After the ‘Charri Mubarak’ (Holy Mace) reached the holy cave of Amarnath on Monday morning the annual yatra that continued for 40 days culminated for this year.
Swami Dipendra Giri, the custodian of the Holy Mace, on reaching the cave shrine performed special puja to mark the end of the yatra. Giri was accompanied by a motley group of devotees and sadhus.
A small group of devotees who had reached the Baltal base camp in the northern part of the Kashmir Valley on Sunday also reached the shrine on Monday.
This year around 2.60 lakh pilgrims performed the pilgrimage, up from 2.30 lakh last year.
The pilgrimage started on June 29 and concluded today on the eve of Shravan Purnima coinciding with Raksha Bandhan festival.
After the culmination of the yatra, the Charri Mubarak will be taken back to Pahalgam.
“Traditional rituals shall be performed and prayers offered the whole day at the shrine. However, before dusk, Chhari-Mubarak shall leave for night halt at Panchtarani, Mahant Deependra Giri said.
He said that from there Charri will leave for night halt at Pahalgam at 0700 hrs on August 8.
On August 9 ‘Dvitiya Pujan’ and ‘Visarjan’ ceremonies shall be performed at 0915 hrs on the bank of river Lidder at Pahalgam. Thereafter, traditional ‘Kari-Pakouri’ Bhandara shall be organized for Sadhus.
With this last ritual, annual pilgrimage of Swami Amarnath Ji shall culminate.
“Chhari-Mubarak shall return to its abode Ameshwar temple Desknami Akahtar at Srinagar,” Giri added.
The Amarnath cave, situated at 3,888 metres above the sea level in Himalayas, houses an ice stalagmite structure that waxes and wanes with the size of the visible moon.
Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure symbolizes mythical powers of Lord Shiva.
The cave is approached by pilgrims either through the 46-km long traditional Pahalagam-Chandanwari-Sheshnag-Panchtarni trek or through the 14-km long Baltal-Dumail trek.Helicopter services are also available for the pilgrims both at Baltal and Pahalgam.
This year, 48 pilgrims have lost their lives during the Yatra. Of these, 17 died in a road accident, eight were killed in a suspected militant attack while 23 died of natural causes.
Over 35,000 security personnel drawn from the army, CRPF, ITBP, SSB and state police have been deployed for this year’s Yatra.