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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Amarnath Yatra ends with a three-year high of 2.85 lakh pilgrims

The two-month long Amarnath yatra ended Sunday with 2.85 lakh pilgrims paying obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine, situated at a height of 3,880 metres in south Kashmir.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2018 22:31 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Pilgrims cross mountain trails during their religious journey to the Amarnath cave temple, at Pahalgam in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pilgrims cross mountain trails during their religious journey to the Amarnath cave temple, at Pahalgam in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir.(PTI)
         

The two-month long Amarnath yatra ended Sunday with 2.85 lakh pilgrims paying obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine, situated at a height of 3,880 metres in south Kashmir.

The number of pilgrims this year visiting the shrine through a treacherous terrain that includes glaciers, steep slopes and ice cold water rose to 2,85,006 from 2,60,003 in 2017 and 2,20,490 in 2016. A record breaking number of 6.35 lakh devotees had visited the cave shrine in 2011 followed by 6.22 lakh in 2012.

“The annual pilgrimage concluded today amid chanting of religious hymns in the spiritual ambiance of South Kashmir Himalayas,” an official spokesman said in a statement.

Unlike last year when eight pilgrims were killed in a militant attack on a bus in south Kashmir’s Anantnag, this year’s pilgrimage concluded peacefully.

In 2016, mass protests against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani had also affected the rush of pilgrims.

The two-month long pilgrimage this year began under governor’s rule in the state after BJP ended its coalition with the PDP on June 20. There was heightened militant activity even before the commencement of yatra on June 28, although a top Hizbul Mujahideen commander had said that “pilgrims need not worry”.

A coordinated security system by police, CRPF and army was put in place for the pilgrimage. Besides the police and the army, 238 companies of central security forces guarded the pilgrimage.

The CRPF ensured sanitization of routes, road opening parties and along with the police, accompanied the pilgrims from Jammu to the base camps in Kashmir. The Army was given the responsibility of protecting the pilgrim corridor and securing the higher reaches along the route. The vehicles were radio tagged and the CCTV cameras installed along the route.

Bad weather in the first week of the pilgrimage dampened the initial enthusiasm of the yatris. Most of the rush of pilgrims was witnessed only in the first month after which the pilgrim traffic was reduced to a trickle prompting calls for curtailment of the pilgrimage during the 35th meeting of Shri Amaranth Shrine Board (SASB) on July 23 which was chaired by the then governor N.N Vohra.

On Sunday, Bhupinder Kumar, Additional Chief Executive Officer of SASB along with Piyush Singla, Deputy Commissioner, Ganderbal, visited the cave shrine early in the morning and prayed for peace, harmony, progress and prosperity in the state, the spokesman said.

Kumar interacted with the officers to review the ongoing sanitation and camp cleaning initiatives being undertaken during the ongoing sanitation drive.

He urged officers to ensure that all bio-degradable and non-biodegradable wastes, including plastic, are disposed-off in accordance with the approved Action Plan.

The cave shrine houses an ice stalagmite that waxes and wanes and devotees believe the structure symbolises Lord Shiva, the Hindu god. It was discovered by a Muslim shepherd in the 15th century.

First Published: Aug 26, 2018 20:56 IST