In the latest of confidence-building measures between India and China, the latter today opened the second route to religious Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra. This new route is in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass, the only route used by the pilgrims so far, which was badly damaged in 2013 flash floods in Uttarakhand.
The opening of the second route through the Himalayan pass of Nathu La in Sikkim, 4,000 metres above sea level, was officially announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China last month.
The first batch of pilgrims arrived on the Chinese side of the road through land crossing in Tibet via Nathu La on Monday afternoon. A total of 44 pilgrims who crossed over to the Chinese side were warmly welcomed by Chinese officials in Tibet. Chinese Ambassador to India, Le Yucheng along with Councillor in the Indian Embassy in Beijing Shrila Dutta Kumar and top Chinese officials of Tibet, welcomed the pilgrims as they arrived.
Le Yucheng had reached here earlier on Sunday from the Indian side, becoming the first Chinese official to cross the border through the new route. Welcoming the batch of devotees he said, “We, on the Chinese side, understand very well how Kailash-Manasarovar features in the Indian minds and will do whatever we can to make the Yatra pleasant and a memorable one,”.
It took the pilgrims a two-week journey to cross over Nathu La after acclimatising themselves for an arduous high-altitude route. These pilgrims were among the first batch of 250 people who will visit sacred Kailash-Manasarovar, which stands at an altitude of about 6,500 metres in Tibet.
“It is a lifetime opportunity for me to visit the Kailash-Manasarovar. There is nothing more in life I look for,” one of the pilgrims told the news agency PTI.
The batch of pilgrims, which included several middle-aged people across the country, also went on to thank the Chinese authorities for facilitating the new route. This route will facilitate a rather comfortable travel by buses, especially for elderly pilgrims, though the difficult conditions in the Himalayan region where thin air and less oxygen levels pose a considerable challenge.
Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised opening the new route after Prime Minister Modi had taken up the subject, keeping in view the terrain difficulties faced by the pilgrims while using the existing routes through Uttarakhand. That route involve arduous journey in greater Himalayan territories, including heavy trekking and travel on the backs of mules.
The Chinese envoy especially lauded the efforts of the provincial government of Tibet Autonomous Region. According to him, the authorities have done a commendable job by opening several hotels, improving road conditions and even making available Indian food.
The annual pilgrimage is organised by the External Affairs Ministry where over 1,000 pilgrims are allowed for the Yatra in 18 batches. The entire 23-days trip costs around 1.80 lakh for each pilgrim.
The first batch of 44 pilgrims also included BJP Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay, who had written a book on the importance of Kailash- Manasarovar.
(With inputs from the PTI)