After 2003, lowest number of pilgrims visit Amarnath
As many as 2.20 lakh pilgrims paid obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine, situated at a height of 3,880 metre in south Kashmir Himalayas, as the annual 48-day pilgrimage will conclude on Thursday on the occasion of Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandan).india Updated: Aug 18, 2016 11:24 IST
As many as 2.20 lakh pilgrims paid obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine, situated at a height of 3,880 metre in south Kashmir Himalayas, as the annual 48-day pilgrimage will conclude on Thursday on the occasion of Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandan).
The number of pilgrims visiting the shrine, passing through the snow glaciers and the ice-cold waters, decreased this year after violence gripped the Kashmir valley, following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter in south Kashmir’s Kokernag on July 8, just a week after the commencement of the pilgrimage.
The number of pilgrims this year, comes after 1.70 lakh yatris who visited the cave shrine in 2003. On an average, 3.50 lakh pilgrims have performed the yatra annually in the past three years.
The record breaking number of devotees (6.35 lakh) visited the cave shrine in 2011 and 2012 comes at second position with 6.22 lakh devotees.
The custodian of ‘Chhari Mubarak’ (Lord Shiva’s mace), mahant Dipendra Giri said that the situation in the valley has affected the flow of yatris to the shrine. “The number of pilgrims this year is the lowest in the past 10 years,” he said before leaving from Srinagar along with the mace, on August 13, to reach the cave on Thursday.
To contain the spiraling protests after Wani’s death, authorities have imposed a curfew, restricting the movement of people and vehicles, which is continued till date, as situation has failed to improve on ground. The unrest was aggravated by the use of assault rifles and shotguns by security forces leading to the killing of 63 civilians and two cops.
Owing to the unrest, the yatra was suspended for some days in the second week of July, but was continued amid tight security thereafter. Despite the unrest, particularly in south Kashmir, which is a route of the yatra, no hindrances were created from any side for the visiting pilgrims.
In-fact, a heartwarming-news emerged during the yatra as to how a group of local Kashmiris saved the lives of many Amarnath yatris injured in an accident.
On July 13, despite curfew and violence, locals had come out to the rescue of a group of pilgrims after a mini-bus that they were travelling in, met with an accident at Sangam near Bijbehara in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
A pilgrim and the driver of the mini-bus had died of injuries after the vehicle, returning from Baltal base camp, met with an accident in Sangam. More than 20 others had been trapped under the bus but were then rescued by the locals and taken to hospital.