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The authorities of Char Dham Devasthanam Board, on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri, announced that the portals of the Kedarnath shrine — which is currently closed for winter — would be opened at 5 am on May 17. The decision was taken in a meeting of the Badri Kedar Temple Committee (BKTC) at Shri Omkareshwar temple at Ukhimath.

According to the statement issued by the Devasthanam board, the palanquin of the deity would leave Omkareshwar temple on May 14 after a prayer ceremony. Subsequently, there would be a night’s halt at Gaurikund on May 15 and the palanquin would reach Kedarnath on May 16 evening. After a prayer ceremony, the portals would be opened for devotees on May 17 morning.

It has already been announced that the portals of Badrinath shrine would open on May 18 and the portals of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines are to open on Akshay Tritiya on May 14. The state government has also announced that pilgrims will have to follow Covid-19 norms during the yatra. However, no restriction has been put on the number of pilgrims allowed in the shrines on a given day.

Ravinath Raman, ECO of Uttarakhand Devasthanam Board, said that the state is expecting a better influx of devotees this year in the wake of relaxed norms and a decline in Covid-19 cases.

“Last year, the yatra could start on July 1 for the residents of Uttarakhand, and tourists from other states were allowed only from July last week. And yet we recorded a turnout of 3.2 lakh devotees in the four shrines — Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. Out of the total, 90% devotees visited Badrinath and Kedarnath temples,” added Raman. He also said that the state has almost completed the uphill task of Kedarnath renovation and plans are in place for the re-development of Badrinath temple as well.