New Delhi/Srinagar , Jul 15: The unprecedented rush of pilgrims to Amarnath this year has contributed to the ice Shivlingam in the holy mountain cave completely melting away more than a month before the end of the pilgrimage.
Amarnath yatra started on June 28 this year and was scheduled to end on August 21. Around 2 lakh pilgrims have paid obeisance at the cave shrine till date. It remains to be seen whether pilgrims will continue to flock to the holy shrine now that the lingam has melted away.
Even before the beginning of the annual pilgrimage, almost 40 percent of the lingam had melted away - the lingam was only 8-feet tall this year.
The premature melting of the ‘Shiv lingam' is rumoured to be the effect of either global warming or due to the heavy presence of pilgrims and security personnel inside the Amarnath cave.
Pilgrims start their journey to the 3880-metre-high cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas from both Baltal and Pahalgam base camps.
The distance from north Kashmir's Baltal base camp to the cave shrine is around 14 km and the pilgrims are able to return after 'Darshan' the same day.
However, the traditional south Kashmir route from Nunwan base camp to the cave is 45 km passing through Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarni halting stations. The one-way journey to the shrine on this route takes three days.
The yatra ends on Shravan Purnima on August 13, which coincides with the Raksha Bandhan festival.