Srinagar, Aug 7: A record number of over 6.30 lakh pilgrims have visited the cave shrine of Amarnath in the Himalayas in south Kashmir as the 45-day annual yatra enters its final leg.
‘Charri Mubarak', the holy mace of Lord Shiva, will begin its six-day journey to the 3,880-metre-high cave tomorrow and reach there on August 13, marking the culmination of this year's annual yatra.
According to officials, a record number of 6,31,254 pilgrims from across the country have paid obeisance at the cave shrine since the commencement of the yatra on June 29. However, this year's yatra will also be remembered for the highest number of deaths due to natural causes as 96 pilgrims and four Muslim guides and porters breathed their last along the twin tracks of Baltal and Pahalgam.
Almost all of them died of cardiac arrest at various base camps and halting stations either enroute to the holy cave or on their way back after offering prayers, the officials said. Despite cloudy weather and intermittent rainfall in the wee hours today, fresh batches of pilgrims, mostly seers, set off for the cave shrine from the base camps this morning. The pilgrimage was going on smoothly and the officials are regularly monitoring the weather to ensure safety of the pilgrims, sources said.
While 817 pilgrims were allowed to move towards the cave shrine from the shortest, 13-km-long, Baltal route in Ganderbal district, 686 yatris preferred the traditional 42-km Pahalgam route in Anantnag district, they said. The number of pilgrims visiting the holy cave has started declining since last week as the ice ‘lingam' has been melting due to the heat generated by heavy rush of pilgrims in the first four weeks of the pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, Charri Mubarak is scheduled to join the yatra from Amreshwar temple in the heart of Srinagar tomorrow. Rituals connected to the holy mace started with ‘Bhoomi-Pujan' and ‘Dhawajarohan' ceremonies at Pahalgam on July 15, marking the commencement of the ritualistic yatra.
The mace was offered special prayers at its abode at Dashnami Akhara on ‘Nag-Panchami' on August 4. PTI