Uttarakhand: Chardham Yatra begins a year after massive calamity

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Dehradun, May 2: A year after the 'Char Dham' yatra was marred by massive flash floods that had left hundreds of people dead and many others stranded, the annual pilgrimage on Friday began with the reopening of the sacred portals of the Himalayan shrines of Gangotri and Yamunotri for devotees.

Amid extensive arrangements to ensure safety of pilgrims, the portals of Gangotri dham dedicated to 'Mother Ganges', located in Uttarakashi district, were opened at 1201 hrs on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya after the traditional six-month winter break.

A large number of devotees flocked to the temple located at a height of over 10000 ft to witness the ceremony marked by vedic rituals held by the chief priest of the temple in the presence of senior administrative and police officials, Bhatwari SDM  K K Singh said.

The Yamunotri shrine dedicated to 'Mother Yamuna' in the same district was also reopened to devotees after special prayers and rituals performed by the head priest at 1225 hrs.

The other two famous temples Kedarnath and Badrinath, which are part of the char dhams, are also scheduled to be reopened this week on May 4 and May 5 respectively.

Areas close to Kedarnath bore the brunt of the June calamity. The char dham yatra was struck by the unprecedented natural calamity last year causing largescale loss of lives and property in areas close to the four famous shrines in Garhwal Himalayas.

Over 5,000 people were dead or missing, including pilgrims from various parts of the country.

As it is the first season after the tragedy brought the yatra to an abrupt halt, elaborate arrangements have been made this year for safe conduct of the journey, including deployment of security and disaster relief personnel, biometric registration of pilgrims and issuing of weather alerts on mobile phones.

The Himalayan shrines are closed for six months every year during winter when they become snowbound.

Closed every year in October-November, they are reopened in April-May. Lakhs of devotees and tourists from all over the country and abroad visit the shrines during the char dham yatra considered the mainstay of the state's economy.

PTI

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