Anticipating a huge crowd of devotees, security has been beefed up at the cave shrine of Vaishno Devi and its base camp Katra here ahead of the nine-day long Navratri festival that will begin on Wednesday, officials said.
More than 60 lakh pilgrims have visited the cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district till the end of September this year, while over 80 lakh had paid obeisance at the shrine last year, they said.
According to a police officer, security agencies are leaving no stone unturned to ensure no untoward incident occurs during the festivities.
Tight security arrangements have been made and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has increased vigilance at Katra as well as the track that leads to the shrine, the officer said.
Meanwhile, the Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and the J-K Tourism Board is going all out to make sure that the festivities leave a lasting impression on the devotees.
"All arrangements have been put in place for the pilgrims expected to visit the shrine during the Navratri festival beginning from Wednesday,” Dheeraj Gupta, Chief Executive Officer of the shrine board said.
According to him, the track leading to the shrine will have adequate water and power supply along with proper sanitation. In addition, special food for those observing a fast will be made available at the bhojanalayas (eateries) of the shrine board, he said.
A sanitation drive has also been launched to ensure cleanliness on the track, along the hill slopes, the holy Banganga river and the area surrounding the bhawan, he said.
Gupta also reviewed the arrangements made enroute Katra to the cave shrine and said that like in the past, the bhawan and the area surrounding it has 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.
According to the Director of J-K's Tourism Department Om Parkash Bhagat, the festivities will begin on Wednesday at 11 am at the Asia Chowk in Katra followed by a Shobha Yatra and a grand event showcasing the cultural heritage of the state and the country.
Various events will be organised during including presentation of mata rani ki kahani, ram leela, prabhat pheris, devotional song competition, cultural programmes and even a wrestling competition, Bhagat told PTI.
The International Wrestling Competition is held every year by the J-K Indian Style Wrestling Association, he added.
The municipal authorities have painted the walls with scenic landscapes and images depicting the rich folk and cultural heritage, he said further.