Six-month long Chardham Yatra comprising pilgrimage to four Hindu shrines will begin next week and the government has put in place travel regulations to avoid accidents.
For the first time, the government has asked the pilgrims to take a minimum of 10 days to visit all the four shrines - Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri in the Garhwal Himalayas.
For yatra to these three shrines, the minimum period is 8 days, two shrines 6 days and one shrine three days. “We want to minimise accidents which take a heavy toll every year during the season,” said Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
The portals of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines, situated at a height of 3,200 metre and 3,615 metre respectively in Uttarkashi district, would be reopened on May 16 on the occasion of ‘Akshay Tritiya’ signalling the start of season.
Shrines of Kedarnath would be reopened on May 18 and Badrinath the next day.
Pilgrimage to Kedarnath, perched at a height of 3,584-metre in Rudraprayag and Badrinath at 3,133 metres in Chamoli, is the main attraction of the religious programme, which attracts lakhs of pilgrims from home and abroad.
The Yatra is considered the backbone of the thriving religious tourism in the state with over 20 lakh pilgrims converging during the period.
The chief minister has asked the transport department to ensure strict implementation of laws, including random checks of vehicles. Health department has been asked to deploy mobile vans in accident—prone areas.
“We are already on the job to make the Yatra pleasant,” said a top official of the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), a state government enterprise and nodal agency for the yatra.
From the holy town of Rishikesh, the base station for Yatra, about 4,000 buses would ply pilgrims to the four centres. The pilgrimage to Hemkund, a Sikh shrine, would begin next month.
Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra through Lipu-Lekh Pass in Pithoragarh district of Kumaon hills, is also starting next month. Devotees visit Tibet to undertake a ‘parikrama’ of Kailash mountain and holy dip in Mansarovar Lake.