Char Dham yatra from July 1 for pilgrims from outside Uttarakhand, till then locals can visit

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | BySuparna Roy | Edited by Abhinav Sahay
Jun 09, 2020 11:22 PM IST

A meeting between local administration and religious bodies managing the Char Dham shrines decided to not open the yatra to pilgrims from outside the state till June 30.

Uttarakhand government has made the famous Char Dham Yatra out of bounds for pilgrims from outside the state till June 30, while putting a cap on the number of devotees allowed per day at the constituent shrines of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath as per the guidelines and standard operating procedure (SOP) released by the state on Tuesday.

Only 800 pilgrims will be allowed per day at Kedarnath as per the new guidelines.(HT Photo)
Only 800 pilgrims will be allowed per day at Kedarnath as per the new guidelines.(HT Photo)

The state was under pressure to give the nod to restarting the famous pilgrimage after the central government allowed the reopening of religious places of worship as part of the first phase of gradual easing of restrictions— also known as Unlock 1—following over two months of varying degrees of national lockdown imposed to battle the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic.

According to the guidelines released on Tuesday, only locals from Uttarakhand districts where the temples are located, will be allowed to visit the shrines in a limited way in the month of June. A maximum of 1,200 local pilgrims per day would be allowed to Badrinath, 800 to Kedarnath, 600 to Gangotri and 400 to Yamunotri shrine.

An order released by Ravinath Raman, chief executive officer of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board states that after discussions between district magistrates of the districts housing the Char Dham Shrines and bodies of priests and locals, “It has been decided that the Yatra will remain suspended for pilgrims from outside the state till June 30. However, the priests and locals have agreed to allow pilgrims from within the district and nearby areas to visit the shrines following all norms.”

The state government had already begun work to ensure social distancing norms are observed at these shrines once they are allowed to reopen.

Also Read: 77 fresh Covid-19 cases take Uttarakhand tally to 1,488

Raman specified who all will be allowed to visit the shrines in the month of June.

“Till June 30, the yatra has only been allowed for those who live in the same district where the shrines are located. Along with them, those who have their hotels, guest houses, shops or government officials who want to continue their work there will be allowed to go,” he said.

Pilgrims will be allowed to visit the shrines between 7 am to 7 pm after taking a mandatory free of cost token from counters set up at the shrines. Pilgrims will get the tokens only before darshan at the shrines. The SOP states that it will be mandatory for pilgrims to wear masks and maintain physical distance at the counters while taking the tokens.

A fixed time and date will be mentioned on the token when pilgrims can go for the darshan after waiting in a designated queue for entering the shrines. The token will be checked at the entrance. A queue of maximum 120 meters in length with minimum two meters of distance between each pilgrim will be allowed for Kedarnath shrine, while for Badrinath shrine, a queue of maximum 240 meters length will be allowed.

As per the norms, a maximum of 80 pilgrims will be allowed in an hour inside Kedarnath shrine, while 120 pilgrims will be allowed at the Badrinath shrine.

At Kedarnath, the pilgrims will be given a maximum of one minute for darshan while the time limit has been capped to 30 seconds for Badrinath shrine. Those who wish to offer special prayers will have to maintain proper social distance while offering prayers.

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Meanwhile, one person will not be given more than three tokens at a particular time for entering the shrine.

As part of preparations to start the yatra, local district administration officials at Badrinath shrine have already made circles outside the shrine for pilgrims to maintain physical distance.

The four Himalayan pilgrimage sites- Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath- collectively called Char Dham, are one of the most revered pilgrimages in the Hindu tradition and attract lakhs of pilgrims each year. Traditionally, Char Dham pilgrimage begins in the west from Yamunotri to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath in the east. Last year, a 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.

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