The portals of Kedarnath shrine opened after a winter break on Tuesday morning, with thousands of pilgrims braving sub-zero temperatures in the snow-covered town to offer prayers at the Himalayan temple.
Temple chief priest Rawal Bhima Shankar Ling opened the gates of the temple amid rituals and chanting of shlokas.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who offered prayers at the temple, said, ”The first ‘puja’ was done on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi under whose leadership a grand Kedarpuri has been built”. Due to bad weather, the journey to Kedarnath is a little difficult and challenging at present but it will become smooth in a few days as the weather improves, he told reporters here.
However, the chief minister advised pilgrims en route to the temple to proceed only after updating themselves about the weather so that they do not face any problem. ”The state government is working consistently to improve the facilities in Kedarnath and make the pilgrimage safer and easier for devotees. It will soon be linked with a ropeway whose foundation stone was laid by the prime minister last year,” he said.
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BJP MLA from Kedarnath, Shailarani Rawat and Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee (BKTC) chairman Ajendra Ajay accompanied the chief minister to the shrine. The pilgrims were showered with flower petals from a helicopter on the occasion.
Thousands of pilgrims offered prayers at the temple as its doors were opened after the winter break, the BKTC chairman said.
Kedarnath town and its surroundings are covered under a blanket of snow following intermittent snowfall in the area over the past few days.
However, snow has been cleared from the trek route for pilgrims.
With the MeT department forecasting inclement weather in the area over the next few days, devotees still on way to the temple have been advised to stay for the time being at the main halts in Rishikesh, Bhadrakali and Vyasi.
Situated at a height of over 11,000 feet above sea level, the Kedarnath shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva is part of the Char Dham and the 11th Jyotirlinga. Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are the three other ‘dhams’ located above 10,000-ft in the Garhwal Himalayas. The portals of Gangotri and Yamunotri were opened on April 22 while Badrinath will be opened for devotees on April 27.