More than 33 lakh pilgrims have visited the famous Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district so far this year, marking an increase of nearly four lakhs in the footfall compared to the same period last year, officials said.
Chief Executive Officer of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Anshul Garg said various efforts are on to improve the facilities for the pilgrims to ensure that they do not face any inconvenience.
"Over 33 lakh pilgrims performed the yatra from January 1 to May 15 this year, which is much higher than the same period last year. The board is making continuous efforts to improve facilities and ensure that the visiting pilgrims do not face any inconvenience," Garg said.
The officials said nearly 29 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine in the first four and a half months last year with overall annual figures in 2022 touching a total of 91.24 lakh which was the highest in the past nine years.
This year, they said April recorded the highest footfall of 10,18,540 pilgrims, while the figure stood at 8,94,650 in March, 4,14,432 in February and 5,24,189 in January.
The daily rush of pilgrims increased from 15,000 at the beginning of this year to 30,000 at present, the officials said, adding the pilgrimage is progressing smoothly with all necessary arrangements in place to facilitate the devotees.
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Last year, January recorded a footfall of 4,38,521 pilgrims, February (3,61,074), March (7,78,669), April (9,02,192) and May (9,86,766), the officials said.
Braving scorching heat, pilgrims chanting religious slogans are visiting the shrine with enthusiasm and devotion.
"We are undertaking the yatra for the first time and are full of zeal and zest," Sandhya Vashne from Aligarh, who is part of a 40-member group, told PTI as she left Katra for the shrine amid chants of slogans in praise of Mata Vaishno Devi.
Tushar Gupta, a resident of Hisar in Haryana, said the rising temperature is no obstacle as they are full of energy to trek the route and reach the shrine to offer their prayers.
Atul Kumar from Delhi, who was accompanied by his family and is a regular visitor to the shrine for the last 18 years, lauded the shrine board for the facilities.
"The facilities being provided by the shrine board to the pilgrims is improving with each passing year. We have the best facilities here," Kumar said after paying obeisance at the shrine.
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