The annual pilgrimage to the 3,880 metre high holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas, commenced on Saturday from Baltal route in Ganderbal district amid tight security arrangements.
Among religious chants, the first bath of nearly 8000 pilgrims who had reached Baltal base camp on Friday, started the arduous 16-km journey to the cave shrine this morning, officials said.
Jammu and Kashmir governor N N Vohra, who is also chairman of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) manages the annual pilgrimage, was the first to pay obeisance at the cave shrine and participated in 'Pratham Pooja', marking the beginning of the 44-day pilgrimage, an official said.
He said, "The first group of pilgrims left the Baltal base camp around 4.45 am and by noon, a total of 7,907 pilgrims including 951 women and 24 sadhus proceeded toward the cave shrine. In addition, 152 pilgrims visited the cave using the chopper service and had 'darshan' (glimpse) of the naturally formed ice-shivalingam at the cave shrine by this afternoon."
The yatra from the traditional 45-km Pahalgam route in Anantnag district was also scheduled to commence from today but was deferred due to non-clearance of snow along the track.
On June 25, SASB announced its decision to defer the start of the yatra from the Pahalgam route by three days as the track had not yet been completely cleared of snow.
The Himalayan mountain ranges in the entire Yatra area witnessed very heavy snowfall during the winter and about seven to eight feet of snow still exist at several places around the cave shrine.