Vaishno Devi yatra crosses 6 mn

3.64 lakh visit during Navratras
Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Oct 8: Notwithstanding disturbed conditions in the State earlier in view of Pulwama terror strike followed by Indian air raid at Balakot, abrogation of Special Constitutional provisions of the State and bifurcations of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, over 6 million pilgrims have performed darshan at holy cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji this year so far while 3.64 lakh yatris visited the Bhawan during Navratras, the highest in last many years.
“Over 62.40 lakh pilgrims have paid obeisance to Goddess Vaishno Devi this year so far,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), Simrandeep Singh told the Excelsior.
He said during just concluded Navratras, 3.64 lakh pilgrims visited Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, which were highest in last many years.
The Navratras concluded with Durga Navmi yesterday.
Ever since the inception of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board in 1986, the shrine has witnessed an ever-increasing number of devotees.
The footfall in the yatra which was 13.96 lakh in 1986, increased to its highest of 1.04 crore in 2012. It saw 93.24 lakh pilgrims in 2013, 78.03 lakh in 2014, 77.76 lakh in 2015, 77.23 lakh in 2016, 81.78 lakh in 2017 and 85.87 lakh pilgrims in 2018.
Over 5 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine in January this year but the number fell to 2.69 lakh in February, the month in which a Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama district of south Kashmir martyred 44 jawans.
The subsequent events like India’s preemptive air strike on a JeM camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26 in response to the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, Parliamentary elections in the country and restrictions on the movement of civilian traffic to facilitate smooth movement of Amarnath pilgrims from Jammu to Kashmir had some impact on the arrival of pilgrims at the shrine as only 4.62 lakh devotees visited the shrine in March.
However, the number of pilgrims marked an upward trend in April when 6,90,893 people visited the shrine, followed by 8,07,125 in May, 11,59,715 in June and 8,45,071 in July.
The issuance of an advisory by the State administration on August 2, asking Amarnath pilgrims and tourists to leave Kashmir due to a “terror threat” had an impact on the footfall at Vaishno Devi shrine, with only 6,02,088 pilgrims joining the yatra to the shrine in August.
In the month of September, as many as 6,56,167 pilgrims visited the Vaishno Devi shrine. The Navratras, from September 29 to October 7, saw over 3,64,643 pilgrims offering prayers at the shrine at an average of 40,515 devotees daily.
About 2 lakh pilgrims had visited the shrine during Navratras in 2014, 2.76 lakh in 2015, 2.5 lakh in 2016, 3.02 lakh in 2017 and 3.20 lakh in 2018.
The newly constructed ‘Golden Gate’ at the entrance of the cave shrine, having nine images of Goddess Durga with Mahalakshmi figured prominently, and the launch of the Vande Bharat Express were the highlight of this year’s Navratras.
Nearly 5260 pilgrims travelled by air while 51,224 had Langar. About 55,000 pilgrims travelled by ponies, palkies and pithoos, 71,000 by cable car from Vaishno Devi to Bhairon Ghati and 16,000 by battery car during Navratras.