Amarnath pilgrimage via north Kashmir route to start Monday (Lead)

June 13th, 2009 - 1:10 am ICT by IANS  

Amarnath Shrine Jammu/Srinagar, June 12 (IANS) The annual Amarnath pilgrimage that attracts tens of thousands of Hindus will start June 15 from Baltal, taking the shorter and steeper route to the Himalayan cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir, it was announced here Friday.
“The first batch of the pilgrims will leave Jammu on June 15 and would reach the cave shrine on June 16,” a spokesman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) said in a release.

To make a final assessment of the tracks leading to the cave shrine in the wake of recent unprecedented snowfall, Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra, who is also chairman of the SASB, conducted a detailed review of the climatic conditions, the arrangements at the holy cave and both the base camps at Baltal and Pahalgam.

“Observing that the safety and security of the yatris (pilgrims) was the first and foremost concern of the board, particularly in the context of the adverse weather conditions, particularly on the Chandanwari-Holy Cave route, the governor stated that the board is left with no option except to allow the yatra only from the Baltal route, at this juncture,” said the SASB, which is responsible for the administration of the shrine located at the height of 13,500 feet above sea level.

“The Baltal route has been cleared of snow, while there is a thick layer of snow on Pahalgam cave route. The snow clearance operations were on and the pilgrims would be able to start their pilgrimage to the shrine by June 21 from that route,” the spokesman said.

The Amarnath shrine, where an ice stalagmite is formed and is seen as an icon of Lord Shiva by the devotees, attracts nearly 400,000 pilgrims.

The pilgrimage period this year will be effectively a little short of seven weeks, against eight weeks in the previous three years.

More than 200,000 people have registered themselves for the pilgrimage.

The board clarified that due to the continuing rain and snowfall at several points on the traditional Pahalgam-Chandanwari route, it is not possible to open the yatra along that route till the weather improves and the track from Sheshnag to Sangam is cleared.

The Jawahar Mountaineering Institute at Pahalgam has been requested to depute a group of trained people to recce the Chandanwari-Holy Cave route by June 21 and send a report to the board, it said.

The date of commencement of the yatra along the south Kashmir route will be decided depending upon the weather and the track condition.

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