The annual pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Shri Amarnathji concluded amid chanting of religious hymns and 'pooja' on Wednesday. Nearly 3.54 lakh pilgrims participated in it.
Owing to rain and poor visibility beyond Sonamarg, governor NN Vohra, who is chairman of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, could not reach the holy cave.
Expressing satisfaction over the smooth conduct of this year's Yatra, the governor thanked the state government, army, CRPF, BSF, ITBP, state police, BSNL, the five banks involved with the registration of pilgrims and all organisations concerned, particularly the Indian Meteorological Department, and the people of the state for their valuable contribution to the organisation of the Yatra.
He lauded the close coordination, which had been maintained between the shrine board and the security forces, the civil and police administration, all the stakeholders and local population in ensuring the smooth and peaceful conduct of the Yatra.
Shravan Purnima, which coincides with Raksha Bandhan, witnessed serene religious fervour with the arrival of the holy mace of Lord Shiva at the holy cave, situated at a height of 3,880 metre, after a night halt at Panjtarni. Mahant Deependra Giri, accompanied by a large number of 'sadhus', carried the holy mace, popularly known as 'Charri Mubarak', and offered 'pooja' at the shrine on Wednesday morning.
Months before the commencement of the Yatra on June 28 and thereafter, throughout the duration of the pilgrimage, the governor made a number of visits to the Yatra area, including aerial reconnaissance of the routes and visiting all the camps. In the past 55 days, the chairman has been daily monitoring all important aspects of the Yatra.
In a meeting held here on Wednesday, the governor asked Navin K Choudhary, CEO of the shrine board, to urgently coordinate action with the municipal committee, Pahalgam, and the CEOs of the Sonamarg and Pahalgam development authorities to immediately launch a massive post-Yatra sanitation drive and see to it that the entire Yatra area is cleaned up in the next few days.
He also reiterated his earlier directions about the complete cleaning up of all camp sites, which were being evacuated. The governor would be undertaking a visit to the entire Yatra area in the next few days to see whether the cleanliness drive had been effectively carried out.
The CEO stated that 3.54 lakh Yatris had paid obeisance at the holy cave shrine during this year's pilgrimage, which had commenced on June 28, simultaneously from the Baltal and Pahalgam routes.
Referring to various speculative media reports about the reduced scale of this year's Yatra, the CEO stated that among the several influencing factors was the Uttarakhand disaster, following which the tourist and pilgrim traffic to all the hilly states had witnessed a sharp decline.
He added that the Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrimage had also been affected, where the number of Yatris was about 7 lakh less as compared to the corresponding period last year.
The other factors included the affect of statements about perceived threats of terror attacks and the emerging law and order scenarios.
The CEO expressed satisfaction that this year's Yatra was better regulated than 2012. For this he thanked the Yatris for their cooperation in satisfying the mandatory requirement of obtaining compulsory health certificates before seeking registration to undertake the Yatra.
The CEO acknowledged certain shortcomings, which had come to light in regard to the registration processes followed by the banks and said these and all other deficiencies would be sorted out for providing improved arrangements for the Yatra next year.
Referring to various reports about the number of casualties this year, the CEO said 13 Yatris had lost their lives, compared to 93 last year and 106 in 2011, which had 6.21 lakh and 6.35 lakh pilgrims, respectively. He added that the loss of even a single life is a matter for sadness and deep concern and efforts will be continued for minimising loss of lives due to medical reasons and by further enlarging the awareness campaign to deter those of unfit status to undertake the Yatra.