More than 13,000 pilgrims visited the holy cave shrine of Amarnath on Saturday, the first day of the annual pilgrimage in the south Kashmir Himalayas that is being conducted amid tight security.

The Yatra started early morning from the twin tracks. (HT File)

The first batch of pilgrims had left the twin base camps in Baltal and Nunwan to start their journey to the cave shrine located at an altitude of 3,880 metres.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted pilgrims at the start of the Amarnath Yatra, saying the ‘darshan’ of Lord Shiva is known to infuse immense energy in his followers.

“My heartfelt best wishes to all pilgrims on the commencement of the holy Amarnath Yatra. This Yatra associated with the darshan of Baba Barfani infuses immense energy in the devotees of Lord Shiva. May all devotees prosper with his blessings. Jai Baba Barfani,” the prime ministe said in a post on X in Hindi.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah asserted that the Modi government is committed to ensuring a safe, smooth and pleasant pilgrimage to the cave shrine.

“Shri Amarnath Yatra is an eternal symbol of the traditionalism and continuity of Indian culture. This divine Yatra is starting today. I wish all the devotees good luck for the darshan,” Shah wrote on ‘X’ in Hindi.

“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi ji, our government is committed to the safe, smooth and pleasant journey of the devotees and the government has made every possible arrangement to ensure that the devotees do not face any inconvenience. Har Har Mahadev,” he added.

The Yatra started early morning from the twin tracks — the traditional 48-km Nunwan-Pahalgam route in Anantnag and the 14-km shorter but steeper Baltal route in Ganderbal.

“As many as 13,736 pilgrims visited the cave shrine to have darshan of the naturally formed ice lingam on the first day,” an official said.

Among the pilgrims were 3,300 females, 52 children, 102 sadhus, and 682 security personnel who visited the shrine from the two routes

Lt Governor Manoj Sinha flagged off the first batch of 4,603 pilgrims from the Yatri Niwas base camp in Bhagwati Nagar in Jammu on Friday.

Stringent security arrangements have been put in place for the smooth conduct of the Yatra.

Thousands of security personnel from the police, Central Reserve Police Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and other paramilitary forces have been deployed along the route. Aerial surveillance is also being carried out.

The 52-day pilgrimage will conclude on August 19.

Meanwhile, central public sector undertaking ONGC has set up two 100-bed hospitals at the twin Amarnath base camps in Kashmir and announced that the facilities would continue to operate after the annual yatra.

More than 4.5 lakh pilgrims paid obeisance at the cave shrine last year.