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Train to walk Lord Shiva's path

From next year, all those undertaking the arduous journey to the Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir will have to be medically fit, say shrine authorities. The order comes in after 107 pilgrims died this year.

india Updated: Oct 22, 2011 12:24 IST

From next year, all those undertaking the Amarnath pilgrimage in Jammu and Kashmir will have to be medically fit for the arduous journey to the cave shrine located at 13,500 ft in the Himalayas, say shrine authorities.

This comes after 107 pilgrims died during the pilgrimage this year.

Medical fitness will be made mandatory for the 2012 Amarnath pilgrimage, according to a spokesman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the annual journey.

"Most of the pilgrims who died this year suffered a cardiac arrest," the spokesman disclosed.

Pilgrims have to cross difficult terrain and climb Himalayan heights to reach the shrine, where a naturally made stalagmite of snow, known as Shivlingam, an icon of lord Shiva, attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims from across the country.

The spokesman said it would be advertised in December this year that it would be in the "interest of pilgrims to undergo a medical checkup before commencing the pilgrimage".

The Shrine Board has constituted a panel to undertake advanced planning for the pilgrimage.

In 2011, more than 630,000 pilgrims visited the shrine and the shrine board hopes this rush would increase next year. It wants to put in place the arrangements to strictly regulate the flow of pilgrims, so there is no congestion on the narrow tracks and the shrine.