Hemkund Sahib closes for winter

Thousands of Sikh pilgrims braved chilly conditions to converge at Hemkund Sahib in Garhwal Himalayas on Friday as the sacred portals of the shrine were closed for the annual six-month winter break during which the area remains snowbound.

Gopeshwar: Thousands of Sikh pilgrims braved chilly conditions to converge at Hemkund Sahib in Garhwal Himalayas on Friday as the sacred portals of the shrine were closed for the annual six-month winter break during which the area remains snowbound.

The doors of the Himalayan shrine located at a height of 16,000 ft were declared closed by chief Granthi Jassa Singh after an elaborate ceremony during which the last prayers of the season were offered at about 11.30 AM, Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee sources said.

Immediately after the closure of the temple, Sikh pilgrims who had converged at the shrine over the past few days to witness the ceremony began retreating to Govindghat from where the 22-km trek to the temple begins, they said.

Arrivals at Hemkund Sahib -- one of the most revered Sikh shrines situated near the famous Badrinath temple in the border district of Chamoli -- touched the 1.8 lakh mark this season, they said.

Areas around Hemkund Sahib have been receiving light snowfall for the past few days.

Though the trek route to the shrine was heavily damaged in last year's calamity, Hemkund Sahib received more pilgrims this season than the famous 'Char Dham' yatra to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, they added.