Sacred portals of the Kedarnath temple were reopened to devotees amid elaborate rituals early this morning, about a year after the Himalayan shrine was marred by flash floods that had left hundreds of people dead and many others stranded.
Chief priest of the shrine (Rawal) Bhima Shankar Ling presided over the rituals as its gates were opened amid chanting of vedic hymns, Badrinath-Kedarnath temple committee CEO VD Singh said over phone.
About 1,252 devotees including eight foreign nationals visited the shrine on the opening day, he said.
It is the first 'Char Dham' yatra after last year's calamity.
The annual pilgrimage was struck by the unprecedented flash floods last year causing largescale loss of lives and property. Over 5,000 people were dead or missing, including pilgrims from various parts of the country.
Expressing happiness over the first day turnout, Singh said it was much more than their expectations.
"The crowd was bigger than expected and there was much enthusiasm among the devotees. It is an indication that the fear psychosis gripping people outside the state in the wake of last years tragedy is subsiding gradually.
"The crowd of visitors is likely to swell as the snow begins to melt," he said.
Arrangements for a round-the-clock langar have been made by the temple committee near the shrine to cater to visitors. Makeshift tents have been pitched at several places en route to the temple to accommodate more than a thousand people.
There are enough food supplies available, he said.
However, Pandit Jasraj, who was to perform live at the shrine on its opening day could not come, he said.
Tourism and Culture Secretary Umakant Panwar said the Indian classical vocalist had to cancel his programme yesterday as it was unsafe for him to fly in a chopper to the high altitude shrine which is still clogged with snow.