China / Society

Indian pilgrims start journey to Tibet

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-07-22 21:11

LHASA - Fifty Indian pilgrims began a 12-day bus trip along a recently-opened mountain pass linking India's Sikkim State to the sacred Mount Kangrinboqe and Mapam Yumco Lake in Ngari Prefecture, Tibet, on Wednesday morning.

China has allowed Indian pilgrims to use the Nathu La Pass since June 22. A first group of 43 pilgrims returned to India on July 3 after their journey.

Roshan Lal, from New Delhi, said he is looking forward to the pilgrimage as he knows China has built good facilities along the road, which stretches more than 2,000 km.

Chinese authorities have built shelters at four resting points, which will provide a welcome break for the pilgrims as they adapt to the high altitude. The Nathu La Pass sits 4,545 meters above sea level.

The government also set up a reception center by Mapam Yumco Lake where a kitchen, bathroom, blankets and souvenirs are provided. A four-star hotel has been opened at the foot of Mount Kangrinboqe.

The opening of the pass will promote people-to-people exchanges and improve ties between China and India, said Le Yucheng, Chinese ambassador to India, who completed the journey with the first group of pilgrims.

The new route shortens the pilgrimage time from more than 20 days in the past to about eight to 12 days.

Pilgrims to Ngari Prefecture traditionally climb over the Qang La Pass, which sits 5,200 meters above sea level on the China-India-Nepal border. The road is steep and usually covered by snow.

According to Indian media, around 250 Indians, in five groups of 50, will travel to Tibet along the new route this year. Another 18 groups of 60 will undertake the pilgrimage along the old route.

Completely closed for more than 40 years, it was reopened in 2006, but for trade only.

The Chinese government first allowed Indians to make pilgrimages to Tibet in 1981. China has welcomed almost 80,000 Indian pilgrims in the past decade alone.

China and India have been strengthening their relationship lately. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited China in May, following Chinese President Xi Jinping's trip to New Delhi last year.

Hot Topics