The Uttarakhand government on Thursday announced the suspending of char Dham yatra to the four Himalayan shrines of Gangotri, yamunotri, kedarnath and Badrinath in the view of massive rise in covid 19 pandemic. The yatra was scheduled to begin next month.
Uttarakhand chief minister Teerath Singh Rawat said that chardham yatra is cancelled due to a surge in covid cases. Teerath Purohit and priests of the shrines will perform rituals as earlier but devotees will not be allowed to perform Pooja archana at shrines. Portals of yamunotri, Gangotri, kedarnath and Badrinath will be open next month.
Ravinath Raman, chairman of char dham devasthanam board said, the situation is assessed and an SOP is expected soon. According to the senior bureaucrat , guidelines will be released soon. There was a steep fall in attendance last year. In comparison to over 38 lakh pilgrims in 2019, only 4.2 lakh visited in 2020.
The sop will include many conditions including registration and e-passes, masks will be compulsory, social distancing and use of hand sanitizer. Touching idols and offering flowers or sweets will not be allowed.
After kumbh, all eyes are on char dham yatra. So, the government has made negative RT-PCR reports mandatory for chardham yatra to ensure that the infection does not spread. As the yatra is a matter of faith and the government is committed to provide all the facilities to the pilgrims from all over the world.
The government is also likely to limit the number of pilgrims in a particular shrine of the day. Last year it was 800 for kedarnath shrine, 1200 for Badrinath, 600 for Gangotri, and 400 for yamunotri.
On Saturday, Prime minister Narendra Modi appealed to the sadhus to observe the remaining duration of the kumbh only in a symbolic manner.
The four towns attract millions of pilgrims each year. Traditionally, Char Dham pilgrimage begins from the west from Yamunotri, then proceeding to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath in the east.
This year the portals of Yamunotri shrine will be opened on May 14 at 12.15 pm, while the portals of Gangotri shrine will be opened on May 15 on the occasion of Akshay Tritya at around 7.30 am. In February, the date for opening the portals of Badrinath shrine, May 18, was declared on the occasion of Basant Panchami. Last month the date of the opening of the portals of Kedarnath shrine, May 17, was announced.
Sudhir Roy, president of char Dham Yatra management committee told news agency press trust of India that Advance bookings of at least 500 buses for the Yatra by this time of the year was normal, but not a single bus has been booked yet raising concern among people associated with the tourism industry.