Amarnath Yatra ends

August 16th, 2008 - 10:19 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Srinagar, Aug 16 (IANS) The two-month long annual Amarnath pilgrimage ended Saturday with the arrival of Lord Shiva’s mace, known as Charri Mubarak, at the 3,888-metre high cave shrine. A group 257 devotees led by the custodian of the holy mace, Swami Dipender Giri, arrived at the cave Saturday morning.

“The traditional puja was performed inside the cave which was led by Swami Dipender Giri, formally bringing the two-month long annual pilgrimage to a close,” a senior Jammu and Kashmir government official told IANS here.

This year, 544,000 pilgrims visited the cave shrine through the twin mountainous routes via Pahalgam in south Kashmir and Baltal in north Kashmir.

The yatra ends on the full moon day of the Hindu holy month of Shravan, which coincides with the Raksha Bandhan festival.

After performing the final puja in the cave shrine, the team of devotees left for the Pahalgam base camp for their onward journey to this summer capital where the holy mace would be returned to its seat inside the Dashnami Akhara temple.

As many as 45 pilgrims died due to natural causes during the course of the yatra which started here June 18.

The 160-year-old pilgrimage remained at the centre stage of a controversy this year that started with the allotment by the state government of 40 hectares of forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

The decision triggered massive protests in the Kashmir Valley and the state government rescinded the order, kicking off a counter-agitation in Jammu region which has been continuing for nearly two months.

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