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Sunday, July 19, 2009
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Amarnathji Yatra-2009
Heli-Parikrama of Sheshnag to form part of
Pahalgam - Panchtarni Helicopter Service

Srinagar, July 19 - With the stage set for launching a helicopter service from Pahalgam to Panchtarni, the traditional route of Shri Amarnathji Yatra, from July 22, it has been decided to include a heli-Parikrama of the Holy Sheshnag for the air-borne devotees, as an important element of the new helicopter service on the traditional route.

This decision has reportedly been taken by the Board in deference to the wishes of certain sections of the intending pilgrims who for various reasons, like old-age, physical disability etc, cannot undertake the arduous track to have darshan of Holy Sheshnag enroute the Holy Cave Shrine. Consequent to the aforesaid decision the pilgrims, who travel by the helicopter service, shall have the opportunity of flying over Mahagunas and Pissu Tops.

This was stated by the Chief Executive Officer, SASB, Mr. B. B. Vyas, in his separate meetings with the representatives of Travel and Tour Associations of Kashmir, here yesterday.

In his interaction, the CEO reiterated that the Board shall continue to recognise that the economic interests of the local stakeholders were central to the successful conduct of the Yatra. Referring to the decisions recently taken, he added that the Board will notify, in January 2010, the specific number of helicopter seats which will be earmarked exclusively for the Associations for the next year’s Yatra, to enable the Tour and Travel and Hotel Associations to secure “group bookings” well before the commencement of the pilgrimage. Mr. Vyas advised the Associations to take full advantage of the Board’s initiatives to bring about the required degree of connectivity between leisure tourism and pilgrim tourism in the State which is crucial for giving a boost to tourism and travel trade in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Travel and Tour operators expressed happiness over the launching of the new service from Pahalgam, saying that apart from satisfying the spiritual urge of the Yatris, it will give a big boost to tourism, the mainstay of the State economy.

Sheshnag is situated about 27 kilometers from Pahalgam, at an altitude of 3,658 meters. Sheshnag Mountains look like seven heads and the lake resembles the body of a coiled-up snake while the stream appears like the tail of the serpent. Legend has it that Lord Shiva left his Nandi at Pahalgam, released the moon from his hair at Chandanwari and left the snakes around his neck at Sheshnag, and decided to leave His son Ganeshji at Mahagunas or Mahaganesh Parvat. Finally, at Panchtarni, Lord Shiva left the five elements, Panch Tatwas, and proceeded towards the Holy Cave in His Nirgun-Nirakar form.

While thanking the Board for deciding, for the first ever time, to allot a specified number of helicopter seats to Travel and Trade Associations in both the Divisions for facilitating the heli-travel of pilgrims during the current year’s Yatra, in a letter written to the Chairman of the Board (His Excellency the Governor), President of Travel Agents Society of Kashmir has further requested to enhance the number of seats presently allocated in favour of the Associations.

Responding to the demand of the Associations, the Governor has approved doubling of the existing allocation on the Baltal-Panchtarni route for the remainder period of the current year’s Yatra. The Governor has further approved that a total of 30 seats per day shall also be made available to the two Associations, in both the Divisions on the Pahalgam-Panchtarni route. The Board has decided to earmark a special quota of 20 seats per day exclusively for the Hotel Association and the Tent Association of Pahalgam with respect to the Pahalgam-Panchtarni route for the period July 22-August 5, 2009.

Meanwhile, a Spokesperson of the SASB said that the Yatra to the Holy Cave Shrine of Shri Amarnathji is progressing smoothly and 7,172 Yatris performed darshan on Saturday. He stated that 3,203 pilgrims left from the Baltal Base Camp and 2,634 from the Nunwan Base Camp this morning on their journey to the Holy Cave Shrine. He added that another batch of 1,156 Yatris left from Jammu to the Pahalgam and Baltal Base Camps today.

Click here to read more information on Shri Amarnathji Yatra.


Advisor to Chief Minister interacts with Yatris at
Shri Amarnathji Cave, Baltal

Srinagar, July 19- The Advisor to Chief Minister Mr. Mubarak Gul along with MLC Mr. Altaf Ahmad Kaloo visited Nunwan Base Camp and holy cave of Shri Amarnathji. He took stock of the arrangements made by various departments for the smooth conduct of yatra. He directed the concerned officers to ensure all facilities to the yatris.

