Suspended Amarnath yatra begins
The annual pilgrimage to Amarnath commenced on Sunday with nearly 13,000 devotees leaving for the cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas.
Orginally scheduled to commence on Saturday, the two-month-long pilgrimage started from the twin routes of Pahalgam and Baltal in the wee hours as the weather improved, officials said.
However, no pilgrim was allowed to proceed from the Jammu-base camp as a precautionary measure, they said.
Amid chants of vedic hymns, 7500 pilgrims left Nunwan base camp on traditional Pahalgam route, while another group of 5219 pilgrims left Baltal to offer prayers at the cave shrine, which houses the naturally formed ice Shiva lingam.
In addition, about 300 pilgrims are expected to pay obeisance at the shrine by helicopter service during the day, official sources said.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Lt Gen (Retd) SK Sinha visited the shrine and offered prayers.
Sinha, who also heads the Shree Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) - the body which manages the yatra - later flew to Charar-e-Sharif to offer prayers and a 'chader' at the holy shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani.
The sources said ponnywallas were not allowed to carry the pilgrims on 14-km Baltal route as the stretch between Railpathri and Brarimarg was not fit enough for horse-riding.
However, work was on to make stretch convenient for the ponnywallas as well.
There was no such problem on traditional 46-km Pahalgam-cave route, the sources said.