Categories: My Voice

Guest Author


By Sunanda Tadimeti

Making pilgrimages to the motherland, to receive blessings from many temples and deities, is a desire and blessing for us. We come from a family where our parents completed both south and north India pilgrimage trips. We left India about 30 years ago, but our childhood memories never left us nor did our religious practices.

In September of 2023, we visited our local temple and prayed to Lord Shiva and Vishnu to grant us an opportunity to visit the pilgrimage sites of Kedarnath and Badrinath. We had heard from many Indian friends how difficult these temples are to visit, especially for seniors like me and my husband. While we were in the temple, we met a good friend and devotee from Greensboro who not only visited these temples but advised us that September is a good time for NRIs to visit them. Travel agents, although, advised that summer is the preferred times for bookings as the weather conditions will be conducive for travel. Our determination to visit Kedarnath was not deterred and so we prayed for direction.

We left for India via Air India to New Delhi as it is convenient for us to continue to our destination, Visakhapatnam. Air India, with new management, still needs to improve but we had good meals and less wait time for destination.

We started planning our pilgrimage with the help of our nephew and talked with friends and relatives to explore our mission. We contacted our nearest relative residing in Delhi for many years who has good contacts. Our goal was to complete visits in a day trip from Dehradun, which is a good place with many temples of interest for us. We learned that some booking agencies are wooing customers for helicopter visits to Kedarnath and Badrinath (Do dham Yatra) and Gangotri and Yamunotri (Char dham Yatra with a night halt).

A reliable travel agency is important otherwise we lose the money paid as an advance and no way to get it back. We also learned that Rishikesh is among the best starting points for Kedarnath yatra. Rudra Prayag is the nearest location to Kedarnath. Buses and cars take you up to Gauri Kund from where one takes helicopters to save time and health factors. Our journey was entirely by helicopter starting from Dehradun to Gupta Kasi and then to Kedarnath. The helicopter ride included a stop at Gupta Kasi and then we boarded a different helicopter. We guessed these were for operational conveniences.

Through our good inquiry we found a good helicopter travel service that took us in one day trip from Dehradun helipad to Kedarnath (via Gupta Kasi) and Badrinath. We did not get the final go as there are many factors like weather and security clearance by aviation authorities. We were advised to be flexible and stay an extra day in case of schedule changes.

We finally got a call around 9:30 pm to be available at Dehradun Sahsradhara helipad by 5 am the next day. As we reached the place, we saw each traveler’s details were verified and each person was weighed as there is load factor. Also, we were allowed minimal handbags, a small one which also counted for the weight.

Our package included a travel guide to receive us at each place and get us a quick darshan and return to helipad. The mountains and the natural surroundings were breathtaking. One can only explain by experiencing.

We heard people talk about breathing issues due to lack of oxygen at high altitudes. Luckily, we did not have any difficulty but took necessary clothing and basic medicines. The entire helicopter crew and ground staff were extremely helpful in getting passengers in and out of helicopters. The helicopters take off and land like birds flying in the air.

Once landed in Kedarnath, we walked about 15 to 20 minutes to see the Lord Shiva temple that was built by Pandavas. Devotees were arriving by Doli’s and some by horse rides. It is no doubt a strenuous journey and wonder how difficult it was for devotees to reach the place. The temple is open only for six months and closed during winter months.

Our first sight of the temple was with divine pleasure, and it was humbling to see the Shiva Linga in a small temple with small entrances to enter and come out. The swayambhu lingam is considered very auspicious. Our guide arranged a quick entry, and devotees were showering the Lord with milk, water, honey etc. We wondered ourselves if the Lord could reside in such a small place when many clamor for palatial buildings to live. We quickly learned that simple living is less stressful and our faith in God brings peaceful living.

Our car driver recommended us to buy a Shiva Ling (in stone form) available there and brought from the river. We managed to buy a few items that would remind us of our visit. My husband while walking back saw a nice copper bracelet with Kedarnath temple name written on it and bought it. He wears it as a blessing from Shiva.

Later we were quickly escorted to the helipad as we were close to the flight schedule. While waiting there we saw the entire helipad area was quickly secured by Army personnel. Their helicopter brought many essential deliveries. They were quickly unloaded while the engine was idling. It quickly took off and clearance was given for our helicopter to pick us up and take us to Badrinath.

You can contact Sunanda Tademeti via email at [email protected]