Over 50,000 pilgrims visit Char Dham shrines, more than 92,000 e-passes issued
With Uttarakhand government removing the condition of mandatory Covid-19 test for Char Dham yatra a few days ago, there has been a surge in pilgrim influx to these Himalayan shrines with over 4,800 pilgrims making bookings for the pilgrimage on Saturday. This is a record for maximum single-day pilgrim booking to Char Dham during the pandemic.
Ravinath Raman, chief executive officer of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board said 92,516 e-passes have been issued since July 1 and over 50,000 pilgrims have visited Char Dham shrines in this period. He said Char Dham shrines were opened to the public in the state on July 1 and from July 25, these shrines were opened to people from other states.
“On Saturday, 4,844 pilgrims made bookings for e-passes for Char Dham pilgrimage which is a single-day record during the pandemic,” he said.
Given the increase in the influx of pilgrims, the Char Dham board has increased the number of pilgrims who can visit the shrines now.
Raman said the daily allowed number of pilgrims has been increased to 3,000 for Badrinath, 3,000 for Kedarnath, 900 for Gangotri and 700 for Yamunotri.
“This has been necessitated following an increased footfall of pilgrims after Unlock-5 and based on the availability of accommodation, food and other arrangements, including social distancing, as assessed by respective the district magistrates”, he said
The four Himalayan pilgrimage sites - Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath - collectively called Char Dham, are among the most revered pilgrimage sites in Hindu tradition and attract lakhs of pilgrims each year.
Traditionally, Char Dham pilgrimage begins from the west from Yamunotri, proceeding to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath in the east. Last year, record 29 lakh pilgrims visited Char Dham, compared to over 27 lakh pilgrims the previous year, including 9.2 lakh to Kedarnath, 10.2 lakh to Badrinath, 4.4 lakh to Yamunotri, and 5.03 lakh to Gangotri.
On September 29, the state government decided that a negative Covid-19 report will not be needed for pilgrims to visit the shrines. The government released new guidelines for visiting Char Dham shrines, according to which pilgrims are required to register on the official website of the Board and take an e-pass for visiting the shrines.
The pilgrims have to undergo thermal scanning at the entrance of the shrines and if their body temperature is found higher than the normal then a Covid-19 test will be conducted. The cost of the test will be borne by the pilgrims. Such pilgrims will be allowed entry into the shrines only after testing negative.
In June, the state government had restricted the number of local pilgrims for Char Dham pilgrimage. The authorities had capped the daily influx of local pilgrims, allowing only 1,200 pilgrims per day for Badrinath, 800 for Kedarnath, 600 for Gangotri and 400 for the Yamunotri shrine.