The Uttarakhand government has decided to open massage centres on the route to Kedarnath shrine in the next pilgrim season to help rejuvenate people who get tired during the 16-km trek up from Gauri Kund.
Massage chairs, as seen in shopping malls, will be installed at these massage centres in different locations along the route, officials said.
From next year, the administration will also make it compulsory for those who travel to the shrine on ponies to wear helmets for safety from stones and rock pieces that shoot down, naturally or in landslides.
According to the state Tourism department, more than 10 lakh people visited Kedarnath in this year’s pilgrimage season, which got under way in May and concluded on October 29. This is the highest footfall to the shrine in recent years — an estimated 7.31 lakh people visited the shrine in 2018.
The state administration expects more people to visit Kedarnath and other shrines of the Char Dham in 2020.
Rudraprayag district magistrate Mangesh Ghildiyal said, “Pilgrims get tired during the walk, and massage chairs would be put up for such people. This will also give employment to the local youth. For now, we are planning to start massage centres at five places along the route. We will provide subsidy for them to buy the equipment under a government scheme.”
On the mandatory helmets for those riding ponies, Ghildiyal said, “The person guiding the horse or mule will also have to wear a helmet.”
There are 7,600 registered people who provide pony rides on the Kedarnath route. Nearly 3.5 lakh people took the pony ride to Kedarnath in the season just concluded. According to the administration, a woman sustained injuries after a falling stone hit her this season.
Kedarnath is located 3,584 m above sea level. The number of people visiting the shrine had decreased considerably after a flash flood hit Kedarnath and adjoining areas in 2013. But the numbers are constantly rising since 2015.
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