Nearly 5,00,000 pilgrims have so far undertaken the Amarnath Yatra that began on June 25 this year, an official said on Monday. Of these, eighty-six died during the trek to the holy place.
"With 17,174 pilgrims having 'Darshan' at the holy Amarnath cave yesterday, pilgrims, who have undertook the Yatra so far has gone up to 482,598," a senior official of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), which manages the affairs of the Hindu pilgrimage, said.
Officially, only 350,000 pilgrims had registered for the pilgrimage this year. The pilgrims have used both the north Kashmir Baltal route and the south Kashmir Pahalgam route to reach the Himalayan cave shrine at 13,000 feet.
The ice stalagmite structure in the shrine cave is believed to symbolise the mythological powers of Lord Shiva. While the uphill trek from the Baltal base camp to the cave is 14-km long making it possible for the pilgrims to return back to the base camp after the 'darshan' on the same day, the Pahalgam trek - passing through Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarni halts - is 37-km long.
Pilgrims take four days to cover the one-way distance from Pahalgam base camp to the cave shrine. The Supreme Court had recently issued notices to the Union home ministry, Union health ministry, Jammu and Kashmir government and the SASB regarding the deaths of pilgrims during the Yatra this year.
The apex court has taken suo moto cognizance of media reports regarding the deaths of pilgrims.
Last year, 107 pilgrims had died during the Yatra. This year's Yatra will end on August 2, coinciding with the Hindu festival of Shravan Purnima.
Undertake yatra after thorough
medical check up: Amarnath board
Alarmed over the rising deaths of Amarnath pilgrims en-route to the cave shrine, Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) on Sunday appealed to devotees to follow the health advisory issued by it and undertake the pilgrimage only after a thorough medical check up.
The SASB's appeal came on instructions of Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra, who is also the SASB chairman, after a review meeting on Saturday, an official spokesman said.
The appeal also came in the backdrop of the Supreme Court holding the government responsible for the high number of fatalities during this year's pilgrimage. (PTI)