The Vaishno Devi Shrine, located in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir is expected to receive 85 lakh pilgrims this year, which is the highest in the least five years, reported the Press Trust of India.
“We are expecting to cross 85 lakh turnout of pilgrims by December 31 midnight. We have already crossed 84.50 lakh and an estimated 50,000 pilgrims are expected to visit the shrine during the next 48 hours,” Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Chief Executive Officer Simrandeep Singh told PTI.
He said last year’s figure of 81.78 lakh pilgrims was crossed almost 20 days ago. The pilgrim arrivals dropped from 93.24 lakh in 2013 to 78.03 lakh in 2014 and further to 77.76 lakh in 2015 and 77.23 lakh in 2016.
Singh attributed the increase in turnout to various factors including the efforts of the board to make the pilgrimage pleasant by adding new facilities for a hassle-free journey.
“The ropeway is functional while the seven-kilometre Tarakote track came up as an alternate route with better facilities,” he said.
On Dec 24, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik inaugurated the Rs 85-crore Bhawan-Bhairon passenger ropeway, which reduced the travel time between Bhawan and Bhairon Temple (one-way journey) from one hour to just about three minutes.
The board has decided to keep the tickets affordable, with the to and fro journey costing Rs 100 per passenger.
The alternate Tarakote Marg, which was completed in seven years at a cost of Rs 80 crore, was opened for pilgrims in May.