A group of pilgrims from India arrived in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region Thursday to go on a pilgrimage.
A total of 36 Indian pilgrims, the first group officially organized this year, entered China through the Nathu La Pass at 11:50 a.m. They will visit Mount Kangrinboqe and Mapam Yumco Lake, both sacred Hindu and Buddhist sites in Tibet's Ali Prefecture, during the 12-day journey.
Goel Ram Rattan, 67, is the oldest pilgrim in the group. "This is my second pilgrimage to the sacred mountain and lake of Tibet. It is a great pleasure to come to China again, and the hospitality of the Chinese government is appreciated. I would like to come again if I have the opportunity."
A total of 550 officially-organized Indian pilgrims, divided into 10 teams, are expected to make pilgrimages in Tibet this year, according to Yang Zhigang, deputy director of the foreign affairs office of the city of Xigaze.
The Nathu La Pass sits at over 4,000 meters above sea level and is wedged between Tibet's Yadong County in Xigaze Prefecture and India's Sikkim State. It is the shortest land pass for trade between China and India and also the highest altitude land pass for trade.
Yang Fan, an official of the entry-exit border control station, said they have opened a green passage for pilgrims from India, to simplify procedures and improve the efficiency of Indian pilgrims' customs clearances.
"This year's pilgrimage will last for around 70 days. Due to the long journey and the high altitude, we have made arrangement for food, accommodation and transportation for the pilgrims, as well as oxygen and medicine," Yang Zhigang said.
In June 2015, the pass started to receive officially-organized Indian pilgrims. So far, 967 Indian pilgrims entered Tibet through the pass.