Mr.Gul also interacted with the yatries and enquired about facilities made available for them. The yatris appreciated the steps taken by the State Government for facilitating a hassle free yatra. They also appreciated the role of local people in extending their cooperation during the yatra.

The Advisor also interacted with yatris at holly cave and Baltal. A large number of yatris welcomed the Advisor at Baltal.

During his interaction with yatris the Advisor said that Government has taken all steps to upgrade the tourist related infrastructure and hoped that the pilgrims would also visit other tourist destinations like Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Mughal Gardens etc.

Click here to read more information on Shri Amarnathji Yatra.


Swiss Skier revives hope for Heli Skiing in Gulmarg

Srinagar, July 19 – The government is seeking international expertise to promote heli skiing and other adventure sports so that Gulmarg is presented as a perfect launching pad for high-end foreign travelers visiting the State. This will help bring in new class of travelers and improve tourism economy of the State.

Minister for Tourism, Mr. Nawang Rigzin Jora, accompanied by Minister of State for Tourism, Mr. Nasir Aslam Wani today visited Gulmarg along with world-renowned skier Mr. Sylvain Saudon to explore possibilities of kick-starting heli skiing in the famous health resort here.

Director Tourism, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Shah, CEO, GDA, Mr. Javed Bakshi, MD, Cable Car Corporation, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Khan were also present.

Mr. Saudon said Gulmarg offers great opportunities for heli skiing and added that once proper infrastructure, akin to international standards, is established, more and more heli skiers will relish traveling to the Valley to enjoy the sport.

Mr. Saudon is an extreme skier of Swiss origin who, many say, is a once in a lifetime talent. Cited thrice in Guinness Book of World Records for his daredevilry, the 73-year-old is a frequent traveler who has been visiting Kashmir for over two decades.

At Koungdori, 2.5 km Gandola ride from Gulmarg, the Swiss skier advised laying of a carpet for beginner skiers, who have to be groomed to the intermediate level. He said the place was ideal for heli skiing, adding the leveling of the area and removal of the humps will create a big enough carpet size for the beginners.

At Aparwat, 5 km from Gulmarg, Mr. Saudon said the entire area up to the ridges can be developed for heli skiing. He said initial brass-stacks have to be imagined in such a way that the entire region’s potential for this daredevil sport is tapped.

Asking the government to take effective steps in developing Gulmarg as a heli skiing destination, Mr. Saudon promised that he will bring in foreign skiers to the Valley once the infrastructural facilities are created.

The possibility of building a circular restaurant at Aparwat giving a glimpse of the Aparwat end point was also explored during the visit.

The Ministers assured Mr. Sylvain that his precious inputs to augment winter sports like heli skiing will be incorporated while finalizing proposals.

Mr. Jora, while thanking Mr. Saudon, said the Government is seriously considering to optimize Gulmarg’s potential in winter sports, especially heli skiing, which, he said, will be a special feature in future tour calendars of the health resort. He said the Chief Minister Mr. Omar Abdullah was keen to promote winter sports in the Valley, adding that special interventions will be made to formulate plan extensions in this regard. “By next winter, I hope we will be in a position to make sound headway on the project,” Mr. Jora said, adding Mr. Saudon’s 20-year experience of skiing in Gulmarg will be utilized to push the project in the right direction.

Mr. Nasir assured Mr. Saudon that the government will travel extra yard in expanding Gulmarg’s tourism potential so that it is presented as an ideal destination for international tourists offering cluster of activities. “Gulmarg development will trigger a chain reaction and other tourist spots will be developed keeping in view their unique characteristics,” he said, adding the government has vastly benefited by the knowledge of Mr. Saudon about the mouth-watering slopes of Gulmarg that throw a challenge to extreme skiers.

Earlier, the Ministers were briefed by CEO, GDA and MD, Cable Car about the initiatives taken to attract tourists to the resort. They were informed that a proper removal of disposals has been put in place and strict watch is being kept on encroachers.

On the occasion, Mr. Jora asked MD, Cable Car to replace grills from ticketing sites and restaurants with glasses that offer an expansive view of the Gulmarg countryside.

Click here to read more information on Gulmarg.

Source: Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Department of Information, Press Note, July 19, 2009
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