Thousands of Sikh devotees braved an early morning drizzle and snowfall to pay obeisance at Hemkund Sahib as the sacred portals of the Himalayan shrine located at an altitude of 16,000 ft in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district were reopened today after their closure for winters.
The first prayers were offered at the shrine at 9.30 AM followed by Sukhwani, Shabad Kirtan and Mukhbhaat. Thousands of devotees took a dip in the icy waters of Hemkund Sarovar to take part in the ceremony, Gurudwara Manager Seva Singh said.
Over 7,000 Sikh pilgrims paid obeisance at the shrine on the first day, he said, adding, the entire area is choc-a-bloc with snow but devotees can reach the shrine without any obstacles.
With a motor road built between Govindghat and Pulna, the 22-km trek to one of the highest and most revered shrines of the Sikhs, has been reduced by four km. Pilgrims visiting the shrine this year are able to go in their vehicles upto Pulna from where they have to traverse a distance of only 18 km on foot to reach the shrine, Chamoli District Magistrate Ashok Kumar said. Better facilities, including rain shelters and tourist amenity centres, have also been made for pilgrims on the 18 km trek route, he said.
Gates of the shrine are closed every year during winter due to snowbound conditions prevailing in the area to be reopened only in summer when lakhs of devotees from all over the country and abroad visit the shrine.
Chief Minister Harish Rawat, who flagged off the first batch of pilgrims from Govindghat for the temple yesterday, had expressed confidence that around 7-8 lakh pilgrims willChandigarh have visited the shrine before the onset of monsoon. About four lakh pilgrims have already registered for the yatra this year.