With the char Dham Yatra scheduled to begin on 24 April 2012, Uttarakhand is abuzz with activities. The yatra, which is one of the biggest yatra circuits in the world, state. Registration for the Yatra has already started at Haridwar and Rishikesh. The legend has it that a visit to the char dhams, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri grants salvation and liberates a person form the vicious cycle of life and death. Hence it is the heart felt wish of every devout Hindu to visit these dhams at least once in his or her life.
The portals of Gangotri ( the origin of the Ganga, which symbolize purity) and those of Yamunotri ( the origin of Yamuna, which stands for devotion) will open on the auspicious day of Akshya Tritiya, on April 24, with the performance of the full Vedic rites, including rendition of the Vedic mantras, beating of drums and blowing of conches. The Shrine of Kedarnath ( one of the twelve Jyotirlingas on the earth, which being the abode of Lord Shiva, symbolises welfare), will open for the devotees on April 28, while the shrine of Badrinath (the seat of Lord Vishnu, which symbolises compassion) will open on April 29. It is after three years that the yatra is starting in April. Last year, inspite of the late start of the yatra as per record 24,95,365 devotees, both from the country and abroad, paid their obeisance at the four divine destinations. This year the number is likely to go up due to longer duration of the yatra.
Traditionally, the yatra starts from Rishikesh, though there has been a long standing demand to begin the yatra from Haridwar, the gateway to the Devbhoomi Uttarakhand. The legend has it that Aadi Guru Shankaracharya installed the statue of Lord Vishnu(Bharat) at Bharat Mandir in Rishikesh. Hence the pilgrims embark on the yatra, after taking a holy dip in the Ganga at Triveni Ghat in Rishikesh.
The administration has made elaborate security arrangements for the pilgrims coming on the yatra. The D.I.G. (Garhwal range), said that full proof security arrangements, including heavy deployment of the P.A.C., the civil police, the homeguards, the fire safety measures and the units of divers, have been put in place. The CCTV cameras have also been installed at sensitive points. The police has also identified 200 accident prone places in the hills through which the yatra route passes. All the four dhams will be under the scanner of the Special Operation Police(SOP). “31 disaster management teams have been set up for rescue operations in cases of accidents and natural calamities”, said the D.I.G. To assist the pilgrims 125 tourist police centres and 58 temporary police outposts have been set up at the identified points.
EMRI 108 emergency services have been instructed to focus on Char Dham Yatra route. A part from this, ambulances, fully equipped with several medical facilities, have been deployed on the listed sensitive points. “ For the conditional medical support will be provided at 8 identified places along the yatra route”.
Transport department has also geared up to minimize the number of accidents which has been a common feature during last years. Green cards are being issued to the drivers, after checking the fitness of vehicles, driving licenses and insurance certificates. “ Since the yatra route passes through hilly terrain and is highly accident prone, the transport department and the police administration have been instructed to ensure that there is no overloading of pilgrims, the drivers do not exceed the prescribed limit and do not drive in drunken state”. Time limit for the visit to the shrines has also been fixed, so that there is no undue haste on the part of the drivers to complete the yatra. The time limit of six days has been prescribed for the yatra of the four or three shrines, while the time for the yatra of the two shrines will be four days and for one shrine it will be two days.
The administration has also initiated steps to check food adulteration and prices of eatables. The shop keepers have been asked to display price list of all the eatables and essential items, so that they do not charge exorbitant prices from the pilgrims. The Char Dham Vikas Parishad has also banned the use of polythene and plastic items in the four shrines. The devotees will be given locally made “Prasad” in the paper and clothe envelope and baskets made of twigs and leaves. This eco friendly step has been taken to generate employment for the locals. Another eco friendly step which has been taken is that devotees will be given saplings, free of cost, which they will plant in the memory of their fore fathers in the “Smriti Van” in the vicinity of the shrines.
“Atithi Devo Bhav (our guests are our gods) has been our age old tradition. Therefore, it will be our best endeavour to provide warm hospitality & all comforts to the pilgrims and make their yatra hassle free, so that these pilgrims, who come as our guests, go back as our friends”-CM