Mata Vaishno Devi shrine reopens today: Check important guidelines and restrictions for pilgrims

After remaining suspended for five months, Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine was reopened for devotees on Sunday with various restrictions and guidelines, officials said. The pilgrimage was suspended since 18 March due to Coronavirus pandemic.

Katra (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], Aug 16 : Pilgrimage to Mata Vaishno Devi Temple resumed on Sunday, nearly 5 months after it was suspended due to COVID-19.Only 2,000 people will be allowed to visit the shrine per day. Expressing excitement, Prashant Sharma, one of the first pilgrims to visit the shrine said, “I’m happy that people can visit the temple once again.”Sharma informed that the shrine management has made adequate arrangements for the pilgrims keeping COVID-19 pandemic in mind.

“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,” added Sharma.Another pilgrim Raman Khajuria said that management is testing people for COVID-19 virus to keep a check if any infected person visited the premises.

There are sanitiser dispensers at places, thermal screening is done. we’ll also be tested for COVID-19 so that the management gets to know if some infected person came on the premises,” said Khajuria. The yatra to the shrine, which was suspended from March 18, is resuming from August 16.

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Ramesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board said on Saturday, that during the first week of the resumption of pilgrimage, there shall be a ceiling of 2,000 pilgrims per day, including 1,900 from within Jammu and Kashmir and the remaining 100 from outside the Union Territory.

“The situation will be reviewed thereafter and the decision will be taken accordingly. Pilgrims will be allowed to undertake the pilgrimage after registration through online mode only in order to avoid any assembly of persons at the Yatra Registration Counters,” said Kumar.

The shrine board will be abiding to health norms induced by the Centre to contain the spread of coronavirus.The Chief Executive Officer further said that the yatra will move in a uni-directional manner. The traditional route from Katra to Bhawan via Banganga, Adhkuwari and Sanjichhat will be used for going up and Himkoti route-Tarakote Marg will be used for coming back from the Bhawan.

Meanwhile, a massive sanitisation campaign has been launched by the Shrine Board right from Katra en route to Bhawan and in the Bhawan area for ensuring utmost sanitisation and cleanliness before the resumption of the yatra. The general guidelines for all places of worship state that visitors have to wear masks to be allowed entry while maintaining a distance of 6 feet from one another at all times. People “above 60 years of age”, pregnant women, persons with co-morbidities and children under the age 10 years have been advised to stay home.

Religious organisations have to make provide provisions for the washing of hands and feet with water and soap. Nobody shall be permitted to touch statues, idols or holy books.

Large gatherings will not be allowed inside the area, only singular persons will be let in. The offering of prasad will not be allowed.

It is mandatory for all visitors to install and use the Aarogya Setu app. Only asymptomatic persons will be allowed to enter. Special precautions shall be taken in major shrines such as Shahdara Sharief, Charar-e-Sharief, Nangali Sahab and Hazratbal.

Since a huge number of pilgrims visit the Vaishno Devi shrine at Katra, several additional precautions “shall be applied to this shrine.” These include maximum 5,000 pilgrims each day till September 30, 2020.

For those pilgrims coming from outside J&K, only 500 will be permitted daily. Visitors have to register through online mode to avoid the gathering at counters in Katra.

All pilgrims coming from outside J&K and from Red Zone districts of J&K will have to take the COVID-19 antigen test. If the result is negative, only then will they be allowed entry. The staff of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board will also undergo these tests periodically to check the spread of coronavirus. Social distancing has to be maintained even inside the caves for sufficient ventilation. Not more than 600 people will be allowed to gather inside the Bhawan area at any time.

Apart from the above SOPs one of the important guidelines is that the Vaishno Devi administration has to ensure the provision of dedicated facilities for Isolation and quarantine purpose.

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