Portals of Kedarnath shrine closed for winter

Dehradun: Devotees braved early morning chill to converge at Kedarnath as the portals of the famed Himalayan shrine, located at a height of 11,755 feet, were closed for the winter today amid chanting of Vedic hymns and elaborate rituals lasting an hour.

The doors of the temple were closed for devotees at 8 AM after last prayers of the season were offered and rituals carried out by a group of five priests (panch pujari gan) in the presence of scores of devotees, temple committee and administrative officials, Kedarnath Rawal (head priest) Bhima Shankar Ling Shivacharya Swamiji said on the phone.

An idol of Lord Shiva in a palanquin then left for its journey to Ukhimath's Omkareshwar Mandir where it will be worshipped during the winter, he said. Carried as part of a procession, the palanquin will arrive at Omkareshwar the day after tomorrow via Rampur and Guptkashi, he said.

A total of 1.52 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine to pay obeisance this season registering a rise of over 50,000 devotees as compared to last year, the Rawal said. The rise in the number of pilgrims indicates growing confidence about safety, besides improved facilities along the pilgrimage route, he said.

Kedarnath and several other areas in Uttarakhand had witnessed devastating floods and landslides in June 2013. However, a lot of reconstruction work has been done there since then for the smooth conduct of the yatra. The gates of the eighth century shrine are closed every year for six months during the winter as the area remains under snow.

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