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Priest dies in Doda

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Bhadarwah: A 70-year-old priest died of cardiac arrest as thousands of devotees Saturday thronged ancient Subar Nag temple here to celebrate an annual festival, marking the beginning of spring in the hilly region.

Both Raj, a resident of Himote village, was leading 'Charri yatra' to the temple when he collapsed suddenly on the track in Sat Dalla village and was declared dead by doctors, a police official said.

He said the body of the deceased was handed over to his family for last rites after completion of legal formalities.

The traditional celebrations started early in the morning with the opening of the 'Kewaars' (doors) of the 700-year-old temple at the Subar Dhar area, 30 kilometers from this picturesque town.

Over 15,000 devotees, including 8,500 women, converged at the hilltop temple, located at a height of 12,000 feet from the sea level, after trekking 12-km steep hill to pay obeisance to Subar Nag, officials said.

"This festival has not only the religious importance but this is also the most ancient festival of this area. Devotees from different parts of the state arrive here with holy mace to have blessings of the lord," head priest at the temple Sanjay Kumar told PTI.

The devotees lauded the administration for adequate security arrangements. However, they demanded road connectivity and water supply for the historic temple.

Kamal Kour, a visitor from Jammu, said she joined the festival for the first time and was enchanted by the beauty of the area and facilities like drinking water and basic infrastructure would help to make it a major tourist attraction.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik has greeted people on the occasion of Baisakhi.

In his message, Malik said the day, which marks the beginning of the new year in the Indian calendar, has a special significance for the people of northern India, particularly for the Sikh community as the 'Khalsa Panth' was born on this day.

The governor prayed for peace, harmony, brotherhood, progress and prosperity in the state, a Raj Bhavan release said.

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