Jammu, June 23 (IANS): Pilgrimage to the Hindu shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi near Jammu was suspended late Friday due to a forest fire which spread over and reached near mid-point of the 12km trek from base camp Katra.
It stranded a large number of pilgrims going to and fro the shrine.
According to the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), the fire broke out in the evening in forests near Adhkunwari, six kilometres from the base camp Katra. It soon started escalating and reached close to the trek used by pilgrims.
"The pilgrimage was suspended immediately as precautionary measure for safety of the pilgrimage," said a Shrine Board official.
There is a heavy rush of pilgrims visiting the famous shrine these days with about 40,000 arriving in Katra everyday from different parts of the country.
The official, however, could not specify about the exact number of pilgrims stranded. But the pilgrims were not allowed to move ahead both from base camp Katra and the main shrine nestled in Trikuta Hills at 5,200 feet height.
Such fire in pine forests are common in intense heat conditions which are triggered by the dry pine grass -- highly inflammable.
"All the agencies have been pressed into service to douse the fire. Pilgrims' movement will be allowed only when the fire gets under control," said the official.
The shrine, dedicated to Goddess Durga, has three natural rock formation called "pindies".