NEW DELHI, June 26, 2013 (TNN): The most revered symbol of Lord Shiva at Kedarnath--the "bhog murthi" or the icon of the deity that must be offered daily in what is called its akhand puja (unbroken worship)--has also fallen victim to the devastating flood. But its custodian, the priest Vageshling from Davanagre, Karnataka, waded through mud and corpses to retrieve it, to ensure the rituals surrounding it remained unbroken.
"According to the religious practice at Kedarnath, the sacred murthi is brought inside the main temple every morning for the feeding ceremony and moved to the pujari's (priest's) quarters in the evening," said Vageshling, 33. In a hoary tradition, this very murthi shifts to Ukhimath in winter months when Kedarnath's doors close after snowfall, and is kept at Omkareshwar temple. The murthi returns to Kedarnath in May every year.
The morning after the apocalyptic flash flood swept everything, Vageshling knew the bhog murthi had to be recovered. "There were at least 20 bodies in and around the temple. But unfazed by the devastation, I waded through the sludge to reach the murthi kept in pujari niwas adjoining the temple," said Vageshling. Outside, debris and bodies lay scattered and he knew that it was inappropriate to perform puja. Leaving everything behind, Vageshling left the temple and headed straight for Garur Chhetti, 10 km away, where he performed the first prayer of the Deity in an ashram. He then took a rescue chopper and reached Phata village from where he walked to Gupt Kashi, about 14 km from Phata, he reached there by the evening of June 19 where he could perform puja by the rules, he said. On Saturday, he walked to Ukhimat, the winter abode of the deity. It's now at the Omkareshwar temple and normal prayers have started.