The pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine Mata Vaishno Devi atop Trikuta hills of Jammu and Kashmir resumed on Sunday. (Photo Courtesy: New Indian Express)

Vaishno Devi reopens for devotees with restrictions

A day after India celebrated its 74th independence the pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine Mata Vaishno Devi atop Trikuta hills of Jammu and Kashmir resumed on Sunday after being suspended for nearly five months on March 18 due to Covid 19. The shrine in Katra town of Reasi district was reopened along with other religious places in the Union Territory.

However, there will be some restrictions due to the pandemic. In the first week of the pilgrimage, 2,000 pilgrims will be allowed of which 1,900 will be from Jammu and Kashmir itself and the remaining 100 from outside the Union Territory. The pilgrims will be allowed to undertake the yatra only after online registration.

The shrine board has said that the cap on the number of visitors to the temple will be reviewed after the first week and a decision will be taken accordingly.

“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,” Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board CEO Ramesh Kumar told ANI.

He added that those from Covid-19 red zones will be permitted for the pilgrimage only if they provide negative test reports. It will be mandatory for the pilgrims to wear a face mask and install the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones before proceeding for the yatra.

Children below 10 years, pregnant women, persons with comorbidities and those above 60 years have been advised to avoid religious places for the time being, reported NDTV.

“The shrine management has laid out the rules clearly, and pilgrims are also following them properly. It is important to follow rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. If rules are not followed then the darshans will be closed soon,” an elated pilgrim Prashant Sharma was quoted by news agency ANI.

It is significant to note that on June 11, the Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh reopened after remaining closed for nearly 80 days. However, despite the precautions taken by the authorities, the temple became a Covid-19 hotspot.

In a little over two months, as many as 743 staffs of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which runs the shrine, including priests have tested positive for coronavirus and three employees have succumbed to the disease. It is unknown how many visitors have contracted Covid-19.

In spite of all this, the TTD insists that it has no plans to close the temple, which is one of the richest in the world.

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