The annual Shrikhand Mahadev pilgrimage, more arduous than the Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, took off on Friday morning in Himachal Pradesh's Shimla district with 2,000 devotees beginning the trek to pay obeisance to the Hindu god Shiva.
"The first batch of pilgrims with more than 2,000 devotees began their steep trek to the Shrikhand Mahadev peak on Friday," an organiser of the Shrikhand Management Committee said.
The Shrikhand Mahadev peak, situated at a height of 17,600 feet, is one of the toughest Hindu pilgrimages in the country. The Amarnath cave is situated at an altitude of 12,756 feet.
Prem Sharma, director, state department of language, art and culture, said: "The Shrikhand pilgrimage is much tougher than Amarnath Yatra because of high altitude, long steep trek and uncertain weather."
"The 60-km trek to and fro is quite strenuous. Weather in the high altitude changes within a few minutes. There are even chances of snowfall in this season. The trek passes through glaciers and steep slippery rocks," he added.
Every year, thousands of devotees particularly from north Indian states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Delhi undertake the holy pilgrimage.
Legend has it that Lord Shiva meditated at Shrikhand and that the trek was used by the Pandvas to reach the peak during Mahabharata.
The devotees reach Jaon village, 115 km from Shimla, through vehicles and then trek about three kilometres to reach the base camp in Singhgad where the registration takes place.
The week long pilgrimage concludes on July 23.