More than 8,000 pilgrims Monday paid obeisance at the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas as the annual pilgrimage began amid tight security arrangements, officials said. Governor Satya Pal Malik participated in the 'Pratham Pooja' (first prayer) inside the 3880-metre high cave shrine and prayed for peace in the state, they 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) told PTI.
The spokesperson said the yatra was flagged off at Pahalgam and Baltal base camps by the officials of the respective district administrations. He said on the first day of the yatra, 8,403 pilgrims paid obeisance at the cave shrine. "The yatra commenced today from both Baltal and Pahalgam routes. 6,884 yatris left from Baltal and 3,065 from Pahalgam routes for the holy cave," the spokesperson added.
Stringent security arrangements have been made for smooth conduct of the annual pilgrimage. "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," the officials said.
Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel stand guard as pilgrims proceed towards the holy cave shrine of Amarnath, in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir
The governor, who is also the chairman of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, paid obeisance at the holy cave and participated in the 'Pratham Pooja' ceremony, an official spokesman said. He said 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 Malik stressed 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 is being 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.
Sadhus take their pictures with mobile phones during their pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath, in Baltal, Jammu and Kashmir
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, AV 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.