Three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent a day at a meditation cave at the Kedarnath shrine in Uttarakhand, in the final days of the general elections, the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) has started the construction of another cave 15 metres away, “seeing the demand”.
Before Modi stayed at the ‘Rudra Meditation Cave’, from May 18 to 19, it had received just two bookings, says B L Rana, General Manager (Administration), GMVN, that looks after the cave. “But since then the demand has increased. We are doing advance bookings now.” The cave had been first opened for bookings in August last year.
The Rudra cave was booked for the entire month in June when Kedarnath gets the maximum pilgrims. As the monsoon set in, the number of bookings fell to nine in July but are again up to 14 in August, with one more week to go. There is advance booking for 10 days in September and eight days in October. In all, there have been 74 bookings so far in the current tourist season, that starts in April and lasts till October-November. Only one person can stay in the cave at a time.
Developed by the Kedarnath Development Authority (KDA) under supervision of the Public Works Department (PWD), from a natural cave, the 125 sq-ft Rudra Cave is located 500 metres up from the Kedarnath shrine, and faces the Kedarnath and Bhairavnath temple. It was built at a cost of Rs 11 lakh, with facilities like electricity, water, geyser and heater. Tourists are provided meals, and there is a phone to summon an attendant in case of an emergency.
Ahead of the PM’s visit in May, the cave was modified at a cost of Rs 4 lakh. “The quality of bedding was improved. A geyser was installed. The toilet seat was changed from Indian style to Western. A window was built for a view of the shrine,” says a PWD official.
The new cave will be similar, though its carpet area may vary. Three more such caves are proposed to be developed for Rs 50 lakh.
Vikas Wagh from Satara in Maharashtra, who stayed in the cave on June 2, says, “The service was satisfactory, but there is very little space inside. One has to be careful while walking. There was power outage at least thrice. Though it was restored promptly, there should be a permanent solution because telephonic lines also get cut off then.”
Ravi Agarwal of Mumbai, who stayed in the cave for three days in June, says, “One should not have high expectations when one goes to a cave for meditation at religious places. I did not feel the need for anything.”
From the 74 bookings so far this year, the GMVN has earned a revenue of Rs 1.04 lakh. It charges Rs 1,500 as rent for a full-day stay and Rs 990 if one spends just a day there. Modi’s stay at the cave was “complimentary” as he was a “State guest”.