The annual Chardham Yatra in Uttarakhand began on Friday with the reopening of the portals of Gangotri and Yamunotri temples in Garhwal region amid chanting of vedic hymns after a 6-month long winter break.

Thousands of pilgrims thronged the two Himalayan shrines to witness the elaborate ceremonies which preceded their simultaneous reopening at 12.15 pm on the occasion of 'Akshaya Tritiya'. After prayers were offered by priests in Gangotri, former Chief Minister and Haridwar MP Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Gangotri MLA Gopal Rawat formally declared the annual yatra open in the presence of Uttarkashi SP Dadan Pal Singh.

Thousands of pilgrims turned up at the temples to pay obeisance to goddesses Ganga and Yamuna to whom the two shrines are dedicated. Uttarakhand Tourism Minister Satpal Singh and Yamunotri MLA Kedar Singh Rawat were at Yamunotri as its gates were thrown open to the public.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of Yamunotri, Satpal Singh said the pilgrimage to chardham had become difficult in the wake of the 2013 calamity but the challenges thrown up by the disaster have now been overcome and people can visit the four Himalayan shrines as well as the Sikh shrine of Hemkunt Sahib in a trouble-free manner.

The other two major shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath on the Chardham circuit are scheduled to reopen on May 3 and May 6 respectively with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee slated to visit them on the opening day itself. PM Modi will visit Kedarnath on May 3 and President Mukherjee will offer prayers at Badrinath on May 6.