two failed attempts, when bad weather played spoilsport, President of India Pranab Mukherjee finally reached Kedarnath in district Ruderprayag on Wednesday.

Mukherjee offered prayer at the famous Hindu shrine and inspected the reconstruction work being carried out there. With this, the over one-year wait of the President's tour to Kedarnath ended.

This time, too the President had to cut his visit short, due to bad weather in Mandakini, and had to return to Dehradun almost one hour earlier than scheduled.

President Mukherjee, accompanied by Uttarakhand Governor KK Paul and Chief Minister Harish Rawat arrived in Kedarnath at 8.30am on Wednesday.

From the helipad, he was taken to the ancient temple dedicated to Shiva, located an altitude of 11,755 ft above sea level, on an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV). The President, with his son Abhijeet, offered their prayers in the Kedarnath temple.

The Kedarnath temple is considered to be more than a thousand years old. In 2013 a devastating flood created havoc in the temple town, killing over 5,000 pilgrims and thousands of other devotees went missing. The Indian Army and Indian Air Force had launched massive rescue operations to evacuate thousands of stranded tourists from Kedarnath.

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All in a day's work

Harish Rawat briefed President Mukherjee about the ongoing and the completed restoration work in the flash-flood hit valley. Photographs related to Kedarnath restoration were on display at the temple township as well.

Mukheree made his first attempt to come on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath in 2015, which he had to cancel due to heavy snowfall in the higher reaches of Ruderprayag.

This year, he came in June and waited for hours at Gaucher airport for the weather to clear, which never happened and he had to return to Dehradun, without completing his journey. The third attempt proved lucky and Mukherjee fulfilled his desire to visit Kedarnath, finally.

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Upping tourism

This year Kedarnath has witnessed an impressive growth in the arrival of tourists. So far, over 2.84 lakh visitors have come in - improving from last year's total number of 1.54 lakh. Improved fooding, lodging facilities and also chopper services have resulted in reviving tourism.

Fit for the president

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President Pranab Mukherjee is staying at the Rashtrapati Ashiana in Dehradun. The ashiana, which was built originally as bungalow of the Commandant of the President's Bodyguard ], is being revived for the President after long years of disuse. KR Narayanan was the last President who stayed here in March 1998.

The President's Bodyguard first established its summer camp in Dehradun in 1838 for horses and remounts. The Commandant's Bungalow was built in 1920 and then, renovated and re-designated as Rashtrapati Ashiana' during 1975-76 to provide a suitable summer retreat for the then President of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, as an alternative to Shimla.

The Ashiana has been now renovated once again as per the advice of the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) which conducted a site survey in May 2015 and suggested methods of retrofitting including the provision of earthquake-resistant features.

Based on the advice of CBRI, retrofitting was done by providing horizontal & vertical seismic bands. Wire mesh has been fixed on the surface of masonry before the replastering.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 28 September 2016, 5:38 IST