Uttarakhand: Char Dham priests say won’t allow even locals for darshan

Vinod Shukla, president of the Teerth Purohit Samaj in Kedarnath, said he had conveyed to the district administration his opposition to starting the ‘yatra’ even for local residents.
Till June 30, a maximum of 1,200 local pilgrims a day will be allowed into Badrinath shrine, 800 for Kedarnath, 600 for Gangotri, and 400 for Yamunotri.(HT file photo)
Till June 30, a maximum of 1,200 local pilgrims a day will be allowed into Badrinath shrine, 800 for Kedarnath, 600 for Gangotri, and 400 for Yamunotri.(HT file photo)
Updated on Jun 11, 2020 01:23 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Dehradun | BySuparna Roy

Two days after the Uttarakhand government issued guidelines for the first time for ‘darshan’ at the Char Dham shrines and allowed only local residents to visit, the move has been opposed by the priests’ body because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The priests said they wouldn’t support visits to the shrine even by locals due to the prevailing situation. Suresh Semwal, convenor of the Devbhoomi Tirtha Purohit Haqhakudhari Mahapanchayat, said the district administration was informed by the temple committees of Gangotri and Yamunotri that they weren’t in favour of pilgrims being allowed into the shrines.

“The movement of pilgrims should be halted till the situation normalises. The Gangotri and Yamunotri temple committees have informed the district administration about priests not being willing to allow even locals to visit the shrines,” said Semwal.

Vinod Shukla, president of the Teerth Purohit Samaj in Kedarnath, said he had conveyed to the district administration his opposition to starting the ‘yatra’ even for local residents.

Brijesh Sati, spokesperson of the Devbhoomi Tirtha Purohit Haqhakudhari Mahapanchayat, said even allowing a limited number of pilgrims into the shrine might increase the risk of infections at places which have so far remained safe from Covid-19.

“By allowing pilgrims into the shrine, if the chief priest or other priests get infected, then it will hamper the complete process of worshipping at these shrines,” said Sati.

On Tuesday evening, the Uttarakhand government issued guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for darshan at the Char Dham shrines. The guidelines say pilgrims from outside the state won’t be allowed in till June 30, and only residents of the districts where the temples are located will be permitted to make limited visits to the shrines.

Till June 30, a maximum of 1,200 local pilgrims a day will be allowed into Badrinath shrine, 800 for Kedarnath, 600 for Gangotri, and 400 for Yamunotri.

An order issued by Ravinath Raman, chief executive officer of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board, said after discussions with magistrates of the districts where the temples are located, the priests’ body and local residents, “it has been decided that Char Dham 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,” it stated.

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

Pilgrims would be allowed into the shrines between 7 am and 7 pm after they obtain a mandatory free token from counters. The SOPs state it will be mandatory for pilgrims to wear masks and maintain physical distance at the counters.

A fixed time and date will be mentioned on the token when pilgrims can go for darshan after joining the designated queue for entering shrines. The token will be checked at the entrance of the shrine. A queue of a maximum of 120 metres, with a minimum of 2 metres between each pilgrim, will be allowed for Kedarnath shrine, while for Badrinath shrine a maximum queue of 240 metres will be allowed.

According to the norms, a maximum of 80 pilgrims will be allowed into Kedarnath shrine every hour, while 120 pilgrims will be allowed into Badrinath shrine.

At Kedarnath, pilgrims will be given 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.

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