The annual Char Dham Yatra began on Saturday with the opening of the Gangotri and Yamunotri temples in Garhwal Himalayas, but in absence of pilgrims owing to the Coronavirus crisis. It was reported that priests had offered prayers on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the day of the opening of the temples. As per accounts, the priests of Kedarnath and Badrinath shrine now have decided to offer the first prayers on behalf of PM Modi.
According to Satpal Maharaj, Minister for Culture and Tourism in Uttarakhand, it has been decided to offer the first prayers at Kedarnath and Badrinath on behalf of PM Modi as a sign of expressing gratitude to him for helping in increasing the numbers of pilgrims to these shrines which in turn has boosted the local economy over the years. Meanwhile, the Kedarnath will open on April 29 while the opening of Badrinath has been put off to May 15.
The Char Dham yatra, the opening ceremony of the four temples in Uttarakhand, is an important annual event attended by tens of thousands of pilgrims but the extended lockdown has cast its shadow on the processions this year.
On Saturday, only a select group of priests and temple trust officials attended the opening ceremony which was held adhering to social distancing norms. The Gangotri temple was opened at 12.35 pm and the Yamunotri temple at 12.41 pm. Uttarkashi District Magistrate Ashish Chauhan said the opening of the two temples was kept a simple affair this time in compliance with the guidelines issued by the Centre in view of the countrywide lockdown to fight the novel coronavirus.
A team led by Chief Medical Officer D P Joshi examined the priests before allowing them to perform the rituals, he said, adding police and administrative teams were also present to ensure protocols formulated in view of the contagion were followed.
Earlier in the day, ornate palanquins (utsav dolis) carrying the idols of goddesses Ganga and Yamuna were brought from their winter abodes of Mukhba and Kharsali respectively to be installed at the temples where they will be worshipped over the next few months until their closure for winter.
(With PTI inputs)