The annual pilgrimage to Amarnath will officially begin on Thursday when the first batch of devotees are being allowed to take the arduous journey through rugged mountains both from shorter Baltal and traditional Pahalgam routes.
On Wednesday morning, 2,280 pilgrims left winter capital Jammu in a convoy of 72 vehicles being protected by security forces en route. Already, thousands of pilgrims are camping at Baltal and Chandanwari near Pahalgam to embark on the “journey of faith and devotion”.
The 40-day pilgrimage will begin with “prathan darshan” and “pooja” rituals at the 12,729-foot-high cave shrine in Kashmir Himalayas, said an official of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB). It will conclude on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) on August 7.
Also, the SASB will organise a special pooja ritual at Chandanwari, a base-camp of the yatra near Kashmir’s premier resort of Pahalgam, on the day of Jyesth Purnima, which falls on June 9 this year, “to invoke the blessings of Lord Shiva for the smooth and safe conduct of the pilgrimage”.
The cave-shrine, the holiest of Hindu places of worship in north India, is at a one-day trek (14-km) from the base-camp of Baltal, 96-km north of summer capital Srinagar, and at three-day trek (34-km) from Chandanwari. Pahalgam, the premier resort of the Valley, is 94-km south-east of Srinagar and 280-km east of Jammu.
In view of the security situation in the Valley, a multi-layered security arrangement manned by the Army, CRPF, SSB and the Jammu and Kashmir police has been provided for the safe passage of the pilgrims right from their entry into the State at Lakhanpur in Kathua district to Amarnath and back, the officials said.