The 59-day-long annual Amarnath Yatra began on July 2 in Kashmir Valley amid tight security. Perched on peaks at the farther end of Lidder valley—45km from Pahalgam and 141km from Srinagar, Amarnath cave is currently abuzz with devotional bustle. Amid mounting rush at the cave shrine, Kashmir Life’s Photo Chief, Bilal Bahadur captures colours of the peak pilgrimage
The annual yatra presently operational from Pahalgam and Baltal routes has so far recorded over 75,000 devotees—who paid obeisance at the cave shrine, housing an ice stalagmite structure, believed to be the ‘Holy Lingam’, symbolizing “mystical powers” of Lord Shiva.
The actual pilgrimage subscribes that the yatra be undertaken from Srinagar, but the routine practice is to commence the journey from Pahalgam, and cover the distance to Amarnath cave shrine and back in four or five days.
The Shrine is managed by Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), constituted by an Act of the State Legislature in 2000 with Governor of Jammu and Kashmir as its ex-officio Chairman.
The Army launched ‘Operation Shiva’ for a “smooth conduct” of yatra. Besides standing guard on Chandanwari and Baltal routes, army is regularly conducting aerial surveillance of the twin route.
The over 300-km long Jammu-Srinagar highway is the only surface route for the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine situated 14,500 feet above the sea level in south Kashmir’s Islamabad district.
The two-month long Amarnath Yatra started this year on July 2 and will end on August 29, coinciding with Hindu festivals, Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan.
Of late, Mufti Sayeed’s deputy chief minister has raised some alarm bells asserting that Pakistan was desperately trying to disrupt the annual Amarnath Yatra in the state. But his assertions were rebuffed by some separatist leaders.
Environmentalists have been expressing concern since long that it will have a negative impact on the area’s ecology and some have expressed support for government regulated limits on the number of pilgrims permitted to make the trek.
The shorter northern route to shrine cave is just about 16 km long, but has a very steep gradient and is quite difficult to climb. It starts from Baltal and passes through Domial, Barari, and Sangam to reach the cave.
Every year, thousands of central personnel and state police are deployed to provide security to pilgrims. The forces position at various halts and also in the perimeter of the shrine.