Jammu: The cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi situated at the Trikuta Hills in Jammu and Kashmir has achieved a historic milestone by recording the visit of one crore pilgrims so far this year.
   
The number of visitors this year is 12.5 lakh more than the previous tear, a shrine board official said.
   
"Today, Mata Vaishnodevi shrine has created a new milestone as it has crossed arrival of one crore pilgrims this year. We are very happy over the new record," additional chief executive officer (ACEO) of Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board (SMVSB) Mandeep K Bhandari said.
   
Rakesh Vishawkarma, who arrived with family from Jaipur on Thursday, became the one croreth pilgrim to pay the obeisance at the shrine, Bhandari said.
   
The milestone was achieved in the silver jubilee year of constitution of Mata Vaishno Devi board, he said, adding that the pilgrimage went up from 13.96 lakh in 1986, the year when the board was set up. From then, the traffic of pilgrims has increased almost nearly five times till now.
   
Bhandari said in year 2010, 87,49,326 pilgrims visited the shrine, over 5,14,430 lakh more than 2009's figures of 82,34,896 and over 20 lakh more than total pilgrims arrival of
67,92,223 in 2008.
   
As many as 74.17 lakh pilgrims visited the cave shrine in 2007, rising from previous marks of 69.5 lakh and 67.83 lakh in years 2006 and 2005 respectively, Bhandari further said, noting that during past one decade, Mata Vaishno Devi has become second busiest shrine in the country after Triputi Temple in Andhra Pradesh.

Giving further break-up of the figures, Bhandari said recorded visit of pilgrims include 21.69 lakh in 1990, 31.16 lakh in 1991, 35.16 lakh in 1992, 33.68 lakh in 1993, 37.05 lakh in 1994, 40.11 lakh in 1995, 44.09 lakh in 1996, 47.19 lakh in 1997, 48.30 lakh in 1998, 49.10 lakh in 1999 and record 52.31 lakh in 2000, 51 lakh in 2004. The number of pilgrims rose from 3 lakh in 1970 to 52 lakh in 2000.
   
Bhandari said SMVSB will take all steps to cater the requirements of the pilgrims arriving in future and expressed hope that the shrine will continue to achieve new targets.
   
Ever since its takeover, the board takes care of all basic amenities en-route to the shrine from Katra base camp, which include hospitals, accommodations, 650 water-points, 35 shelters-cum-sheds, 13 cafeterias apart from several shops serving eatables and beverages.
   
The board also provides transportation facility in the 13-km track through ponies, dandi, puthoos and horses besides looking after the arrangement of lighting facilities en-route.
   
The sacred shrine among Hindus holds a belief that anybody who walks the Himalayan trail, gets his wish fulfilled and never returns disappointed.

(Agencies)