Amarnath pilgrimage to begin June 29

February 18th, 2011 - 7:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Amarnath Shrine Jammu, Feb 18 (IANS) The annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir that attracts more than half a million pilgrims each year, will be held from June 29 to Aug 13, the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) said Friday.The shrine board that met in New Delhi under the chairmanship of Governor N.N. Vohra took into account the climate, security needs and the rush of pilgrims before deciding on the dates of the pilgrimage, SASB said in a statement issued here.

Pilgrims come to worship a stalagmite of snow in the cave shrine, that is believed to be an embodiment of Hindu god Shiva. It is situated at a height of 13,500 feet above sea level in the Himalayas in south Kashmir.

Vohra is also chairman of the shrine board. He has witnessed three years of trouble in Jammu and Kashmir during summers ever since he took over as governor in June 2008.

Pilgrims reach the shrine from two routes, the traditional track from Pahalgam, 100 km south of Srinagar, and Baltal, almost equal distance from the summer capital in the north.

The duration of the pilgrimage has been a matter of contest between the Hindu groups and the locals. Since 2006, the pilgrimage period was increased to 60 days, much to the annoyance of the local political groups, separatists and mainstream alike. The Peoples Democratic Party and the hardline Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Geelani favour a pilgrimage not more than 15 days long.

The board, in the statement, noted that the annual schedule of the ‘Yatra’ or pilgrimage in the past 15 years had varied from 15 to 60 days and that about 85 percent of the pilgrims complete the yatra within 30 days of the commencement date.

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