Nestled atop the Trikuta Hills in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi district, the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine is fully decorated to welcome pilgrims arriving for the nine-day Navratri festival from Monday, officials said.
More than three lakh pilgrims from all over the country and abroad are expected to visit the shrine during the festival, with the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) putting in place all necessary arrangements including security to deal with the heavy rush, officials said.
Jammu and Kashmir’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, who is also the chairman of the shrine’s board, on August 31 rolled out a radio frequency identification (RFID) system for pilgrims.
The RFID system is among various new projects sanctioned for the convenience of pilgrims following a stampede at the shrine on New Year’s Day in which 12 people lost their lives and 16 others were injured.
“We have set up two control rooms and installed 120 CCTV cameras along the runway and the Bhawan (sanctum sanctorum) to ensure better regulation of the Yatra… The RFID card system, which is compulsory for all pilgrims, will help in better crowd management and real-time tracking of pilgrims,” said SMVDSB Managing Director Anshul Garg.
He said the shrine and adjacent areas were decorated with flowers and lights for the festival. “Welcoming gates have also been installed and this time the shrine sign introduces selfie points en route to the cave shrine for pilgrims,” he said. Garg said worshipers with reduced mobility will be provided with free horses and battery-powered car service to enable them to easily offer prayers at the shrine.
“This is another new initiative by the shrine board and we have set up help desks for the convenience of people with special needs. They will also be given priority for ‘darshan’ in Bhawan,” did he declare.
Katra, 42 km from the winter capital Jammu, which serves as the base camp for the shrine, will witness a series of religious, cultural, sports and folkloric events until the peak of the festival on October 4.
The Department of Tourism in collaboration with SMVDSB and Divisional Administration organizes various events like All India Devotional Song Contest, Wrestling Contest, Ramleela, ‘shobha yatra’, ‘Bhagwati Katha’, ‘Mata Ki Bhaint’, ‘Mata ki Kahani’ play and ‘Kavi Sammelan’. “A total of 14 different activities will be held at Katra from September 26 to October 4,” Garg added.
(With PTI inputs)