Pilgrims to Vaishno Devi shrine helped by Muslim porters

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Katra, Feb 4 (ANI): Muslim porters at the revered cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi in Kashmir have been earning the gratitude of Hindu devotees for many years.

Carrying luggage and children on their shoulder, porters popularly known as 'pitthu', say their work is one form of worship when they trek with the pilgrims along a eleven-kilometer hilly tract to the Vaishno Devi Temple.

"We offer namaz first and then go about our business. We carry the baggage of the pilgrims and they pay us something more than our fees," said Shamas Din, a Muslim porter.

The Hindu pilgrims said religious boundaries disappear when the porters enthusiastically chant hymns along with them on way to the shrine.

"We realise that being Muslim they are very cooperating. They have equal reverence for the goddess and they also chant hymns with us. It doesn't seem that there is any religious disparity among us," said Dinesh Baba, a Hindu pilgrim.

Perched atop Trikuta hills at a height of 1,700 meters above sea level, Vaishno Devi shrine is held in high esteem by Hindus all over the country.

It attracts more than three million pilgrims every year, particularly during summers, and is the main source of livelihood for thousands of residents. By Tahir Nadeem Khan (ANI)

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