Srinagar, May 10 : The 14 feet tall Amarnath Shiv Lingam made of ice has formed inside the holy cave in Amarnath, officials said. India TV on Tuesday telecast the first pictures of the Ice Lingam.
This year, the Amarnath pilgrimage will begin on June 29 and end on August 13.
The huge icicle has formed on its own inside the holy cave because of the recurrent snowfall, an annual feature.
The weather has meanwhile improved in the Kashmir valley over the past week, enabling the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) to start registration of pilgrims from Tuesday.
The annual summer pilgrimage to the 13,500-ft high Himalayan cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva in south Kashmir usually faces uncertainties because of the unpredictable weather conditions and security concerns.
The present clear weather in the valley and the mountains is seen as a positive sign.
"The registration for the yatra will begin tomorrow (Tuesday) which will mark the start the process for the pilgrimage," R.K. Goyal, chief executive officer of the shrine board, said Monday.
The registration is open online as well as across the 149 branches of various banks across the country.
Some of the Hindu groups, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), have been pressing for a minimum duration of two months for the pilgrimage to enable more pilgrims to visit the shrine.
Last year, more than 450,000 pilgrims visited the Amarnath shrine to worship a stalagmite of snow inside the cave that is believed to be an embodiment of the deity.
The VHP started its own website on Sunday to register the pilgrims.
The Jammu and Kashmir unit chief of the VHP, Rama Kant Dubey, told reporters that any "curtailment in the duration of the pilgrimage would be met with severe resistance."
"We will start our yatra on June 15, let anyone dare to stop it," Dubey said.
He, however, added that it was the duty of the state government to provide facilities and security to the pilgrims.
Justice (retired) G.D. Sharma, a shrine board member, however, defended the decision to conduct the pilgrimage for 46 days this year.
"There is snow all over the mountains and we cannot take risk with the lives of pilgrims," he told IANS.
There are two treks leading to the shrine from Srinagar - the shorter but steeper Baltal-Sangam route, 110 km north of Srinagar, and the 46-km trek from Pahalgam, 100 km to the south of Srinagar.
In the backdrop of the continuing militancy in the region, the government has to sanitise the routes and deploy security personnel to guard the pilgrims.
A number of healthcare facilities are also being set up along the route.
"Both the routes are covered by snow and it would take a minimum of eight weeks to clear the snow and make the trails trek-worthy," Goyal said, adding that the work has started.
With so much of snow this year, no one has even gone close to the cave and seen whether stalagmite "Shivalinga" has been formed.
Earlier, by March-end, Gujjars and Bakerwals - the shepherds and nomads - would visit the area and report back about the presence of the stalagmite which last year stood almost nine feet tall.
According to the Hindu calendar, Ashaad Purnima is the most auspicious day to begin the Amarnath pilgrimage and Shravan Purnima to pray at the shrine.