A day before the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath in Jammu and Kashmir begins, the weather gods turned whimsical, lashing the region with continuous rain and snowfall on Sunday.
The entire journey stretch of more than 350 km from Jammu to the cave shrine, located at the height of 13,500 feet above sea level, in Himalayas in south Kashmir, was overcast with rain at many places, raising doubts about the safety of the pilgrims.
The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), that manages the pilgrimage to the shrine, has announced the start of the yatra through the shorter route of Baltal. The revered shrine has an icon of Lord Shiva in the form of a naturally made ice stalagmite, called Shivlingam.
The inclement weather is causing worry about the pilgrimage.
"We are hoping that the yatra would start tomorrow (Monday) and the weather gods would be kind to us and the pilgrims," said a SASB official, as he voiced worry over the "continuous rains and snowfall around the shrine".
"The most important thing for us is the safety of the pilgrims," the officer said.
The SASB has issued a strict advisory to pilgrims to wear only trousers, not saris or dhotis, during the pilgrimage that involves trekking on the Himalayan heights that are slippery and slushy.
Pilgrims have also been advised to carry with them umbrellas, torches, walking sticks, woollen clothing, and vital medicines. The elderly and children have been asked to "rethink" about their journey plans.
The pilgrimage route passes through the landslide areas and the trekking path from Baltal to the shrine is also prone to slides.