First batch of Amarnath pilgrims set off for cave shrine

Srinagar, June 29 (UNI) The annual Amarnath Yatra began Saturday in Kashmir amid tight security with the first batch of pilgrims from the twin base camps progressing towards the Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir, officials said.

They said over 9,000 pilgrims left from the twin routes of Baltal in Ganderbal district and NunWan Pahalgam in Anantnag district for an onward trek to pay obeisance at the Lord Shiva shrine, which houses a naturally formed ice-lingam.

Officials said the first batches of pilgrims were flagged off by the deputy commissioners of Ganderbal and Anantnag, along with senior government functionaries.

There was a lot of enthusiasm among the Yatris.

From Baltal base camp, the pilgrims will undertake a 13-km journey to the shrine located at an altitude of 3,880 metre that will comparatively require a 48 km journey from the traditional Nunwan-Pahalgam route.

“All arrangements for the annual pilgrimage, including security, have been put in place,” an official said.

The J&K government has put up a thick security blanket to secure pilgrims undertaking the Amarnath Yatra. Besides thousands of policemen and central armed police force (CAPF) personnel, the Army has been deployed on the outer parameters and higher reaches along the yatra route.

The forces are aided by drones and CCTV cameras for round-the-clock surveillance.

The Yatra will end on August 19. Last year, 4.5 lakh pilgrims visited the holy shrine, and this year the authorities expect that number to go up.

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