Better to be a Donkey Than be a Mule in Kedarnath as Pilgrimage Takes Life of 60 Pack Animals

Donning a snake around his neck, sitting over a tiger skin, and riding a Brahman bull, Lord Shiva is one of the most decorated gods of the Hindus, and pilgrims barrage in numbers at his abode in Kedarnath. Considered one of the holiest temples of Lord Shiva, thousands of pilgrims pack their bags and make their trip to the sacred place, located in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, India.

The talking point, however, is the way these pilgrims reach the premises of the temple. Some choose to travel by foot, while others take refuge on the backs of mules and horses to reach the temple gates. Why just gates? Because poor mules, or any other animal for that matter, do not have the right to enter the temple. If someone tries to sneak an animal inside, an FIR is filed by the temple committee like it was filed previously when a man sneaked a dog inside the temple as reported by the New Indian Express.

This brings us to an important point of discussion – what actually separates a human being from an innocent animal? Other than the body structure, what sets humans and animals apart is their conscience, and it seems the qualm of mankind has gone down the hills in Kedarnath Dham Yatra. Reports have confirmed over 60  dead mules in Kedarnath!

In a span of a mere twenty days, sixty mules have died on the way to the Kedarnath shrine as per a report by TOI. Another report by Hindi newspaper Jagran divulges the death of 103 horses and mules. The tally would worsen even further if a report is compiled taking all Indian pilgrimage figures into account.

Mule Exploitation in Kedarnath

Image: TOI

Whatever might be the official number, it’s pretty evident that pack animals have been abused and exploited for a very long time. Be it Kedarnath Yatra, Vaishno Devi Yatra, or any other pilgrim journey, mules and horses are worked to death in many parts of the country. The poor animals are flogged and even drugged to make them carry weight for hours without any break. These pack animals ferry pilgrims up and down the hill on the tough terrain, are fed poorly, and treated even worse.

Little action has been taken against the noted exploitation, and there are even cases where no one seems to bat an eye. Point in case, The Indian Express did a story in 2018 on a Facebook post that depicted the deplorable condition of the animals in the Vaishno Devi trek. Harsha Singh, an Indian resident started the petition to the Animal Welfare Board of India as a tribute to all the animals who have died or are dying carrying people up and down the holy mountains of India.

dead mules in Kedarnath

Image: devbhoomidialogue

Despite repeated pleas, it is hard to keep a tab on the owners of horses, ponies, and mules. These pleas seem to fall on deaf ears, as there are still cases of animal exploitation observed in the lap of Trikuta hills despite the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which is actively violated everywhere.

The pivotal quandary though, is what’s the reason behind so many deaths? A check by TOI in Kedarnath revealed that the mules are often drugged to make them carry more load and with greater frequency without any halts. The answer could be either human greed or impotence. Whatever might be the case, it’s on us humans to be a little conscious and not undertake the journey, if one is not physically fit to do so, instead of making a poor animal suffer like hell.

Mule Exploitation in Kedarnath

Image: Deccan Herald

Humans may not awaken their consciousness but their gods did. It’s funny how strong, elegant, and brawny animals are the ones who act as the Vahnas (vehicles) of Hindu gods and goddesses. Dinka the mouse is the vehicle of Ganesha and is known for his speed and agility; while Parvani the peacock, the vehicle of Kartikeya, represents splendor and majesty. Garuda was the commuter of Lord Vishnu, but nobody chooses the poor donkey! Maybe because it is considered a mark of insult.

Well, then humans sneaked in a way to make donkeys as a carrier to satiate their own selfish desires. Thanks to crossbreeding actually allowing you to ride a mule – it’s not as humiliating as sitting on a donkey. Given the animal cruelty and the number of dead mules in Kedarnath, it is better to be a donkey than be a mule.

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