The winter leg of the Char Dham pilgrimage in Uttarakhand started on Sunday with the closure of the portals of the four Hindu shrines, an official said.
The state tourism department has started hard-selling the pilgrimage and other tourism activities for the next six months, said deputy director and department’s publicity in-charge Vivek Chauhan.
“Besides reaching out to our tourism counterparts and tour operators in other states, the department has lined up several big campaigns to promote the winter leg of the Char Dham pilgrimage besides offering homestay destinations that will be available to tourists over the next one month,” he said.
In 2014, the Uttarakhand government, in a bid to revive the devastated rural economy after the June 2013 flash flood that killed thousands of residents and pilgrims and boost winter tourism in the state, had extended the pilgrimage to the four Hindus shrines — Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri — round the year.
The deluge had severely affected the economy along the pilgrimage routes and the government decided to start winter leg of the pilgrimage to revive it.
The annual pilgrimage, which is usually undertaken over six months between May and October, used to remain suspended from November to April, as the shrines get covered with snow and the idols are shifted to nearby villages where worship continues.
During the winter leg, pilgrims will be able to visit the Nasinh temple in Joshimath, Onkareshwar temple in Ukhimath, Yamuna temple at Kharsali village and Ganga temple at Mukhba where the idols have been shifted.
“A two-day winter tourism festival to be held at Tehri between November 27 and 28 will be the first event to promote the winter leg of the pilgrimage,” said Chauhan.
Apart from this, a winter car rally will be held in December followed by a mountain bike rally in early 2016 similar to the one held in 2014, he said.
“We have set up our stalls at the ongoing India International Trade Fair in Delhi to promote the winter Char Dham pilgrimage and other tourist destinations in the state.”
According to Chauhan, the pilgrimage is expected to have a sizeable flow of tourists to hill areas as the Haridwar Kumbha 2016 will also be a major attraction.