21 August 2015

Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara: a highly unusual landslide (with a highly unusual video)

Posted by Dave Petley

Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara

On 18th August a comparatively small but extremely high energy landslide occurred at the Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara site near to Kulu in Himachal Pradesh.  The landslide appears to have been a massive boulder roll that smashed through a part of the temple complex – I have never seen damage quite like this before (and note this is not a composite image):

Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara

Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara. PTI Photo via The New Indian Express

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Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara is a Hindu temple and site of pilgrimage, located on a set of hot springs at an elevation of about 1760 m. The presence of hot springs might indicate active faulting, perhaps suggesting that the adjacent slopes might be unusually unstable.  According to The New Indian Express:

The tragedy occurred when the landslide from Gadagi village, located at a higher altitude, came crashing down on the gurdwara, situated between the Beas and the Parvati. The landslide hit the gurdwara’s langar hall (community kitchen) and serai (accommodation) wing. “There was heavy rush of pilgrims at the gurdwara and its neighbouring areas when the landslide occurred,” said Thakur Chand, Sarpanch of the village.

The landslide killed seven people and injured a further 11.  One of the most amazing aspects of this landslide is that it was caught on CCTV footage.  This is what can only be described as an exceptionally lucky escape fot the individual in the video:

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India has a very serious problem with landslides at sites of Hindu pilgrimage, with the most obvious being the Uttarakhand disaster of two years ago.  The Google Earth image of the Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara shows that the landslide potential at this site is high.  I have indicated the location of the building on the Google Earth image below:

Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara

Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara via Google Earth

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In this case the boulder appears to have come down a small gully above the Manikaran Sahib Gurdwara, although it is not clear as to where the landslide originated.  Making sites such as Gurudwara Manikaran Sahib safe (or at least safer) is difficult and expensive.  But as these sites attract large numbers of people into locations that are landslide-prone in the monsoon season when the hazard as its its highest, action is needed.