Dehradun, April 23:
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi arrived here on Thursday to begin on Friday his trek to the revered and ancient Kedarnath shrine in the lower Himalayas.
The Gandhi scion will trek the last 16 km to the famous temple along with senior Congress leaders. He will spend Thursday night at Gaurikund.
The 8th century temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is situated at an altitude of 3,581 meters above sea level. The shrine closes in October-November every year due to snow and reopens in April-May.
The temple is set amid the stunning Garhwal Himalayas at the head of the Mandakini river. It suffered extensive damage during the flash floods of 2013 that killed thousands of people.
Earlier, Gandhi was accorded a grand welcome by leaders of the Congress, which rules Uttarakhand.
Chief Minister Harish Rawat and his cabinet colleagues Indira Hridyesh, Yashpal Arya, Dinesh Agarwal and Preetam Singh received him at the airport.
Dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, Gandhi looked relaxed as he chatted with Congress leaders on the tarmac. He is accompanied by Ambika Soni and Jitin Prasad on his two-day trip to the hill state.
Gandhi paid floral tributes at the portrait of Veer Chandra Singh Gadwali, a hero in the region.
He then interacted with the state cabinet on the preparations of the Chaar Dhaam Yatra which covers the shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri.
A presentation was done for Gandhi to apprise him of the rehabilitation and development work undertaken after the 2013 floods that also caused widespread destruction.
Gandhi lauded the work done by the Uttarakhand government. Later, he left for Gaurikund from where he will trek to the Kedarnath shrine on Friday. (IANS)