Fresh batch of 3,000 Amarnath pilgrims heads for holy cave shrine

A fresh batch of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims left Jammu for the cave shrine in the Kashmir Valley on Saturday.

The batch of 3,048 pilgrims, comprising 623 women and 144 sadhus, left Jammu for the twin base camps at Baltal and Pahalgam in 112 vehicles under tight security in the wee hours, a police officer said.

He said while 1,973 pilgrims, including 310 women and 144 sadhus, were heading for the Nunwan base camp along the 36-km Pahalgam track, 1,075 yatris had opted for the shortest 12-km Baltal route. They will be reaching the camps later in the day.

A Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) official said over 1.65 lakh pilgrims have undertaken the pilgrimage since June 28.

The Muslim community living along the pilgrimage route, in their centuries-old tradition continue, to support the pilgrims by acting as helpers, ‘ponywallahs’ or even setting up roadside tea-stalls.

The cave shrine, which is 3,893 metres above sea level, houses an ice stalagmite that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon, and devotees believe the structure symbolises Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. It was discovered by a Muslim shepherd in the 15th century.

The two-month annual pilgrimage this year comes amid a governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended its coalition with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on June 20.

There has been heightened militant activity in the state, but a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander assured Amarnath pilgrims that “you don’t need any security as you are our guests”.

The Yatra will end on August 26 coinciding with Shravan Purnima festival.

(With agency inputs)

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