The good news from the cave shrine of Lord Amarnath in Jammu and Kashmir is that the Shiv "lingam", an ice stalagmite that takes shape naturally, has formed this year. The "lingam" had failed to form naturally last year and, therefore, was created artificially, triggering a huge controversy.
The evidence of the natural Shiv "lingam" came from a photograph taken by Qallandhar, a resident of Gagangeer village, on his way to the cave shrine from the Baltal route.
Driven by curiosity about the shape of the "Lingam" this year, Qallandhar trekked to the shrine with four others and took the photo on March 27.
Shri Amarnath Shrine Board CEO Arun Kumar said that the natural formation of the "Lingam" is a "good omen". "It is now clear that Shiv Lingam has naturally formed this year," he said, releasing copies of the photograph to the media on Wednesday.
Kumar said that arrangements were being made for the smooth conduct of the two-month pilgrimage season this year, beginning June 30. The Amarnath Yatra will conclude on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan day) on August 28. It is expected to attract 4 lakh pilgrims.
Kumar urged the people not to venture for the pilgrimage on difficult and rugged terrain before the Yatra commences officially.
The CEO spelt out the priorities: Ensuring a pollution-free Yatra and making adequate lodging arrangements at an outlay of Rs 4 crore. He said 4,300 tents would be put up along the Yatra route.