First Amarnath prayers offered, not at shrine (Lead)June 15th, 2011 - 4:58 pm ICT by IANS
Jammu/Srinagar, June 15 (IANS) For the first time in 150 years, prayers marking the start of the annual Amarnath pilgrimage were not performed at the cave shrine in the Himalayas but at a spot six kilometres away.
The prayers were organised by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) at Panjtarni in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. R.K. Goyal, chief executive officer of the board, performed the prayers, a statement said.
After a row between the government and Hindu groups which wanted the pilgrimage to start from June 15, instead of June 29 as scheduled, it was agreed that at least the maiden prayers would be held at the shrine.
It was decided that four people would go to the shrine by helicopter and offer the first prayers in front of the ‘Shivlingam’, an stalagmite at the cave shrine.
It was not clear why the prayers were not offered at the shrine.
According to Hindu mythology, it was at the Amarnath cave at a height of 13,500 feet that Lord Shiva narrated the tale of immortality to his consort Parvati.
Every year, Hindus undertake an arduous trek up the slippery tracks and glaciers to reach the shrine. Earlier, it used to be a fortnight-one month long affair but since 2005 it has became two month programme.
This year, the shrine board curtailed the duration of the pilgrimage to 46 days because of the intense cold and huge amounts of snow.