“All of them have been instructed to maintain social distance. After taking necessary permissions, I started from Nanded in a car on April 17 and reached Ukhimath on April 19,” Shanker Ling told Deccan Chronicle from Ukhimath, which is the winter seat of the deity. “After his arrival in Rishikesh on April 21, he has been in quarantine. I will make it to Kedarnath immediately after the quarantine period comes to an end on May 2,&Universal Wrench39;' said Shanker Ling, who originally belongs to Karnataka..But this year was different. Though the yatra is suspended, the portals of Kedarnath will open as scheduled at 6. Bheem Shanker Ling, the Rawal or head priest of the Himalayan shrine of Kedarnath, and Prasad Namboodiri, the head priest of Badrinath dham, travelled by road, covering distances of 1,800 km and 2,800 km respectively, to ensure that traditions are kept alive.People from south Indian states form a major chunk of devotees who visit the Char Dham — Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. In 2014, a year after the devastating flashfloods in Kedarnath which killed several thousands, 41,000 people had visited the shrine.But that did not stop them. “I have tested negative but I'm still in quarantine,” he said.
“There is 18 feet of snow in Kedarnath at the moment and a team of 25 people are clearing it. Situated at a height of 3,583 m above sea level, the region remains buried under a thick blanket of snow during the winter. This year, it is being taken in a vehicle to avoid crowds. He has been the head priest for 20 years.This will be the first time that 'yatra' has been suspended due to the pandemic and it is believed that the footfall this year could be the lowest ever.According to him, the Uttarakhand government has allowed 16 people which includes priests and cooks, who will stay in Kedarnath until it closes by October end or first week of November, to travel. Ditto is the case with Ishwar Prasad Namboodiri of Kerala, who cannot afford to remain absent for the most important work of his life.The doors of Kedarnath and Badrinath will open on April 29 and May 15 respectively amid rituals. The portals of Badrinath will open on May 15 and he will reach there by then.He says that there would be special prayers to eradicate Coronavirus when the portals open on April 29. He informed that since the head priests for the remaining two dhams — Gangotri and Yamunotri — are locals and there was no problem on that front. Being in quarantine, I might not go and will authorise another priest.His only regret is that every year, the doli or procession is taken by road till Kedarnath and thousands of people turn up to witness the occasion.10 am on April 29.
The rituals begin today (April 25) and the doli (carrying the deity) will reach Kedarnath on April 28 and the portals open the next day. He too has tested negative,'' said Mohan Prasad Thapliyal, former president of the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple committee.The doors of Kedarnath and Badrinath will open on April 29 and May 15 respectively The Badrinath shrine in Uttarakhand Hyderabad: Around this time every year, Bheema Shanker Ling travels to # Hyderabad from Nanded, where he lives, and boards a flight to Dehradun in Uttarakhand where his presence is a must.In 2019, a record 11 lakh people visited the shrines, and 7 lakh in 2018. The Char Dham yatra has been suspended during the lockdown period. Lakhs of people visit the shrines every year and people from South India form the major chunk of devotees.Similar is the case with Ishwar Prasad Namboodri. Both men were scheduled to fly separately and reach Uttarakhand around April 20, but all flights are cancelled due to the lockdown.The moment he arrived in the Himalayan state, he was quarantined and underwent tests for the coronavirus, as was made mandatory by the Uttarakhand state government.