A total of 43 Indian pilgrims, several of them middle- aged, went through the second land crossing in Tibet, the new route in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass and the only route earlier that was badly damaged in the Uttarakhand floods in 2013.

The opening of the second route through the Himalayan pass of Nathu La in Sikkim, 4,000 metres above sea level, was officially announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to China last month and will allow more Indians to undertake the pilgrimage.

The move will 'further promote religious exchanges between the two countries', a news agency reported. "This new route is safer, more convenient and comfortable than the former one," said Dong Mingjun, vice chairman of Tibet regional government, at the pass.

It will shorten the pilgrimage time from more than 20 days to about eight, he added about the new route that will enable pilgrims to travel the 1,500 km-long route from Nathu La to Kailash by buses.

The 43 pilgrims crossed over from the Indian side of the border in Sikkim today as the first batch of the annual Yatra through this border route and were warmly welcomed by Chinese officials in Tibet.

The pilgrims belonging to different age-groups and hailing from various parts of India made their way to the Nathu La pass after a two week-long journey acclimatising themselves for the high-altitude journey to Kailash which stands at an altitude of about 6,500 metres in Tibet.

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