Hoping to woo tourists and pilgrims, the Jammu and Kashmir government has planned a series of cultural, religious and folk events in Katra, near the Vaishno Devi shrine, during the nine-day Navratra festival, officials said today. The festival, scheduled to begin on September 21, would feature a grand 'Shobha' yatra on the first day, followed by various cultural programmes like Ram Leela, folk festivals, 'prabhat pheri', international wrestling competition and others, the officials said. This year, the department of tourism has envisaged a special package of 'Sampoorna Manokamna' yatra facilitating visits to nine deities, as per the traditional practice related to the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage, to attract tourists to the state, they said. Describing 'Manokamana' yatra as the "biggest attraction" during the festival, state tourism minister Priya Sethi expressed hope that this first-of-its-kind yatra would not only attract religious people, but domestic and foreign tourists as well. The festival gave an opportunity to showcase the rich culture, heritage and local traditions, she said, stressing on the need to highlight the importance of Kol Kandoli temple in Nagrota to attract tourists to the shrine. She asked the tourism department to improve tourism- related services in the state by enhancing the skills of the tourism-service providers through progressive orientation. The festival, the minister said, showcases the religious traditions as well as the popular culture of the region among the pilgrims, who visit the the Vaishno Devi shrine during this period. All arrangements have been finalised during a series of meeting held over the past couple of weeks to ensure smooth and peaceful celebrations, the officials said. Moreover, the tourism department yesterday interacted with a tour-and-travel association from Gujarat and apprised them of the annual festival and other tourist destinations, as part of its efforts to ensure maximum number of pilgrims during the festival. Meanwhile, the state unit of the Shiv Sena announced 'Charri yatra' on the eve of the Navrata festival, from Jammu to Katra.
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