No mantra chanting or bells at Amarnath cave as NGT declares it ‘silent zone’

The green panel has also ordered the removal of iron rods and grilles installed inside the Amarnath cave so that pilgrims can get a better view of the shrine.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2017 21:14 IST
Agencies, New Delhi
Amarnath yatra,Amarnath cave,National Green tribunal
File photo of pilgrims crossing mountain trails during their journey to the Amarnath cave on the Baltal route from Srinagar earlier this year.(PTI)

The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday declared the Amarnath shrine a “silent zone”, and barred the chiming of bells or chanting of mantras in the areas surrounding the famed cave shrine to preserve its eco sensitivity.

The Amarnath shrine, located in the Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir, is visited by lakhs of people during the pilgrimage season in the monsoon.

The decision came following the tribunal’s earlier hearing when it suggested that the shrine be declared a silent zone to prevent avalanches and noise pollution.

The bench, headed by NGT chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar, also directed officials to remove the iron rods and grilles installed inside the Amarnath cave so that pilgrims can get a better view of the shrine.

“All the parts of stairs and surroundings of the holy cave shall be declared a silent zone,” it said.

“No chanting of mantras inside the cave and surrounding areas shall be allowed,” the bench said, adding that pilgrims shall be allowed inside the cave in a single file.

The bench directed the concerned authorities to ensure that mobile phones and food offerings like coconuts are not allowed inside the holy cave and asked the shrine board to construct a place where pilgrims can keep their valuables.

“Nobody would be permitted to carry anything from the stairs leading to the holy cave and everybody should be properly frisked at the entry point. From the point of stairs and the area inside the cave should be declared silence zone,” the bench said.

The green panel also directed the committee of experts headed by an additional secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to submit an action plan on providing facilities to the pilgrims within three weeks.

Environment activist Gauri Maulekhi, on whose plea the directions were passed, welcomed the NGT order and termed it “progressive”.

“The Amarnath cave is located in a delicate ecosystem. The directions would make the Amarnath Yatra safe and convenient for the devotees. This would protect the shrine from degradation and ensure it is protected for the coming generations. It is indeed a very good and progressive direction,” Maulekhi told PTI.

The matter will be heard again on January 18, 2018.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad termed the NGT’s order a “Tughlaki fatwa”. “We appeal to the Government of India to stop hurting the Hindu religious sentiments all the time for one or the other reason and to get the NGT to withdraw such a Tughlaki fatwa at once,” VHP international president Pravin Togadia said.

In November, the NGT rapped the Amarnath Shrine Board for not providing proper infrastructural facilities to pilgrims going to the cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas, saying it could not “deprive people of proper darshan”.

The green panel took exception to non-compliance with the directions issued by the Supreme Court in 2012 and asked the board what steps it had taken in all these years.

The bench directed the experts committee to submit report on aspects such providing a proper path and declaring the cave shrine a “silence zone” while maintaining cleanliness in the area.

First Published: Dec 13, 2017 18:48 IST