Amid chanting of vedic mantras and performance of other religious ceremonies, Shat Chandi Maha Yagya' (a special prayer) marked the start of nine-day-long Chaitra Navratras' festival at the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi atop Trikuta hills in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, officials said.
The Maha Yagya', organised by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB), is being performed for peace, prosperity and health of humanity and will conclude with Purna Ahuti' on Mahanavami, the officials said.
They said Chief Executive Officer, SMVDSB, Ramesh Kumar, other officers of the board and a large number of pilgrims participated in the special prayers at the shrine in Reasi district.
The Shat Chandi Maha Yagya will be telecast from 11.30 pm to 1.00 pm daily from today onwards during Navratras, a board official said.
Meanwhile, the officials said Director General of Police Dilbag Singh and Additional Director General of Police Mukesh Singh also paid obeisance at the shrine and also reviewed the security arrangements.
The police chief expressed satisfaction over the arrangements and directed the officers to maintain a tight vigil, they said.
Like in the past, they said, the Bhawan (Sanctum Sanctorum) of Mata Vaishno Devi, Atka and the area surrounding it have been profusely decorated.
The decorations are made with indigenous-foreign fruits and flowers, as well as huge reception doors and pandals have been installed in the Bhawan area, the officials said, adding the illumination of the area with attractive and colourful lights has also been done.
They said the breathtaking and festive decorations are a special visual delight for pilgrims who trek about 12km from the base camp Katra to Bhawan.
The board has also made elaborate arrangements for facilitating a large number of pilgrims who are expected to pay obeisance at the Sanctum Sanctorum during Navratras, the officials said.
They said the arrangements include ensuring round the clock water and power supply all along the tracks leading to the shrine, sanitation and sanitisation, availability of special fast related food at the board's Bhojanalaya (community kitchens).
Besides, all the routes leading to the cave shrine have been fully maintained for smooth movement of pilgrims, they said.
The official said the CEO shrine board is constantly reviewing and monitoring the regulation of yatra along with other arrangements all along the track and in the Bhawan area and interacting with the pilgrims enquiring about the facilities made by the board for their facilitation.
Besides, special teams of shrine officers have been constituted for monitoring hassle-free operation of yatra at all the stations on the track leading to the shrine, the officials said.