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Winter Char Dham (25th December 2015) : The winter char dham in Uttarakhand has not been able to draw the anticipated flow of tourists. The reason for less tourist flow is due to less awareness and publicity among tourists. In 2014, the Uttarakhand government, in a bid to revive the devastated rural economy after the June 2013 flash flood that killed thousands of residents and pilgrims, and boost winter tourism in the state, had extended the pilgrimage to the four Hindu shrines – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri – round the year.

The annual pilgrimage which is usually undertaken over six months between April and November used to remain suspended during the rest of year as the shrines get covered with snow and the idols are shifted to the nearby villages where worship continues.

During the winter leg, pilgrims can visit the Narsingh temple in Joshimath, Onkareshwar temple in Ukhimath, Yamuna temple in Kharsali village and Ganga temple at Mukhba where the idols are shifted.

The winter leg of pilgrimage this year started on November 17 with the closing of the portals at Badrinath. However, residents say that a month on, only a handful of pilgrims had turned up.

“We were hoping to receive a good footfall during the winter yatra but the turnout has been dismal so far.” says a restaurant owner at Dharali near Gangotri. “We hope that things improve over the coming weeks,” he says.

Residents say poor promotion of the “off season” pilgrimage and lack of tourism infrastructure has led the lukewarm response. Harsh winters in the mountains can also be a reason why pilgrims are not turning up as expected. The other important attention should be paid on the roads leading to the pilgrimages and should be repaired wherever possible.

As per one priest at Joshimath, the traditional mindset of the pilgrims for the darshan of the idols during main pilgrimage might be the reason for the poor numbers. If somebody is coming from a distance place after spending a huge amount of money and taking leave for the pilgrimage, he would like to visit the main shrine.

As per the chief minister’s office, the winter tourism is a new concept and would take time to pick up. The concept of winter tourism is being spread and promoted among people and travel guilds. In near future the fruitful results might start turning out.

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 The Char Dhams of Uttarakhand