DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand state government announced that the chief priest of Char Dham will be allowed to perform the rituals only if they test negative for COVID-19.
The chief priests of Kedarnath and Badrinath, who were stranded in Maharashtra, are on their way to Uttarakhand.
Satpal Maharaj, minister for tourism and culture in the state said, "The priests will be tested for COVID-19 once they reach Rishikesh. Once test reports come, the next course of action will be decided depending on the results. The priests will be sent into quarantine for 14 days as a precautionary measure."
Portals of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines will open on April 26, portals of Kedarnath shrine will open on April 29 and portals of Badrinath on April 30.
The officials from the state tourism minister also said that plans are being put in place for rituals to be performed in accordance with traditions.
"A representative of the chief priest can perform the prayers in the presence of the chief priest in Ukhimath in Rudraprayag district for Kedarnath shrine, a Nambudiri Brahmin can perform the prayers for Badrinath shrine. We will consult the priests and decide accordingly," added the minister.
Traditionally it is required of the chief priests of Kedarnath and Badrinath to go to different states to collect donations and invite people to come to the shrine, before the opening of the portals.
According to a centuries-old tradition established at the time of Adi Shankaracharya, the head priest of Kedarnath shrine has to be present for the rituals at the time when the deity is brought in procession to the Kedarnath temple from Ukhimath when the portals are opened in summers.
The chief priests of the shrines got stranded in Kerala and Maharashtra due to the lockdown while they were visiting these states. Last week, permission was been granted by Maharashtra and Kerela government to chief priests of the shrines to travel back to Uttarakhand.
The chief priest of Kedarnath shrine had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking help to reach the shrine before portals open on April 29 morning.
Meanwhile, the state government has decided to ho for online darshan and not allow pilgrims to visit the four Char Dham shrines.
Earlier, the state tourism minister Satpal Maharaj said that the portal s of the Char Dham shrines- Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri will open on predefined schedule on April 26, 29 and 30.
In year 2019, in a highest ever turnout, over 38 lakh pilgrims visited the Char Dham which was expected to increase in upcoming years furthermore under normal circumstances.
In the same year of 2019, total 84 deaths of pilgrim in the Char Dhar were reported due to various reasons such as heart and other Heath issues. Total 55 pilgrims died during their journey to Kedarnath followed by 17 in Yamunotri and 6 each in Badrinath and Gangotri shrines.
Many VIPs including the Prime Minister visited Kedarnath included the President of India Ramnath Kovind, Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat and businessmen like Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani.