Khushvinder Singh who is a member of a group of 12 from Jammu, reached Katra on Sunday morning before dawn to pay his obeisance at the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, located atop on Trikuta hills, Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.
The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi resumed on 16th August for devotes after remaining closed for 5 months due to the outbreak of Covid-19 across the Union territory along with the other religious places.
48 year old, Singh said, “I used to come to the shrine at least once every month to offer my prayers. I feel blessed to be back on the first day of the reopening of the shrine”.
He reached Katra around 4 am to check the arrangements at the base camp for the pilgrims who are visiting the shrine and was among the first to offer the prayers at the sanctum sanctorum, the holy cave, which is the final destination of the pilgrims.
The gates of the famous Mata Shrine reopened for the devotees around 6 am and Ramesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board was seen reviewing the measures to ensure the safety of the visitors from the dreadful disease.
The Kumar told PFI that, “The Vaishno Devi pilgrimage was stopped on March 18 as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and now when the administration had decided to reopen the religious places, the board had taken all necessary measures keeping in mind the challenge posed by the dreaded disease.
In the Vaishno Devi Yatra, first week there shall be 2,000 pilgrims allowed each day, in which 1,900 pilgrims would be from the state Jammu and Kashmir and the rest 100 from outside.
Kumar also added that, The government has come out with a detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and the pilgrims are requested to follow the guidelines for their own safety and the safety of others, while the inspection of automatic thermal screening along with the hand sanitizers setup at the entry point with the circles dotted to ensure the social distancing.
Only those who have registered themselves online are allowed to undertake the pilgrimage.
To reach the shrine, the pilgrims are guided to use the traditional routes i.e from Katra to Bhawan through Banganga, Adhkuwari and Sanjichhat and for their return journey, Himkoti route-Tarakote.
“The pilgrims, coming from red zones, and outside Jammu and Kashmir would have to undergo COVID-19 test and only those pilgrims with negative reports will be allowed to move towards Bhawan,” Kumar, CEO said.
The category of pilgrims who are advised to avoid the Yatra to the religious places for the time being are the children below 10 year, pregnant women, person with the comorbidities and also those who are 60 plus.
Before the resumption of the Yatra, a massive sanitization campaign was launched by the board of shrine, from Katra to Bhawan.