On Friday, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami directed that a long-standing tradition of creating special facilities for the well-connected and prominent at the four Char Dham temples be discontinued.
“We are discontinuing the VIP Darshan scheme at Char Dhams.” There will no longer be various categories or a VIP system for darshans at Char Dham. “We have made it the same for everyone,” Dhami told reporters on Friday, referring to the tradition of allowing certain pilgrims to bypass huge lines at sites.
According to Dhami, police and administration authorities have been directed to manage the yatra in a methodical and orderly way so that pilgrims are not inconvenienced.
Dhami’s decision was applauded by Ajendra Ajay, head of the Badrinath Kedarnath Temple Committee. “This is an excellent choice by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.” “God is the same for everyone, and no one should be given preferential treatment to have darshan in God’s abode,” he stated.
According to Ajendra Ajay, under the VIP darshan system, temple administrators were informed information about visits by ministers, bureaucrats, and others and were supposed to guarantee that they did not have to wait in the line like others for darshan. “Information regarding their visiting itinerary is communicated with the Char Dham temple administration, and they may receive VIP Darshan according to procedure.”
The orders to eliminate VIP darshan were given after a review of the pilgrimage preparations to the four Himalayan pilgrimage sites, Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, together known as the Char Dham and one of the most renowned sacred places in Hindu history.
Since the Gangotri and Yamunotri temples’ doors opened on May 3, about 400,000 pilgrims have undertaken the Char Dham pilgrimage. On May 6 and 8, the entrances to the Badrinath and Kedarnath sanctuaries were opened, respectively. The four shrines are closed for around six months each year, opening in the spring (April or May) and shutting with the arrival of winter (October or November).
Over a million individuals have registered for the trip this year, an increase over the 4,40,000 pilgrims who visited the sites in 2021 and 3,10,000 in 2020. Before the Covid-19 outbreak and the resulting limitations, the four shrines attracted nearly 3.2 million pilgrims in 2019.
“The Char Dham yatra is our problem,” the chief minister remarked, adding that “the administration is making every attempt to simplify it.” “Because the yatra was unable to take place effectively over the last two years owing to Covid, the number of pilgrims attending the yatra has grown dramatically this year.”
Dhami also delegated two cabinet ministers, Dhan Singh Rawat and Subodh Uniyal, to handle the yatra preparations at Kedarnath and Badrinath, respectively, this year.
Dhami also advised authorities to take appropriate safeguards in light of the deaths of certain pilgrims during the journey, but emphasized that the fatalities were caused by the individuals’ health conditions, not by disorder.