Dehradun/Lucknow: Almost four months after flash floods and heavy rains led to the halt of the annual "Char Dham Yatra" in Uttarakhand, the religious trip to Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines opened for people on Saturday, officials said.

While small vehicles have been allowed right up to the Badrinath shrine, as earlier, vehicles will be stopped at Soneprayag on the Kedarnath route and pilgrims will have to trek 24 km to reach the Kedarnath temple. The number of pilgrims will be "controlled by the state government this time round" and health check-ups will be mandatory for pilgrims.

"The state government will be issuing travel passes for the pilgrimage from now on," an official said. Earlier, in a meeting between religious groups, seers, temple management members, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and his officials, it was decided that the route to the famous shrines, closed for common people June 17 onwards due to heavy devastation, would be re-opened October 5.

Officials said earlier the date fixed for reopening of the shrines was October 1 but due to a weather office warning of rains till October 4 and the ongoing inauspicious period of "Pitra Paksh", the date was deferred to October 5. Officials, however, said that heavy vehicles like buses and others will still not be allowed on the paths as the state government was not "prepared for heavy rush as yet".

The pathways used by mules and horses on the Kedarnath route have also been repaired and the pilgrims will allowed on the route from Soneprayag in the Rudraprayag district, the official added. Formal "puja" was restarted in the Kedarnath shrine in September 2013.

Puja has also been started in the Hemkund Saheb, the Gurdwara enroute to Badrinath. The pilgrimage however would not be for long as their "kapat" (doors) would close for the winter breaks from December onwards. Sources say that the Bahuguna government fast tracked the reopening of the shrines to send out a message of normalcy and fast rehabilitation.


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