Kashmir has seen a record number of pilgrims visiting the Amarnath shrine this year. In the first 40 days of the yatra, over 6.2 lakh pilgrims visited the holy cave located at 13,500 ft in south Kashmir near the famous tourist resort Pahalgam. The highest number so far was 5.3 lakh in 2008. This year the number reached 5 lakh as early as July 21. This, inspite of the duration of the yatra being cut down from 60 to 45 days. The duration was increased from 45 to 60 days in 2004, but was brought down again by the Amarnath shrine board this year. The annual Amarnath yatra that started on June 27 will end on August 13.
Though Kashmir witnessed a volatile summer in 2010, around 4.5 lakh pilgrims completed the yatra last year. This summer, Kashmir has so far remained peaceful.
"There were two reasons for the high numbers this year. First was the people of Kashmir resolving to make the yatra a great success and second the ice Shiv Lingam also lasted a bit longer," said Depender Giri, Mahant Dasnami Akhada.
According to officials, the maximum number of pilgrims came in July, during the summer holidays.
"If you look at the past trends most people perform yatra in the first two to three weeks. The same was seen this year," said RK Goyal, CEO, Amarnath Shrine board.
According to him a good tourist season also translated into a good year for yatra. "Many people who visited the Valley as tourists later registered themselves for the yatra, so a good tourist season meant a huge number of yatris as well," added Goyal.