Kedarnath: The pilgrimage facilities at Kedarnath shrine have remarkably improved, thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi-monitored reconstruction projects. As a result, the number of visitors to the shrine has increased significantly. This year, a record number of 7.3 lakh devotees reached the Kedar valley to worship Lord Shiva.

In 2012, the local administration had recorded more than 5 lakh vsitors to Kedarnath temple, but in 2013, in the aftermath of the great flash floord devastation, the number of pilgrims to the site dwindled. The year 2014 registered the worst tirnout, with just about 40,000 pilgrims visiting the shrine.

This year also saw the maximum number of visits on a single day, with more than 25,000 pilgrims visiting the shrine on April 29, the day the portal opens.

The hard work and sheer grit of the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering made the reconstruction of Kedarnath possible in a short time. The passge to the shrine 11,755 ft above sea level is smooth again.

Speaking to MyNation, the man who is believed to have led the reconstruction mission, Colonel Ajay Kothiyal, said, "We were the early respondents to the calamity. When we reached the area of devastation, we could not believe the extent of loss caused by nature's fury. However, team work and the spirit of the youth played an important role in restoring the aura of Kedarnath. Now pilgrims are coming in large numbers to the temple. A better approach and facilities for comforting the pilgrims have been constructed."

Prime Minister Modi, during his visit, had praised Kothiyal and his team for their astounding efforts in rebuilding the Kedarnath temple.

The recent years and the respective number of tourists that visited Kedarnath are given below.

2012 5,83,167

2013 3,12,201

2014 40,833

2015 1,54,430

2016 3,09,746

2017 4,71,235

2018 7,30,456

Surpringly, Badrinath temple also broke its record of maximum number of visits, registering more than 10 lakh pilgrims on November 9, the day of Bhai Dooj.

Traditionally, the portal of Kedarnath close during the winters. On this year's closing day, a large number of pilgrims gathered to rally with the palanquin of Lord Shiva to Ukimath to rest the diety until the opening of the portal again in the summer of 2019.

By Ankit Sharma