Small batch of pilgrims leave for Amarnath shrine

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Jammu: A fresh batch of 1,179 pilgrims – the smallest batch since the Amarnath yatra started – left the base camp here today for the cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas.
The number of pilgrims turning up for the annual pilgrimage has shown a decline, officials said.
The 60-day yatra commenced from the twin routes of Baltal in Ganderbal and Pahalgam in Anantnag districts on June 28 and over 2.30 lakh pilgrims have paid obeisance at the shrine, housing the naturally formed ice-shivlingam, till last evening.
The 22th batch comprising 1,179 pilgrims including 248 women and 47 ‘sadhus’ left in a convoy of 41 vehicles and two motorcycles under tight security from the Bhagwati Nagar base camp in the early hours today, officials said.
They said this was the smallest batch of pilgrims leaving for the twin base camps in the valley from here since the commencement of the yatra.
While 797 pilgrims are heading for the Nunwan base camp to undertake the yatra from the traditional 36-km Pahalgam track, 382 pilgrims are heading for Baltal base camp after choosing the 12-km shorter route to the shrine, the officials said.
A total of 2.6 lakh pilgrims offered prayers at the shrine last year.
The number of pilgrims visiting the shrine usually comes down during the later part of the yatra owing to melting of the ice-lingam at the shrine but this time the yatra has witnessed frequent disruptions due to inclement weather which has forced authorities to suspend the yatra several times in the past 24 days.
The MET office has predicted another spell of wet weather across Jammu and Kashmir till Wednesday.