The opening of three of the four major pilgrimages in Uttarakhand cannot be interpreted to mean that the recovery of the state from last year’s devastating flashfloods is 75% complete.
Barring the Kedarnath shrine, the Char Dham Yatra – which means the pilgrimage to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri — will be fully opened in April-May and continue till October.
Kedarnath, which was devastated by the flashfloods in June, will receive a restricted number of pilgrims, a little more than 100, per day. The Badrinath shrine is connected by road while till last year one could visit Kedarnath by chopper or mule, or by trekking from Gaurikund. After the June disaster, the route to Kedarnath has become more tough and long. Now one has to trek 24 km from Sonprayag to Kedarnath.
A pilgrim going to Kedarnath will have to give an undertaking, besides a fitness certificate from the local authorities.
Nearly 5,000 people, mostly pilgrims, were killed in the flashfloods, which changed the geography of the Kedarnath valley.
The Uttarakhand government was forced to stop the pilgrimage midway, only to resume it in October. “We will give biometric cards to pilgrims visiting Uttarakhand and keep records from the coming season. We feel there is no need to restrict the number of pilgrims visiting Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri,” chief secretary Subhash Kumar told Hindustan Times.
“The Kedarnath route is not an easy one and therefore we will continue to restrict the numbers of visitors.” The government was making attempts to make the routes safer, he added.
On average, 5 million pilgrims visit the four places a year.