STATE TIMES NEWS
Katra: Amid multi-tier security cover, the nine-day Navaratra festivities began on Wednesday with hundreds of pilgrims thronging Katra Base Camp ahead of their foot-bound journey to the Cave Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi.
Led by Divisional Commissioner Jammu Division Sanjeev Verma, the festivities began at 11:00 AM at Asia Chowk here, followed by a ‘Shobha Yatra’ and a grand event showcasing the cultural heritage of the State.
“The Navaratra festival has begun here. It has been held annually for the past 25 years, through which we aim to showcase the cultural heritage and tourism of Jammu”, Verma told reporters here.
The colourful ‘Shobha Yatra,’ comprising a large number of events like Gittdu, Lok Naritya, Kashmiri Naritya, Dogri Naritya, showcased the culture and tradition of the State. The presentation of local folk dance and music by artists of Regional Outreach Bureau (Ministry of Information & Broadcasting)and J&K Academy of Art culture and Languages was highly applauded by the participants.
Deputy Commissioner Reasi, Prasanna Ramaswamy G, Director Tourism, O P Bhagat, SSP Reasi, Nisha Nathyal, CEO KDA, Jagdish Mehra, Deputy Director Tourism, S K Attri, Additional Chief Executive Officer Shrine Board, Anshul Garg, GM JKTDC, Vinakshi Koul, SDM Katra, Ashok Kumar, representative of Regional Outreach Bureau, Durga Parkash and other senior officers accompanied the Div Com during the yatra.
The Shoba Yatra culminated at bus stand Katra where the main function was organised. The Div Com along with other guests lighted the traditional lamp.
The festival will be marked by various events begin like Shobha Yatras, cultural programmes, devotional songs competition, religious discourses, international wrestling competition and many more, for which various organizational sub-committees have been constituted to make this event a grand success.
Extending greetings to the people, the Div Com said this annual festival provides an opportunity to the devotees to have a glimpse of rich cultural heritage and peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths in the region. “The festival has a special significance as the sacred shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi attracts a large number of pilgrims from within and outside the country during these days,” he said.
While appreciating every stakeholder associated with the festival, he hoped that the festival would gain new heights in the days to come.
Appreciating the people of Katra for their untiring efforts in creating facilities for the pilgrims, the Div Com said that the town has achieved manifold development over the years with the blessing of the Goddess. He said that pilgrims are our honored guests and we should do as much as we can to facilitate them.
He also appreciated municipal committee for the sceneries and images depicting the rich folk culture painted around the town.
Earlier, in his welcome address, Director Tourism, O P Bhagat said various events have been planned during the festivities, including presentation of ‘Mata Rani Ki Kahani’, ‘Ram Leela’, ‘Prabhat Pheris’, devotional song competition, cultural programmes and wrestling competition.
The international wrestling competition is held every year by the Jammu and Kashmir Indian Style Wrestling Association, he added.
According to a police officer, security agencies are leaving no stone unturned for the peaceful conduct of the festivities.
More than 60 lakh pilgrims have visited the Cave Shrine in Jammu and Kashmir’s Reasi District till the end of September this year. Over 80 lakh had paid obeisance at the Shrine last year, an official said.
Tight security arrangements have been put in place and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have increased vigilance at Katra and the route leading to the Shrine, an officer said.
Officials said the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Board have made extensive arrangements for Navaratra.
The track leading to the Shrine has adequate water, power supply and proper sanitation facility. Further, special food for the ones fasting will be available at the Bhojanalayas (eateries) of the Shrine Board, Verma said.
As in the past, the Bhawan and the areas surrounding it have been decorated with flowers brought from across the country and abroad.
All the routes leading to the Shrine have been renovated and the establishments have got a fresh coat of paint, he added.
The municipal authorities have painted the walls with sceneries and images depicting the rich folk culture of here, he said.
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