Vaishno Devi pilgrimage footfall in 2022 highest in 9 years
STATE TIMES NEWS
Jammu: Nearly 87 lakh pilgrims have paid their obeisance at the famous Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine atop Trikuta hills so far this year, the highest in the past nine years, an official of the shrine board said on Saturday.
The inflow of the pilgrims is expected to pick up further in the coming days as the year draws to close, the official said, hoping that the figure may surpass 90 lakh by the end of December.
“Till December 6 this year, 86.40 lakh pilgrims visited the cave shrine for the blessings of Mata Rani – a manifestation of the Hindu mother goddess, Durga or Adi Shakti – which is highest annual figure in the past nine years,” a shrine board official told PTI.
He said about 13,000 pilgrims on an average are visiting the shrine at present on a daily basis but the number is likely to go up in the coming weeks ahead of the new year celebrations. The official said the highest number of more than 11.29 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine in June, while the lowest number of 3.61 lakh pilgrims offered their prayers at the temple in February.
Despite a stampede at the shrine on the New Year’s Day that left 12 pilgrims dead and 16 others injured, January recorded a turnout of more than 4.38 lakh pilgrims.
More than 7.78 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine in March, 9.02 lakh in April, 9.86 lakh in May, 9.07 lakh in July, 8.77 lakh in August, 8.28 lakh in September, 7.51 lakh in October and 6.01 lakh in November, the official said.
Only 17 lakh pilgrims, the lowest in more than three decades, visited the shrine in 2020 when the shrine, for the first time in its history, remained closed for five months due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopened for visitors on August 16 (2020).
From 13.95 lakh in 1986 when the shrine board took over the affairs of the shrine for better management, there has been a steady increase of pilgrim footfalls with each passing year, touching an all time high of 1.04 crore turnout in 2012 against 1.01 crore the previous year (2011).
The pilgrim arrivals at the shrine touched 31.15 lakh in 1991 and reached 74.17 lakh in 2007. However, the number dropped to 67.92 lakh in 2008 which was attributed to the two-month long Amarnath land row agitation but again went up to 82 lakh in 2009 and 87.2 lakh next year (2010).
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. It increased to 81.78 lakh in 2017 and 85.87 lakh in 2018 but again dropped to 79.40 lakh in 2019 the year when the central government revoked special status under Article 370 of the constitution to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the erstwhile state into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Following the first-ever stampede at the famous shrine, the shrine board in August introduced Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as part of various new projects sanctioned for the convenience of the pilgrims, better crowd management and tracking of the yatris along the 13-km track and the ‘Bhawan’ (sanctum sanctorum).
The official said the work on mega projects at Bhawan, including Durga Bhawan having provisions to accommodate 2,500 pilgrims on daily basis, and the Sky-walk, conceptualized by the shrine board to overcome the problem of multi-directional flow of yatra and a chaotic condition at Bhawan – are going on at full speed and are likely to be completed soon.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between National Highway Logistics Management Limited (NHLML) and Katra Development Authority that was inked on August 30 will create one-of-its-kind intermodal stations for the devotees bringing services like helipad, railway station, bus stand, auto stand, parking, five star hotels, and other modern day facilities at one place, the official said.
He said the underground cabling work from Katra to Bhawan and in the surrounding areas will have a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) compliance based monitoring system of the electric network.
With the implementation of this project, the existing LT/HT overhead electricity line will be replaced by underground cabling to ensure uninterrupted power supply along the track and in the Bhawan area.