Katra: Thousands of devotees from across the country today made a beeline to the cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi to mark the beginning of the annual nine-day Navratri festival in the foothills of Trikuta mountains, in Reasi district.
A ‘shobha yatra’ was flagged off from Asia chowk to the main bus stand here by Public Health Engineering Minister Sham Lal Choudhary and ministers of state Priya Sethi and Ajay Nanda.
Billboards, welcoming the visitors en route to the hill shrine, dotted the town, located 42 km from Jammu.
The state tourism department has also planned a series of religious, cultural, sports and folk events during the festival in collaboration with the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, various NGOs and other private parties.
“We are using this opportunity to boost the footfall of tourists. Our attempt is to ensure that the devotees get all the facilities and do not face any hardship,” said Choudhary.
Praising the efforts of the tourism department, he said the government wants people to explore various tourist destinations in the state.
MoS for tourism Priya Sethi said, “We do not want the tourist arrivals to restrict to Katra alone. We want them to go around and enjoy their stay for a few days.”
Tahir Sajad Bhat, senior superintendent of police (Reasi), said latest electronic gadgets are being used for surveillance while a traffic management plan has been chalked out and implemented to ensure smooth movement of traffic.
Local traders and hoteliers are expecting a brisk business during the celebrations.
Hans Raj, an office-bearer of hotel association, said the hotel owners have announced a 50 per cent discount in the bookings as a goodwill gesture on the eve of the festival.