Jammu, May 15 (IANS) With about 35,000 devotees each day in this holiday season, authorities have been forced to regulate entry to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine near Jammu.
According to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) officials, about 35,000 pilgrims have been reaching the base camp Katra, about 45 km from here, daily for the last one week.
'But the number has reached 39,000 in the last two days, forcing the suspension of the pilgrimage. Pilgrims are now being stopped at Katra. They are allowed to move on once the rush of pilgrims on the 12 km trek and the shrine thins out,' the officials said.
They said SMVDSB was taking care of maintaining facilities like boarding, lodging, food, security, water and electricity to cope with the heavy influx of pilgrims.
On Monday, an estimated 38,000 pilgrims had reached the shrine while over 5,000 were stopped at Katra. 'We expect 35,000 pilgrims daily during these summer vacation months. This number could rise on weekends,' said an official.
The number of pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine annually had crossed the 10 million mark last year, while this year the number till now is about 32 lakh.
The Vaishno Devi shrine is nestled in a cave in the Trikuta Hills at a height of 5,200 feet and is a 12 km trek away from Katra. Pilgrims have the choice of covering this trek on foot, ponies, palanquins or helicopters.