The Chardham Yatra will have a lacklustre opening for the second consecutive year due to COVID-19 pandemic as the portals of Yamunotri and Gangotri will open on Friday and Saturday respectively without any pilgrims in attendance. Located in Uttarakhand’s Garhwal region, all the four temples also called Chardham, have been kept out of bounds for devotees as a precautionary measure in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases. Not more than 25 people each, including priests, teerth purohits and district administration officials, will attend the opening ceremonies at Yamunotri and Gangotri which will be low-key affairs, Gangotri Mandir Samiti official Rajesh Semwal said.
Last year also they had reopened after their closure in winters only so that the priests could conduct regular prayers. The portals of Yamunotri dham will open at around 12 pm on Friday on the occasion of Akshay Tritiya, whereas those of Gangotri will open at 07.31 am on Saturday, Semwal said. All arrangements have been made as per guidelines of the state government for opening the portals of the two temples, District Magistrate Mayur Dikshit said. The SOP issued by the state government for opening the temples will be strictly followed, he said. Not even locals, including residents of adjoining villages, will have entry to the Himalayan temples, he added. Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat had announced suspension of the Chardham Yatra on April 29 but said that the temples would open as per schedule for regular prayers by teerth-purohits only. Kedarnath and Badrinath which are scheduled to open on May 17 and 18 respectively will also have a limited and symbolic opening. COVID cast its shadow on the yatra, which is considered the backbone of the hill economy, last year as well delaying opening of the temples for pilgrims by several months. The delayed opening of the temples for pilgrims, coupled with restrictions such as the mandatory negative RT-PCR test report, a daily cap on the number of devotees visiting the shrines besides compliance with mask wearing and social distancing norms, had severely affected the inflow of pilgrims.