The Char Dham pilgrimage in Uttarakhand will now remain open during the winter months in a bid by the state government to boost the local economy during lean tourist season.
The decision to extend the season from October until May — the months when the pilgrimage is closed for tourists — came after a low pilgrim turnout for this year’s Char Dham due to heavy rains. The extended yatra is aimed at boosting confidence among tourists and help local traders make up for the lost revenue during the winter.
“Winter Char Dham aims to help the common man earn a minimum revenue, mainly in remote hill areas,” said state tourism under secretary Shailesh Bagoli. “We have also planned promotional and publicity programmes for the winter Char Dham.”
Traditionally, the pilgrimage starts in May and is open until October. The decision to open it during the October-May period was taken after floods in Jammu & Kashmir in September forced many tourists to look to other hill states for their holidays.
“We hope that extension of the Char Dham season will help tourists, who travel to the hills to enjoy the winter and snowfall,” said state tourism addition director AK Dwivedi. “We are keeping our fingers crossed also for the fact that diversion of traditional Jammu & Kashmir tourists may take place in the winter and we can benefit from it. But it has to be seen to what extent tourist diversion benefits Uttarakhand.”
Certain parts of the pilgrimage will, however, end at lower altitudes. The Kedarnath pilgrimage will not go up to the Kedarnath temple but will culminate at Ukhimath, 40 kilometres downhill.
Similarly, the Badrinath pilgrimage will end 15 kilometres ahead of the shrine site at Pandukeshwar, Gangotri 25 kilometres before Mukhawa, and Yamunotri at Kharsali, seven kilometres from where it normally ends.