Vaishno Devi pilgrimage close to 5 million

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, July 1: Pilgrimage to holy cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi ji was nearing 5 million during first half of 2013 and this could well be third consecutive year when it could touch or surpass the figure of 10 million in a year.
As many as 79,943 pilgrims availed the benefit of on-line registration in the month of June as against total pilgrimage of 12,68,313. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) had launched on-line registration for Vaishno Devi pilgrims in the month of May this year.
June 2013 has recorded highest ever number of yatra (12,68,313) in a month, breaking all previous records.
Official sources told the Excelsior that 48.61 lakh pilgrims have visited the holy cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi ji located in Trikuta Hills at a height of 5200 feet from the sea level in Katra town of Reasi district during first six months of this year. In the next four-five days, the number of yatris was expected to cross 5 million.
However, during corresponding months of 2012, 51.80 lakh pilgrims had visited the shrine. This year, the yatra was down by 3.18 lakh during first half of the year as compared to the last year.
Decline of 3.18 lakh notwithstanding, the yatra could still touch or cross the figure of 1 crore in 2013 even if it was down by 4 lakh from the last year. During 2012, 1.04 crores yatris had paid obeisance to Goddess Vaishno Devi while the number was 1.01 crores in 2011 when the pilgrimage had, for the first time, touched the figure of 10 million.
The month of June has recorded highest ever yatra to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in a month. The yatra last month stood at 12,68,313 as compared to 12.62 lakh in June 2012, the previous highest so far.
Last year, the pilgrimage had crossed 12 lakh for three consecutive months of May, June and July. While, it stood at 12.3 lakh in May, it rose to 12.61 lakh in June and was 12.01 lakh in July. In 2011, 11.21 lakh yatra was recorded in July and 10.05 lakh in August.
Yatra in the month of June this year was 6008 more than the previous year.
It was, however, in the month of May this year that yatra declined by about 2.4 lakh. In May 2013, 9.88 lakh pilgrims paid obeisance to Goddess Vaishno Devi while the number was 12.3 lakh last year.
In the month of April 2013, 10,32,301 pilgrims had darshan of the shrine as against 9,61,025 of last year, an increase of 71,276.
During January this year, 4.36 lakh yatris visited the shrine as against 4.59 lakh last year while the number was 3.49 lakh in February as compared at 3.92 lakh yeast year. In March, 7.87 lakh pilgrims offered prayers to the Goddess as against 8.74 lakh previous year.
Going by the trends, this could be third consecutive year when the pilgrimage would touch or surpass 1 crore to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. Last year, 1.04 crore pilgrims had visited the widely revered shrine while the number was 1.01 crore in 2011.
Pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi was 13.95 lakh in 1986 when Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) had taken over affairs of the shrine. Since then, the yatra continued to go up every year creating new records.
It was for the first time in 1991 that the pilgrimage crossed 3 million (31.15 lakh). The 4 million mark was reached in 1996 while the yatra reached 50 lakh in 2000 and 60 lakh in 2004. It was in 2007 that the yatra stood at 74.17 lakh.
The pilgrimage came down to 67.92 lakh in 2008 due to two months long Amarnath land agitation but again went up to 82 lakh in 2009 and reached 87.2 lakh in 2010. It was for the first time in 2011 that the yatra crossed 10 million mark and stood at 1.01 crore.