Dhari Devi idol goes missing

Activists claim idol deliberately removed to favour infrastructure firm GVK and help expansion of Shrinagar hydel project

By Soma Basu
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

While rains pound Uttarakhand, causing floods and widespread devastation, the idol of the deity at the Dhari Devi temple in Shrinagar has gone missing. The temple is being relocated by raising it on a platform to make way for the expansion of the Shrinagar hydro-electric project; the move had triggered a major controversy with various religious and local groups vehemently opposing the project.

Officials of Alaknanda Hydro Power Co Ltd (AHPCL), developers of the Shrinagar hydropower project, had shifted the idol on Sunday at 7.30 pm. Three priests and two local residents lifted the idol after it was cut off from its base on a rocky hill, by AHPCL employees. The idol was taken to an elevated platform that was constructed by the AHPCL as the deity's new seat. But after two pillars of the structure gave way, the idol was hurriedly taken to an undisclosed location.

Move to shift idol advanced

AHPCL, a subsidiary of infrastructure major GVK, had been trying to relocate the Dhari Devi temple from its original site near Shrinagar town. This would prevent the temple from being submerged by the project, and would facilitate the enhancing of the hydro-electric project’s capacity from 200 MW to 330 MW. GVK was given the task of completing the project in 2006 after its construction remained suspended for nearly 20 years due to financial crunch and other factors.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), too, has been opposing the temple relocation. In July 2012, senior BJP leaders, including L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting him not to relocate the temple, and demanding Uttarakhand be given 2,000 MW of free power instead. A petition was filed in the Uttarakhand High Court in Nainital, and later in the Supreme Court in 2011 and 2012 respectively by activist Anuj Joshi and retired IIM professor Bharat Jhunjhunwala.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on May 7, this year issued orders to stop the work to raise the level of the Dhari Devi temple. The work is 98 per cent complete. The move followed close on the heels of the ministry’s submission to the Supreme Court that the temple should not be shifted at all because of the religious sentiments attached to it. However, the MoEF on May 16 revoked its ‘stop-work order’ to relocate the temple after the apex court criticised it  and reserved order on relocation. The final judgement would be pronounced after the court reopens.

AHPCL had submitted in the court that it would relocate the idol on July 13, 2013. AHPCL officials say the idol was relocated in a hurry as the temple was in danger of being submerged due to heavy floods in the region.
If the Supreme Court in its final order directs AHPCL to bring back the deity at its original position, AHPCL would have to do it, says an aide of Bharat Jhunjhunwala, the petitioner in the case, who was unable to speak due to ill health.

“We have submitted everything in the Supreme Court. The court knew that the date for relocating the idol was July 13. We have nothing to worry. The court had asked MoEF to revoke the stop work notice and it is unlikely that the court would go back on its word in its final judgement,” says Mannava Sodekar, law manager of GVK.

Conspiracy theories

Suman Nautiyal, one of the members of Dhari Sewa Samity (DSS), alleges the priests of Dhari Devi Pujari Nyas were bribed by AHPCL to shift the idol. DSS, formed by local women, had been staging a dharna at Srikoti, a kilometer away from the temple, for the past three years against relocation of the idol. “The AHPCL employees filled water in the tunnels and channels of the project and raised the water level artificially. On Sunday evening, they raised an uproar that if they don’t shift the temple as soon as possible, it will be submerged (in the flood). Within minutes, AHPCL employees came with all the gear and cut off the idol from its base,” says Nautiyal.

On the collapse of the new structure, Nautiyal says, “Dhari Devi had come to that place of her own wish. Such accidents prove that the devi (goddess) would not accept any other place.” She believes the idol was taken away and nobody knows its whereabouts. “The devotees have been cheated by the AHPCL and Pujari Nyas,” she says. Lakshmi Prasad Pandey, member of organisation Pujari Nyas, refutes all allegations but says that he does not know where the idol is at the moment.

“Just when the idol was lifted at 7.30 pm on Sunday, there was lightning and heavy rains. It is the wrath of nature that has been unleashed on Uttarakhand now. The floods and landslides are because of the unhindered exploitation of the natural resources. The government should learn from this,” says Hemant Dhyani, a member of non-profit Ganga Aahvan who plans a protest march in Haridwar on June 22 and 23.
Sources say the state government had been pushing for the relocation of the Dhari Devi temple as it was a major obstacle to starting AHPCL’s hydro-electric project.


Assessment of cumulative impacts of hydroelectric projects on aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity in Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins, Uttarakhand

MoEF order to Alaknanda Hydro Power Company for causing pollution of river Alaknanda & surrounding environment

WP (PIL) No. 137 of 2009 by Shri Ram Lal and others vs. Union of India in the High Court of Uttrakhand at Nainital regarding Environmental Clearance to M/s Alaknanda Hydro Power Company for Srinagar Hydroelectric Project

Study on assessment of cumulative impact of hydropower projects in Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins up to Devprayag

Report of the site visit to Srinagar 330 MW hydropower project of Alaknanda Hydro Power Company Limited

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  • Dhari Devi is not at any

    Dhari Devi is not at any undisclosed location but at one of the houses of Dhari village near Dhari Devi ancient temple.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • It is not true, it has been

    It is not true, it has been shifted to new prepared temple 2-3 hours before Alaknanda level rose to dangerous level. Most of the so called activist are acting as blackmailer and just try to get more and more from GVK. Local people were ok to GVK plan to elevate the temple.. They did not ask for relocation or submergence .. But so called activist and opportunity seeker want to make it a bone of contention..

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • The notion that moving the

    The notion that moving the idol caused unprecedented rainfall is beyond preposterous. It is just another "holy cow". I am not saying that development should happen no matter what the cost associated with it be, but there has to be some limit to being mindful of people's sentiments and unreasonable demands.

    And BJP just needs an excuse to add to their voting banks. Religion exploitation is right up their ally.

    What I feel worse about is that focusing on these petty reasons actually takes time away from discussing the real causes of such disasters. We need to emphasize that it is unacceptable that India does not have a disaster management plans and the fact that climate change is rearing its ugly head and we are not doing anything about it.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Just as simple, take as much

    Just as simple, take as much only u need, don't become greedy, himalaya gives more than what we need, but we for money wants to make himalaya a barren field.if we could restrict the population and construction growth in mountains than only we can save ourselves. water which is the main source of life we become a private property in few years to come and the reason is from gangotri to haridwar every dam is owned by a pvt company and when they find less water in dam they will stop the flow and in situation like of today they will open all gates, the result is death in water or without water.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • Well, With respect to God who

    With respect to God who can devastate me if I say negative about Him/Her, who dislocated or misplaced the idol, and who paid for it-- is this your justice??

    I do not want to believe in this, no matter if it is true or not.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • It is a well known truth that

    It is a well known truth that Too much materialistic life and technological advancement caused Global Warming. The result, we can see all over the world. Unless we maintain the eco friendly life with mother nature, surely mother nature will balance herself.

    We may have to face some more disasters if we don't stop the exploitation of Mother nature.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • The science behind the Dhari

    The science behind the Dhari Devi idol


    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply
  • I suppose it will be

    I suppose it will be beneficial for all to relocate the temple and the idol so that the state can have better energy resources. The hydro electric power will indeed help them to have a stable power output and increasing the capacity will be useful in the future.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Where is the Dhari Devi Idol

    Where is the Dhari Devi Idol now ?

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply