KATRA: More than 1.27 lakh people visited the Vaishno Devi cave shrine atop the Trikuta hills in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district during the first three days of the ‘Navratri’ festival, officials said on Wednesday.
The shrine, located 45 kilometres from the winter capital Jammu, has been decked up to receive pilgrims from across the country during the nine-day Navratra festival, which commenced on October 15 and is scheduled to end on October 23.
“Over 1.27 lakh pilgrims paid their obeisance at the shrine during the first three days of the ongoing Navratra festival,” a shrine board official told PTI.
He said while around 45,000 pilgrims visited the shrine on the first day of Navratra on Sunday, the number stood at 41,164 on the second day and 41,523 on the third.
The officials said over 78 lakh pilgrims have offered their prayers at the shrine since January this year. The highest number of over 11.95 lakh pilgrims was recorded in June, while the lowest of around 4.14 lakh was witnessed in February.
The pilgrimage is going on smoothly and all necessary arrangements are in place, the official said, adding that new facilities such as the much-needed skywalk at an elevation of 20 feet above the existing track came as a big relief to the devotees.
The officials said the skywalk is laced with modern facilities like wooden flooring, a waiting hall, seating arrangements for about 150 pilgrims, LED screens, resting rooms and two emergency exits.
The skywalk has an aesthetically designed entrance with an artistically embellished portrayal of ‘Nav Durga’ to give an enriched experience for devotees, the officials said.
The remodelled ‘Parvati Bhawan’ which included 1,500 digital lockers, a waiting lounge and washrooms, was aimed at consolidating multiple facilities under one roof to curtail the crisscross movement of devotees in the Bhawan area and channelise the devotees towards the skywalk, the officials said.
They said the retrofitted Parvati Bhawan is a free-of-cost facility and caters to around 10,000 pilgrims per day.
A ‘Bhojanalaya’ at Bharav Ghati was also introduced on the first day of the Navratra for the benefit of the devotees, the officials said.
Besides 12 viewpoints or refreshment units, the shrine board runs full-fledged Bhojanalyas at five places-three at Bhawan and one each at Adkuwari and Sanjichhat-to provide wholesome and hygienic food to the pilgrims on a no-profit basis.
Expressing satisfaction over the arrangements, the pilgrims thanked the shrine board for continuously upgrading and expanding the infrastructure in and around the shrine.
“After a gap of nine years, I came to seek the blessings of Mata and was astonished to notice massive infrastructure development at the shrine and en route for the benefit of the devotees,” Vijay Sharma, a resident of Delhi, said.
Sharma, who was accompanied by two of his friends, visited the shrine on the third day of Navratra and lauded the efforts of the shrine board for the hassle-free management of a heavy rush of pilgrims.
The main highlights of the nine-day event taking place in Katra – the base camp for the pilgrims visiting the shrine – include Ramleela, an all-India devotional song competition, Bhagwat Katha, Prabhat Pheri, Shobha Yatra, laser show narrating “Mata Ki Kahani”, wrestling competition, ‘Hassaya Vyang’ and a programme by specially abled children among others.