The 16-day-long annual Manimahesh Yatra began today, as first batch of over 10,000 devotees, left the base camp today. It will conclude on September 13 on Radhashtami.

The traditional “Chhari Yatra” the procession with the mace of Lord Shiva, would start on September 06 from the 1,000-year-old Lakshmi Narayan temple of Chamba to the lake.

The administration for the first time has made it mandatory for devotees to get themselves registered for the Manimahesh Yatra. Apart from getting registration forms from the local office, it can also be downloaded from the official website.

To facilitate the devotees administration has allowed two private heli-taxi operators, Trans Bharat and Summit Aviation, to ferry people during the pilgrimage. Administration has also initiated choppers facility for devotees as it will ferry devotees between Bharmour town and Gauri Kund, just one km short of the lake. The one-way fare per person is Rs 3,430.

The pilgrimage is considered as arduous as the one to the Amarnath cave and every year, devotees undertake the arduous 16-km trek from the Hadsar base camp to the Manimahesh Lake, located at an altitude of 13,500 feet, in Bharmour Valley from where they can see Mount Kailash, believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva, and offer prayers. Every year lakhs of devotees took part in this holly yatra. Last year alone over 450,000 people took part in it and due to arduous condition six devotees were reported died en route. However this year, administration has provided medical facilities enroute and set up medical camps at various points. To ensure the safety of devotees, administration has also deployed rescue teams of 50 people on the entire route, besides deploying over 450 police and home guard personnel.

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