Record breaking pilgrims at Vaishno Devi Shrine

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Jammu, May 18 (UNI) With the mercury soaring high in the Winter Capital of Jammu and Kashmir, the inflow of pilgrims at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine has also started increasing as it crossed the 35,000 mark last night, official sources said today.

The season's record number of devotees from across the country and within the state visited the holy Katra town to trek 13-km-long track to pay obeisance at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine on Trikuta Hills.

Earlier in April, 28,000 was the highest number recorded, which broke last night, as 39,227 devouts reached Katra for Vaishno Devi.

''As heat wave conditions have gripped the entire north zone and rest of the parts in the country, the inflow of pilgrims has also increased,'' an official of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board told UNI.

He asserted, ''since summer vacations have started, most families accompanied by children, are visiting hilly areas and tourist destinations in the state to beat the heat, besides visiting Katra for the 'darshans' of Goddess Mahasaraswati, Mahalaxmi and Mahakali in the form of natural 'pindies' inside the 'bhawan', 13 km from Katra base camp.'' Earlier in the beginning of this month, the routine of visitors was recorded 15,000 to 18,000, but now, it has exceeded from 25,000 to 28,000,'' official sources said, adding the yatra remains at peak in May, June and July.

''To regulate the heavy rush and keep a close watch on the movement of pilgrims, the shrine board authorities work round the clock, while special information counters have been set up in Katra base camp to provide first hand information about the status of the rush at the Shrine,'' they said.

However, elaborate arrangements for food, blankets and security had been made at the to avoid any untoward incident, they added, asserting, ''if the rush increases beyond a fixed number, the yatra would be suspended for some time to clear the stranded pilgrims.'' UNI VBH ATI HT1328

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