Kolkata: Notwithstanding the opening of the new route for Kailash Mansarovar yatra via Sikkim from this year, the original route from Uttarakhand has not lost its charm among pilgrims, tourism department officials say.
"We initially had apprehensions that the old route might lose attention but this year there were over 3000 applications of pilgrims who wanted to travel through Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand. So the opening of the second route has had no effect at all on us," Gopal Dutt Bhatt, Vice President of Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN), told PTI during the Travel and Tourism Fair here.
KMVN is the tourism authority of Kumaon region of the Himalayan state.
For the Uttarakhand route, 1080 pilgrims were selected this year after a computerised draw by the Ministry of External Affairs.
Beginning from June, 18 batches of pilgrims are being sent for the journey which takes a total of 25 days and costs around Rs 1.5 lakh.
The second route via Nathu La pass in Sikkim takes two days less but costs Rs 20,000 more than the old route.
The number of pilgrims for Sikkim route is limited to 250 but involves no trekking as they are driven along the entire journey.
Explaining the reason why Uttarakhand is still the top choice of pilgrims, Bhatt said, "This is the original route prescribed for pilgrimage by our saints since time immemorial".
For the holy yatra in Tibetan Autonomous Region, KMVN makes all arrangements to provide accommodation, transportation and food on the Indian side.
A journey via Uttarakhand to the holy mountain, considered as the abode of Lord Shiva, involves trekking at high altitudes of up to 19,500 feet.
"Due to the rugged terrain, extreme cold it is not possible for everyone to go there and also because they allow a limited number of pilgrims each year. So we are promoting trips to Adi Kaliash mountain," another tourism official said.
Popularly known as Chotta Kailash, a trek to Adi Kaliash is relatively easier and with lesser procedural formalities as it falls on the Indian side of the Indo-Tibet border.
"Adi Kaliash is also one of the abodes of Lord Shiva and is therefore very sacred," they said.
From Kathgodam a return trekking expediting to Adi Kailash takes about 17 days.
To facilitate pilgrimage along this route, KMVN has also launched a package trip.