Uttarakhand suspends ‘Char Dham Yatra’ amid rising COVID cases

The Kumbh at Haridwar concluded on Wednesday with last shahi snan (holy bath). A curfew was imposed in the holy city immediately

The Badrinath temple in Uttarakhand is one of the four Dhams. Pic: Wikipedia

Under criticism for holding the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar despite COVID, the Uttarakhand government on Thursday (April 29) suspended the Char Dham Yatra for this year. The annual holy event, which attracts lakhs of devotees to the hill state, was scheduled to start on May 14.

Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat said, “The state government has suspended Char Dham Yatra this year in view of COVID-19 situation in the state. Only priests of the four temples will perform rituals and puja.” Rawat said the rising cases of COVID infections in the state prompted this decision.

According to data provided by the state health department, Uttarakhand reported over 6,000 coronavirus cases on Wednesday (April 28) with 108 deaths. Currently, the state has 45,383 active cases while 1,17,221 have recovered.

The Rawat government’s decision to hold Kumbh Mela, a holy event which started at the ghats of Ganga on April 1, came under severe criticism for contributing COVID cases to the nation’s already rising tally. The Kumbh didn’t stop even after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged devotees and sadhus to celebrate “symbolic kumbh”. As per one estimate, about 11% people returning from Kumbh have been found positive.

Also read: In largest single-day spike India adds 3.79L COVID cases; 3,645 deaths

The last of the shahi snan (holy bath) happened on April 28, which marked the conclusion of Kumbh. A curfew was imposed in Haridwar immediately.

What is Char Dham Yatra?

The Char Dham (meaning four abodes) is a set of four pilgrimage sites in India. It is believed that visiting these sites helps achieve moksha (salvation). The four Dhams are, Badrinath, Dwaraka, Puri and Rameswaram. The one that happens in Uttarakhand is called, ‘Chota Char Dham’, a small circuit of four pilgrimage sites – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.