The first batch of Indian pilgrims for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through the new Nathu La route was flagged off on Thursday by Sikkim Governor Shrinivas Patil and Chief Minister Pawan Chamling.India and China signed on September 18 last year a bilateral agreement on the alternative Nathu La route for the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to China last month, announced in Beijing that the Nathu La Pass would be operational in June.External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday flagged off the first batch of 50 members from New Delhi which reached here a day later. Ten pilgrims from the batch will not take part in the onward journey due to illness.A commemorative special postal cover was also released to mark the occasion.
Chamling in his speech credited the Narendra Modi-led NDA government at the Centre for the opening of the new route for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.The new route through the Himalayan pass of Nathu La 4,000 metres above sea level will facilitate more comfortable travel for the Indian pilgrims, especially for the elderly, by buses compared to the existing route via Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.Opening of this route is also an important milestone in diplomatic relations between India and China.In all, 250 yatris would travel via the Nathu La route, in batches of 50 each. Eighteen batches of 60 people each would take the old route through Lipulekh Pass.Kailash Mansarovar is believed to be the seat of Hindu god Shiva. Pilgrims travel at high altitudes of 19,500 feet. The traditional trekking route is inhospitable and rugged.Hundreds go on the pilgrimage every year, with a part of the journey overseen by Chinese authorities.