The annual Amarnath yatra to the 3880-metre high holy cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas began on Monday (July 1) amid tight security arrangements as Governor Satya Pal Malik participated in the Pratham Pooja (first prayer) and prayed for peace in the state, officials said.
“The yatra began this (Monday) morning from both the routes as the first batch of pilgrims made their way towards the holy cave from the respective base camps,” a spokesperson of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) said. The spokesperson said that the yatra was flagged off at Pahalgam and Baltal base camps by the officials of the respective district administrations.
A total of 2,234 pilgrims, including 17 children, reached the base camps of Nunwan-Pahalgam and Baltal on Sunday (June 30) as part of the first batch of this year’s yatra. Stringent security arrangements have been made for smooth conduct of the annual pilgrimage, the officials said.
“A robust security cover has been put in place for the yatra, which includes satellite and chip-based tracking of vehicles and pilgrims. The deployment of forces is in various layers to ensure smooth conduct of the pilgrimage,” they said. The governor, who is also the chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, paid obeisance at the holy cave and participated in the Pratham Pooja ceremony, an official spokesman said.
He said that the governor – who was accompanied by chief executive officer of the shrine board, Umang Narula – prayed for peace, harmony, progress, and prosperity in the state. The governor reviewed the arrangements made for the pilgrims at the yatra shrine camp and conveyed the shrine board’s thanks to the state government, Army, Central Armed Police Forces, state police, and all the other concerned agencies for their support and cooperation, the spokesman said.
He said that Malik stressed on the need for effective supervision and round the clock monitoring by the camp directors and all the functionaries involved in the management of the yatra to ensure its smooth conduct. The governor lauded the people of Kashmir for making the annual pilgrimage a successful event ever since it has been observed.
Appreciating the valuable support of local people in conduct of the yatra, Malik described their role as a true essence of ‘Kashmiriyat’, which is exemplary for its communal harmony, the spokesman said. The 46-day yatra will conclude on August 15, coinciding with Raksha Bandhan.
Earlier in Jammu, a batch of 4,417 pilgrims left a base camp for the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir. Over 1.5 lakh pilgrims from across the country have so far registered themselves for the 46-day long pilgrimage, which takes place from the 36-km Pahalgam track in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district and 14-km Baltal route in Ganderbal district.
The second batch comprising 4,417 pilgrims – including 3,543 males, 843 females, and 31 children – left in a fleet of 142 vehicles from Bhagwati Nagar base camp for Pahalgam and Baltal. For the Pahalgam route, 2,800 pilgrims left the base camp, while 1,617 pilgrims for Baltal left in buses and light motor vehicles, which were escorted by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), officials said.
The first batch was flagged off from Jammu on Sunday. The CRPF inspector general of Jammu, A V Chauhan had said on Sunday that all the necessary security arrangements had been put in place along the yatra route, base camps, and halting stations for the safety of the pilgrims.