Pahalgam: Before starting ‘Bam Bam Bhole’ and ‘Jai Baba Barfani’ slogans reverberated early in the morning here today as the first batch of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims left for the holy cave from Nunwanan-Pahalgam base camp, amid tight security arrangements.
The first batch consisting of 47 sadhus, 1,811 male and 422 females had reached Jammu on Wednesday and was flagged off by Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh from the Yatri Niwas at Bhagwati Nagar.
Shri Amarnath Shrine Board officials state that the batch left in a convoy of 72 vehicles, comprising 26 light motor vehicles and 46 buses of State Road Transport Corporation. Dozens of security vehicles have been escorting the convoy pilgrims. The first batch of pilgrims reached Nunwanan-Pahalgam base camp last evening at around 4 p.m.
Intelligence reports apprehend that militants could attack the pilgrims. To counter any threat heavy contingents of Army, CRPF and Police have been deployed all along the highway and the Pahalgam Khanabal road to ensure the security of all pilgrims. In all about 30,000 security personnel have been deployed for ensuring incident free Yatra after intelligence reports reveal that militants could target a batch of 100 to 150 pilgrims.
On reaching Pahalgam, the pilgrims have negated the security threat notion. “What is being broadcast over TV channels about Kashmir and the Amarnath Yatra is totally false. Every year we visit Kashmir to undertake the Yatra. This year it is even better as the number of pilgrims is twice as much as last year and the Shiv Lingim is said to be of a full size,” Mandeep, a pilgrim said to Hill Post
The Yatri’s (pilgrims) were flagged off by Syed Aabid Rashid Shah, deputy commissioner of Anantnag. The 45-km Pahalgam route to Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas is a traditional route and most Amarnath pilgrims prefer to take this difficult route for the yearly pilgrimage.
Amarnath cave is situated at Mount Amarnath whose altitude is about 5,486m above sea level. Because of its high altitude, the cave for most part of the year is covered with snow and is only accessible for only a short period in summer. On the way to this holy cave are the scenic spots of Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panjtarni.