The 16-day long annual Manimahesh Pilgrimage began amid tight security in tribal Bharmour region of Chamba district on Wednesday.
Around 15,000 pilgrims took a holy dip in the sacred Manimahesh Lake on the first day.
The pilgrimage to oval-shaped glacier-fed Manimahesh Lake is considered as tough as one to Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir. The pilgrimage will conclude on September 13, Radhashtami, birthday of Lord Krishna's companion Radha.
Situated in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas at an altitude of 4,080 m, the holy lake is visited annually by more than 500,000 devotees. The peak is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva.
Bharmour sub-divisional magistrate Jitender Kanwar, who is also pilgrimage in-charge, said the traditional "Chhari Yatra" - the procession with the mace of Lord Shiva - would start on September 6 from the 1,000-year-old Lakshmi Narayan temple of Chamba.
Informing about the security measures taken by the district administration, Kanwar said the entire sector had been divided into 17 sectors. An office has been set up in each sector to facilitate the pilgrims.
He said the strength of the force deployed on the pilgrim route has been doubled this year. "We have deployed around 480 police and home guard jawans on the 14-km track."
Besides, 50 rescue teams comprising experts from Regional Mountaineering Institute have been constituted and deployed at various points.
"There is also CCTV surveillance on the yatra with its control room in Chaurasi Temple Complex in Bharmour," said Dr Kanwar.
He said it had been made mandatory for devotees to get themselves registered for the yatra for the first time. The registration forms are available online as well on various stations en route Bharmour and at base camp at Harsar.
He added that the administration has fixed the rates of eatables and coolies. The rate lists have been displayed at various places so that there is no fleecing of devotees.