On 12th August, Jammu and Kashmir administration announced that religious places can open from 16th August with restrictions. Maximum 5000 devotees per day will be allowed. Out of these 5000, only 500 can be from outside Jammu and Kashmir. Accordingly, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has resumed Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra.
In the first week, only 2000 devotees will be allowed to visit the Shrine. Out of these 2000 devotees, only 100 can be from other states. Mata Vaishno Devi Mandir is located in Katra, Jammu and Kashmir. The Mandir has reopened its gates after five months. The doors were shut at the time when the nationwide lockdown was announced in March 2020 in India.
J&K: Govt issued SoP for opening of religious places from August 16 restricting no. of pilgrims to shrines.— Prasar Bharati News Services (@PBNS_India) August 12, 2020
Govt has fixed a ceiling of max 5000 pilgrims/day till Sept 30 for Mata Vaishnodevi pilgrimage.
Mask or face cover is must
Every devotee must wear a mask or face cover while completing the 14 KM journey. No one will be allowed without a mask. As per the reports, every devotee coming from outside Jammu and Kashmir will be tested for Covid-19 before they can move ahead for the Yatra. Due to the restrictions, devotees have to complete Darshan quickly at the Garbhagriha. Usually, it takes around two to four hours after reaching the temple gates to complete the Darshan and come out. As of now, due to restrictions, it is only taking five to ten minutes to complete the Darshan.
The Shrine Board has taken several steps to ensure the safety of the devotees. Apart from the mandatory Covid-19 test and face cover, there are automated temperature checking machines installed in the premises. There are also sanitization stations, and the officials are sanitizing every devotee before they can enter the temple premises. All the hotels and restaurants are closed around the temple. Some langar houses are providing food to the devotees. While having food at these langar houses, the officials are taking care of sanitization and social distancing.
Tarakot path is wholly shut, and no one is allowed to use that path. The devotees can only use Banganga path to the temple. There is no arrangement of mules and ponies as of now. The devotees have to complete the Yatra by foot. The Shrine Board said that there would be an arrangement of medical tents on the path in the next few weeks.
Jammu & Kashmir: Mata Vaishno Devi Temple will reopen for public today, nearly 5 months after it was suspended due to COVID-19. Only 2,000 people will be allowed to visit the temple per day. A devotee says, “I’m happy that people can visit the temple once again.” pic.twitter.com/BDYQA1z5WK— ANI (@ANI) August 16, 2020
Old people, pregnant women and children under 10 not allowed
While talking to media, Ramesh Kumar, CEO Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board said that anyone who is showing symptoms of Covid-19, above 60 years of age, pregnant or children under 10 years of age would not be allowed to go for the Yatra. Battery car, helicopter and ropeway will start functioning soon. He added that the administration would take care of social distancing while running these services.
Kumar said that even if the devotee has a negative test report with him or her, they have to undergo test again before starting the journey. There are four langar houses, one in each Karta, Adhkunwari, Tarakot and Mandir, that are functional so that the devotees do not find any trouble searching for food.
He said that from time-to-time, they would have review meetings to decide the number of the devotees. Till September, they can only allow 5000 devotees per day. The shops on the 14 KM stretch will open systematically very soon. Those who want to use ropeway and helicopter will be able to register for the services online once they restart.
Conditions that every devotee has to follow:
- People coming from red zone or from other states, they will have to get Covid-19 test done and the report must be kept with them. A rapid test will be done in Katra before start of the journey.
- Every devotee must have Arogya Setu App installed on their phones.
- Mask or face cover is a must.
- Only those devotees who got the registration done online will be allowed.
As of now, one can only travel via taxi from Jammu to Katra. The other modes of transport will start only after the state government gives a green signal.