Srinagar: The 40-day annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas ended on Monday with 2.60 lakh pilgrims offering prayers this year despite an attack on a bus that left eight pilgrims dead. The pilgrimage concludes on the festival of Raksha Bandhan each year.
This year’s figure of pilgrims visiting the shrine is the second lowest in the past 14 years. Last year, only 2.20 lakh pilgrims had visited the cave shrine due to the summer unrest.
The holy mace of Lord Shiva — Chhari Mubarak — carried by a group of ‘sadhus’ and devotees led by its custodian Mahant Deepindra Giri, arrived at the holy cave in the early hours for day-long prayers, officials of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) said. The group of sadhus and devotees trekked 42 km from Pahalgam to reach the shrine with night halts at Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarani. After traditional rituals at the sanctum sanctorum, the holy mace would start the return journey before dusk.
Besides multi-tier security arrangements, the divisional administration had put in place all types of arrangements and facilities for the Yatris. More than 2.60 lakh yatris had darshan of ice lingam at the Holy Cave Shrine during this year’s 40-day pilgrimage.
Last year, more than 2 lakh 20 thousand yatris had darshan of ice lingam during 48 day Yatra. The Yatra period coincided with the public uprising in Kashmir triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani. The SASB officials said a total of 54 yatris lost their lives during the yatra that includes the eight pilgrims who were killed in an attack at Botengoo village in south Kashmir on July 10. As many as 29 persons including yatris and service providers within the yatra area due to accidents and medical failures. The post Yatra sanitation and cleanliness work has been launched in Holy Cave, Yatra Base Camps and along Baltal and Pahalgam Yatra routes.
An official spokesman said that pooja to mark the closing of the annual pilgrimage to the Holy Cave Shrine of Shri Amarnathji, on Shravan Purnima, was held amid chanting of religious hymns. On the formal closure of the yatra, Governor NN Vohra, who is alos ex-officio chairman of SASB chaired a review meeting with CEO and other concerned officers.
Governor expressed sadness over the death of 29 persons in this year’s pilgrimage, within the yatra area. Those who lost their lives were pilgrims, service providers and others, of whom 3 died due to accidents and 26 due to medical failures.