The annual pilgrimage to Amarnath shrine commenced on Saturday with the first batch of pilgrims leaving the Baltal base camp in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ganderbal district for the darshan of the holy cave.

First batch of Amaranth pilgrims leave towards holy cave(HT/ Waseem Andrabi)

Amarnath Yatra: First batch of 4,600 pilgrims reach Kashmir Valley for 52-day pilgrimage

Amid the blowing of conch shells and chants of “Bum Bum Bhole”, “Jai Baba Burfani”, and “Har Har Mahadev”, the first batch of pilgrims left the base camp for the holy shrine located at an altitude of 12,756 feet above sea level.

The first batch, consisting of 4,603 pilgrims, reached the Kashmir valley on Friday amid stringent security arrangements.

This year, the 52-day-long pilgrimage would culminate on August 19. The online registrations for the 52-day-long yatra began on April 15 on Shri Amarnath Shrine Board’s (SASB) website and portal.

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Comprehensive arrangements, including three-tier security, area dominations, elaborate route deployment and checkpoints, have been made to ensure a smooth yatra. According to reports, more than 3.50 lakh people have registered for this year’s yatra. As many as 125 community kitchens (langars) have been set up along the two routes to the cave shrine and are supported by over 6,000 volunteers.

The Amarnath Yatra, which takes place every year amid tight security and vigil, takes place from twin tracks – the traditional 48-km-long Nunwan-Pahalgam route in Anantnag district and the 14-km-long shorter but steep Baltal route in Ganderbal district.

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The Amarnath Yatra attracts lakhs of pilgrims every year who visit the site during the ‘Shravani Mela in July-August (Shravan month in Hindu calendar) – the only time in the year when the Amarnath Cave is accessible, because of its geographical conditions.

Located 141 km from the capital Srinagar at an altitude of 12,756 feet above sea level, the holy cave of Amarnath lies in the Ladar Valley, which is covered by glaciers, and snow-capped mountains for most of the year.

(With inputs from agencies)