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GANGTOK: Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling along with Governor Shrinivas Patil flagged off the first batch of 40 Indian pilgrims including 12 women for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through the new Nathu La route on Thursday.
At a function organised at Ridge Park in the capital, the pilgrims and five support staff began the journey.
The function began with the offering of prayers and lighting of butter lamps by the Governor and the Chief Minister for the safety and success of the yatris.
They also planted a sapling to mark the occasion. The pilgrims were also offered scarves and gifts. The Governor and the Chief Minister released a commemorative special postal cover to mark the event.
Wishing the pilgrims a happy journey, the Governor said how the State and its officials had been working tirelessly to give the best possible facilities to the pilgrims.
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.
The Chief Minister credited the current NDA government at the Centre and especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the opening of this route for 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.
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.