The annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine in south Kashmir concluded on Saturday with record number of 6.35 lakh pilgrims paying obeisance this year. The unprecedented rush also cost lives of 107 pilgrims; most deaths were due to poor health conditions of pilgrims.
Governor NN Vohra, also chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), joined the special puja at the cave shrine, located at a height of 3,880 metres, on Saturday.
The concluding prayers were said by Mahant Deependra Giri, who was accompanied by a large number of sadhus. Giri carried the holy mace, also known as charri mubarak", to the shrine and offered special prayers as per the ritual.
The 45-day long pilgrimage, where pilgrims trek treacherous path from twin bases in south Kashmir’s Pahagam area and north-east Kashmir Sonamarg area, started on June 29. The concluding prayers were held on the Shravan Purnima, which coincides with the Raksha Bandhan.
Vohra, who has been monitoring the pilgrimage on a daily basis, instructed to launch a time bound post-yatra cleanliness drive at the base camps. The governor, according to official spokesman, asked the senior officials of the shrine board to ensure disposal of garbage by August 20 “so that the entire area is free from all solid wastes well before the onset of ensuing winter season.”
SASB chief executive officer RK Goyal said the board has been according very high priority to the implementation of sanitation and related measures for the preservation of the environment at the base camps and at all the locations en route the cave shrine.
Around 20,000 labourers and 7,000 pony owners, mostly local Muslims, were hired by the board for the smooth functioning of the pilgrimage.
“Insurance claims of pony owners are being processed expeditiously and hoped that beneficiary pony owners would receive the insurance claim in the coming weeks, after completion of all procedural formalities,” said Goyal.
Around 143 ponies died during the pilgrimage this year while ferrying pilgrims and around 5,800 were injured.
Goyal said despite repeated advisories on Do’s and Don’ts to the pilgrims 107 pilgrims lost their lives due to medical reasons.
“The prime reason among them was cardiac arrests and pulmonary failures,” said Goyal.
“All required financial help and logistical support for the medical treatment of those injured, for the transportation of dead bodies to various parts of the country, and in arranging evacuation, were made by the board.”