Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid obeisance at Kedarnath as the portals of the Himalayan shrine were reopened for devotees after remaining closed for six months for the winters.
Modi is the first prime minister to visit the famed temple in 28 years after former prime minister V P Singh had paid a visit to the temple in 1989.
Accompanied by Uttarakhand Governor K K Paul and Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, Modi arrived in an army chopper at the helipad built close to the temple and headed straight for the shrine located at a height of over 11,000 ft.
The temple doors were opened at 8.50 am and the prime minister arrived just about half an hour later to offer prayers and perform a ‘rudrabhishek’ in the sanctum sanctorum of the centuries old shrine.
After 20 minutes, Modi, who was wearing a brown overcoat, emerged out of the temple and waved to the crowds waiting outside for a glimpse of the prime minister.
He was gifted a shawl, a rudraksha, a wooden replica of the temple and books on the Himalayas by the priests of the temple as he came out of the shrine.
He did a ‘parikrama’ of the Nandi statue outside the temple before making way through the crowds to convoy that was to take him back to the helipad.
The prime minister also went to the spot where a huge rock named Bhimshila had rolled down from the mountains in the wake of the June 2013 deluge and got stuck at the back of the temple.
Christened Bhimshila after the tragedy, also known as the Himalayan Tsunami, the truck sized rock is credited with protecting the shrine from major damage.
On his way back, the prime minister patted a child held in the arms of a soldier.
After spending about an hour at the temple, the prime minister left in an army chopper for Haridwar where he is scheduled to inaugurate an Ayurvedic research centre at Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth.
Kedarnath is the third and perhaps the most important of the four Himalayan shrines in the ‘char dham’ circuit to reopen on Wednesday.
Gangotri and Yamunotri have already opened on the occasion of Akshay Tritiya whereas Badrinath is slated to reopen on May 6 when President Pranab Mukherjee will visit the temple.
People in the state feel visit by the PM and the President to Kedarnath and Badrinath will boost tourist arrivals at the two temples by sending the message of a safe ‘char dham yatra’ to people outside the state.