Vaishno Devi pilgrimage: 11,000 devotees reach Katra on Day 2 of Navratras
Around 11,000 pilgrims reached Katra to pay obeisance at the Vaishno Devi shrine in Reasi district on Wednesday.
Amid the pandemic, the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has made it mandatory for all pilgrims to furnish a Covid negative report. A senior board official, requesting anonymity, said, “The Vaishno Devi shrine is one of the few places of worship in the country that are still seeking Covid-negative reports from pilgrims. Other shrines in the country have gradually removed all curbs and are allowing pilgrims, provided they wear face masks and follow social distancing protocols.”
The official said the devotional singers that had been invited for ongoing Navratri festival at the Shrine had been first tested at the Jammu airport before being allowed to proceed towards Katra. “Should they test positive at the Jammu airport, they will not be allowed to proceed to Katra,” he said.
1,709 travellers tested, 69 test positive
A health official informed said that of 3,199 travellers who had reached Katra by train, 1,709 were tested for Covid-19 while the remaining had the requisite Covid negative reports with them.
“Of 1709 travellers, 69 tested positive and were sent home in specially designed cabs,” said the official.
On Tuesday 14, 281 yatris had reached in Katra. Last year, the shrine had been closed on March 18 and re-opened on August 16 after a hiatus of almost five months. A health official said 71 travellers had tested positive in Katra on the first day of the festival.
At 5,200ft, the cave shrine is one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimages and devotees from all over the country and abroad visit the shrine on auspicious days.
The administration has fixed a ceiling of 25,000 pilgrims a day. Pilgrims arriving in trains to Katra will undergo rapid antigen tests (RATs) at the Katra railway station where Covid kiosks have been set up. Those arriving via road will undergo the test at Lakhanpur—the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir.
Local devotees will be tested at Banganga and flying in will be tested at the Jammu airport.
However, it is advisable for pilgrims coming from outside J&K to bring their Covid-19 negative reports, preferably RT-PCR test, not older than 72 hours. The cave shrine was visited by 13,089 pilgrims on April 11. Last year, in August, the figures had dipped to 7,253 and 27,427 in September before picking up momentum in October when 1,21,661 pilgrims visited the shrine followed by 1,03,749 devotees in November and 2,07,533 in December.