Over three lakh pilgrims to visit Vaishno Devi

Jammu, April 10 (IANS) Over three lakh pilgrims are expected to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine near here during the nine-day Navratas beginning Thursday, officials said Wednesday.

M.K. Bhandari, additional chief executive officer (ACEO) of the Sri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), that takes care of conduct of the pilgrimage, told IANS: “Floral decoration, food for fasting pilgrims, their accommodation and all other arrangements are in place for pilgrims during the Navratras.”

Bhandari added that about 35,000 pilgrims were expected at the hill shrine each day.

He said that 1,04,95,269 pilgrims visited the shrine in 2012, an increase of 379,622 devotees from 2011. The number of pilgrims crossed the one-crore mark in 2011 for the first time.

The cave shrine of goddess Mata Vaishno Devi is nestled in Trikuta Hills at a height of 5,500 feet. It is a 12-km trek from Katra, the base camp of the pilgrimage, about 50 km north of Jammu.

Pilgrims either trek to the shrine from Katra, or hire ponies, palanquins or fly in in a helicopter.

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