Nearly five months after being suspended, the Vaishno Devi yatra is all set to resume from August 16. The holy yatra was suspended on March 18, in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, however, now the Jammu and Kashmir government has announced its resumption. On Tuesday evening, the J&K government announced guidelines and SOPs for religious shrines, including guidelines for the pilgrimage to the Vaishno Devi Shrine located on Trikuta hills in Katra in Reasi district.
"Major shrines like Charar-e-Sharief, Hazratbal, Mata Vaishno Deviji, Nangali Sahib, Shahdara Sharief, Shiv Khori etc., where devotees visit from all parts of the Union Territory and the country, shall be required to take special precautions. These shrines, to begin with on August 16, shall be permitted only for a limited number of visitors/devotees from outside J&K," the government said in its order.
Besides this, the order said since a large number of pilgrims visit the Vaishno Devi shrine, therefore additional precautions need to be taken for pilgrims' safety.
Guidelines for Vaishno Devi Yatra
- A maximum of 5,000 pilgrims will be allowed to undertake the yatra every day till September 30. Within the ceiling of 5,000 pilgrims, a maximum of 500 pilgrims from outside Jammu and Kashmir will be allowed daily
- To avoid crowding at registration counters in Katra, the base camp for the yatra, registration of pilgrims will be done only through the online mode
- The COVID-19 antigen test will be made mandatory for all devotees arriving from other states
- Pilgrims will be allowed to proceed only if they test negative. Pilgrims coming from red zone districts of Jammu and Kashmir will also have to undergo the same test
- Not more than 600 people, including pilgrims, staff and security personnel, will be allowed in the Bhawan complex
- Congregations won't be allowed and proper social distancing will have to be maintained inside the shrine
- Wearing of masks would be mandatory during the yatra
Meanwhile, people above the age of 60, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, children below the age of 10 have been advised not to visit any religious place in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) has also been asked to ensure the highest level of cleanliness and sanitisation at all places.
The Shrine Board has already started preparations for the pilgrimage with workers carrying out regular sanitisation drives at various places on the yatra track and the Bhawan.