‘No pilgrim has arrived or left Jammu base camp’

JAMMU: No pilgrim has arrived or left the base camp here today for the Amarnath Yatra that is scheduled to end tomorrow, officials said.
The annual 60-day pilgrimage will end with the arrival of the holy mace, popularly known as ‘Charri Mubarak’, at the 3,880 metre-high holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas.
No pilgrim has arrived at the base camp here for the Yatra and accordingly, yesterday’s batch of 137 pilgrims was treated as the last batch from Jammu, the officials said.
They said after remaining suspended for three days due to non-availability of pilgrims, the Yatra resumed from Jammu yesterday after the 46th batch of 137 pilgrims left for Kashmir to undertake the pilgrimage.
Till last evening, a total of 2,84,332 Yatris (pilgrims) had paid obeisance at the shrine.
The pilgrimage had commenced from the twin routes – the shorter 12-km Baltal route in Ganderbal district and the traditional 36-km Pahalgam route in Anantnag district – on June 28.
The ‘Charri Mubarak’, which was taken from its abode at Dashnami Akhara in Srinagar by a group of Sadhus, led by its custodian Mahant Deependra Giri, has reached Panjtarni, the last stop along Pahalgam route.
It will be taken to the shrine for special prayers tomorrow morning, marking the conclusion of the Yatra on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan.
The officials said the Yatra was going on smoothly from both the routes with a batch of 162 pilgrims leaving the twin base camps in the Kashmir Valley for the shrine this morning.
While 93 pilgrims, mostly Sadhus, left Pahalgam for the cave shrine, another group of 69 pilgrims were allowed to take the Baltal route, they said.
The early melting of the naturally formed ice-Shivalingam at the shrine has resulted in decline in the number of pilgrims over the past few years.
Last year, the total number of pilgrims, who visited the shrine, was 2,60,003 in 40 days, whereas in this year the pilgrimage crossed this number in 33 days.
In 2016, as many as 2,20,490 pilgrims visited the cave shrine, but it was highest in 2014, with 3,72,909 pilgrims. It was 3,53,969 in 2013 and 3,52,771 pilgrims in 2015, the officials said.
The Shri Amarnathji Barfani Langer Organisation (SABLO), in a presentation to Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, which manages the Yatra, made a strong plea for reducing the Yatra period to one month.
The SABLO made the plea at a meeting convened by the board’s chairman to review the Yatra.
Supporting its demand, the SABLO said the pilgrimage data for the past five years shows that more than 90 per cent of pilgrims perform ‘darshan’ at the cave-shrine in the first 30 days of the Yatra. (AGENCIES)