When portals of the Badrinath shrine in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district were opened at 4.30 am on May 15, there were neither long queues of pilgrims nor traditional performances. Rituals were performed inside the sanctum sanctorum by chief priest Ishwari Prasad Namboodri, who had come after quarantine following his arrival from Kerala.
Prayers are being held inside the shrine daily since May 15 but there is no chanting by pilgrims outside, similar to the situation at Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri — the other shrines of the Char Dham — where pilgrimage has been prohibited, and markets and guest houses shut in view of the lockdown.
In the absence of the Char Dham yatra this year, religious tourism has suffered a setback in Uttarakhand. According to officials, the yatra draws almost 70 per cent of pilgrims till June before monsoon but that season has suffered a complete loss due to lockdown. Tour operators, taxis, helicopter service providers, shops, guest houses and ashrams do the maximum business during this period.
The first meeting of the Char Dham Devasthanam Board has been called on May 22 to discuss the situation, including economic opportunities for the affected people and financial status of the board.