The annual Amarnath pilgrimage kicked off from the Kashmir Valley on Thursday with over 15,000 men and women beginning the climb to the cave shrine dedicated to Hindu god Shiva.
"More than 7,000 yatris began their uphill 14-km trek at 8 Thursday morning from Baltal to the cave. Another 1,100 yatris has left the Manigam transit camp for Baltal," a police officer said here.
"All the pilgrims are safe. Adequate security arrangements have been made at Baltal, Manigam and all along the route," he added.
The nearly two-month-long Amarnath pilgrimage ends Aug 25.
Another batch of 8,000 pilgrims left the Nunwan base camp in Pahalgam town for Chandanwari, the first of the four stopovers in the 35-km trek from Pahalgam to the cave shrine, located at a height of 13,500 feet.
The pilgrims Wednesday left Jammu for the Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir.
Hari Prasad, 49, a resident of Haryana who left the Manigam transit camp for Baltal, said: "We shall pray for peace in Kashmir and the rest of the country when we reach the holy cave.
"This is the land of saints and 'rishis' (sages) besides being the abode of Lord Shiva. The people here are nice and hospitable. This is my third yatra and I know the locals have always helped the yatris in emergency."
Extraordinary security arrangements have been made for the pilgrimage this year because of the heightened tensions in the Kashmir Valley.
Around 3,000 Border Security Force (BSF) troopers reached south Kashmir's Anantnag district Wednesday to provide security.
While 1.5 lakh pilgrims have registered so far, it is expected that the number of pilgrims will cross the half-million mark this year.
The cave shrine has a natural ice stalagmite that is worshipped as a Shiv Lingam, a symbol of Lord Shiva.