Post exam holidays and a long weekend witnessed pilgrims influx Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, Trikuta Hills, Katra, resulting in suspension of the pilgrimage by authorities for few hours from 8.25pm on Friday evening. However, the yatra resumed at 5am on Saturday morning. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board official said that post exam holidays and long weekend in the form of Mahavir Jayanti on March 29, Good Friday on March 30, Hanuman Jayanti on March 30 and Sunday on March 31 seems to be the reason behind huge rush.“The pilgrimage was suspended from the base camp, Katra as ticket counters at the base camp closed their windows when the number crossed mark of 40,000,” he said. The yatra ticket counters open at 5am and close at 10pm every day. “With over 40,000 pilgrims trekking the route to cave shrine and many already in the queue at sanctum sanctorum, we had to suspend pilgrimage for few hours,” he said. The official informed that by 6.30pm on Saturday, nearly 25,500 pilgrims were registered at the ticket counters. “Our accommodations in the base camp and at the bhawan were packed to the capacity of 100% bed occupancy on Friday but things eased out a bit on Saturday,” he said. Pilgrims’ take Deepak Kumar, Sushil Kumar and their mother, pilgrims from New Delhi, said they had made online bookings of accommodation at ‘Ardhkuwari’ for Friday night and ‘Atka Aarti’ for Saturday morning. “However, after seeing the heavy rush, we headed straight to bhawan where we slept on the pavement after getting blankets from the store,” said Deepak Kumar. Sushil Kumar said, “We were worried about our mother but she kept well through the journey.”NGT directions In November 2017, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) while taking into account increasing pressure of pilgrims on the shrine and its impact on the region had limited the number of devotees visiting the Vaishno Devi Shrine to 50,000 per day. The NGT said devotees will be stopped either at Ardhkumari or Katra after reaching the limit. Earlier suspension The pilgrimage was suspended in January 2018 also when the figures crossed 50,000mark on New Year’s Eve.