Vaishno Devi yatra reaches another milestone

New track being commissioned

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, May 5: Pilgrimage to holy cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi ji has recorded an impressive increase of over one lakh during first quarter of this year, setting the trend for arrival of one crore pilgrims for second consecutive year in 2012. Barring April, yatra to the cave shrine has recorded increase during all othr 3 months this year over corresponding period of last year.
About 27.62 lakh pilgrims have paid obeisance at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan during first four months of this year as against 26.49 lakh yatris, who had visited the shrine during the similar period last year, an increase of about 1.13 lakh.
Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) Additional CEO Dr Mandeep K Bhandari told the Excelsior that the Board was bracing upto receive heavy rush of pilgrims during summer vacations from May to July. Though during past couple of years, the shrine of Goddess Vaishno Devi had been witnessing heavy rush almost throughout the year excepting winter months of December, January and February, still three months between May to July received maximum yatris.
In the month of January this year, 4.59 lakh pilgrims visited holy cave shrine this year as against 4.21 lakh in 2011 recording an increase of 37,941. In February, 3.92 lakh yatris had darshan of the Goddess this year while the number last year was 3.69 lakh, an increase of 23,113.
In March, the pilgrimage went up to 8.74 lakh as against 7.55 lakh of previous year, up by 1.18 lakh. However, it was in the month of April that the yatra came down to 9.61 lakh this year as compared to 10.32 lakh of last year, a decline of 71,291.
It was during 2011 that yatra to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine had crossed 10 million mark for the first time. Prior to that 87.3 lakh yatris had visited the cave shrine in Trikuta hills in 2010. In 2009, the number of yatris was 82 lakh while in 2008, 67.92 lakh pilgrims had visited the shrine.
Sources said going by the trend of first quarter when yatra has recorded an increase of over one lakh from the corresponding period of last year, there was every possibility of pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan surpassing the last year’s figure of one crore.
The SMVDSB authorities have already braced up for meeting the heavy rush of yatris in the upcoming months especially the summer vacations.
“It has been observed that during summer some water points run dry in the peak season. Efforts were being made this time to ensure that water supply was maintained at all points along the track from Katra to Vaishno Devi Bhawan including alternate track of Adh-Kunwari’’, sources said.
The Shrine Board was already working on another alternate track from Katra to Adh-Kunwari, which would be used exclusively by mules. When completed, the new alternate track would ease congestion on present track as all mules would be diverted to it, they added.
Work on this track was going on expeditiously, sources said, adding that the track was expected to be commission in the next few months.