Almora (Uttarakhand): The first batch of 56 pilgrims have arrived in Almora, Uttarakhand, for their annual pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet, the water of which is believed to cleanse Hindus of all of their sins.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj flagged off the batch on June 11.
Liasoning Officer of the ministry, Veervartan Negi, said among the 56 pilgrims, the youngest is 19 years, while the oldest is 90 years.
He also said that 14 of the pilgrims are women.
The district administration has made boarding and stay arrangements for the pilgrims and the final loop of the journey would start on June 15.
Enthusiastic pilgrims chanted Hindu mantras while waiting eagerly to reach their destination. pilgrim, Bhawana, said: "This is my first time. I am very excited to reach as soon as possible and take holy circles of Mount Kailash."
Mansarovar Lake and the flanking Mount Kailash, which is the highest mountain in Tibet at 22,022 feet, are revered by Hindus as the abode of their god Lord Shiva.
Annually, pilgrims come from all over the subcontinent to take ceremonial baths in the lake water. This year 18 batches have been planned to be sent to the yatra that will be of total 22 days. The trip is organised by the Ministry of External Affairs annually between June and September.
The Kailash-Mansarovar route has been an ancient trade route between India and China.
Hindus from India used to undertake the pilgrimage for many years until 1962, when India and China fought a brief war. The pilgrimage was resumed in 1981 following improvement in relations between the two countries.
Undaunted by the high cost of the journey, absence of adequate facilities and inconvenience related to medication and communicating while travelling, hundreds of pilgrims undertake the trek every year.