Sikkim additional chief secretary K Jayakumar flagging off the first batch of pilgrims from Gangtok on Sunday Credit: EastMojo image

Gangtok: The journey of this year’s first batch of pilgrims for ‘Kailash Mansarovar Yatra’ was flagged off from Mt Sinolchu Hotel in Gangtok, Sikkim by additional chief secretary K Jayakumar on Sunday.

A total of 31 ‘yatris’, including two liaison officers, will be aided by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel in the state as well as in China. The religious pilgrimage programme, which started in the Sikkim under Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation in 2012, has so far catered to 882 ‘yatris’ with batches increasing from five to 10 batches since last year.

The pilgrimage, which needs the approval of Union external affairs ministry, will include 10 batches of ‘yatris’ this year and is scheduled to go on till August 24. The first batch of 31 ‘yatris’ boarded two Sikkim state transport buses on Sunday and will then go on to acclimatization centres at 15th Mile where they will spend two days, followed by another two days at Sherapthang.

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“Twenty-nine civilians are part of the first batch with 18 men and 11 women. Most of them are senior citizens. But do not count them based on their age but based on their enthusiasm to complete the pilgrimage. The ITBP has sensitised us well on the ‘yatra’ while the Sikkim Tourism has put forth a warm hospitality to the pilgrims. Among the 29 pilgrims, two are repeaters; so their experience will also be helpful,” said liaison officer Umesh Kumar Bhardwaj.

It takes 19 days to complete the pilgrimage from Delhi and back

Comparing the same with the other famous pilgrimage in India, the Amarnath Yatra, a pilgrim who has been part of the same for 30 occasions, claimed the pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar is a lot difficult and at a higher altitude. With regards to the security, the same will be catered to by the ITBP along with medical facilities which will also be aided by Sikkim health department.

“In terms of medical aid, yatris could face blood pressure and pulmonary issues. As and when they require to be treated for the same, rest or necessary facilities will be provided by the ITBP doctors and paramedics. Food and lodging in Sikkim is being catered to by the ITBP and STDC while across the border the food committee has been set up which will provide the facilities for three days,” said the other liaison officer, Dharmendra Kumar.

Addressing the session, Jayakumar enlightened the pilgrims on the value of Indian culture and the significance of divine journey to Kailash Mansarovar. “The government of India and the government of Sikkim have been putting strong endeavours in all aspects for smooth conduct of the journey. There is nothing to be worried about and everyone should embark on this journey with full faith and confidence,” he added.

The mountain, also known as Kangtinboqe peak, is at an elevation of 21,778 ft above sea level in Tibetan Autonomous Region

Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) Commandant TS Mangang briefed about the route chart to Kailash Mansarovar, acclimatisation schedules, along with various precautions to avoid mountain sickness and the directions to follow as per the liaison officers. He also informed about various rules and regulations to be followed during their onward journey. Further, he advised everyone to remain mentally strong and peaceful throughout the journey.

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ITBP will be conducting a final round of medical check-up at Sherathang on June 19, a day before crossing Nathula on June 20. The second batch of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra will arrive in Sikkim from New Delhi on June 20 as well. The first batch will return to Gangtok on July 1 from Kangma and will leave for New Delhi the next day.

The flag-off ceremony had the attendance of tourism special secretary Namrata Thapa along with department officials and STDC assistant general manager Tejpal Pradhan along with other staffers.

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