Jammu, Aug 4 (IANS) A small batch of 132 pilgrims left Jammu on Friday for the Kashmir Valley to perform the ongoing Amarnath Yatra, officials said.
“The pilgrims left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas at 2.55 a.m. in an escorted convoy of five vehicles,” officials said.
S.D. Singh Jamwal, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jammu zone, said the last batch of pilgrims will be allowed to leave Jammu for the Kashmir Valley on August 5 and after that, no pilgrim would be allowed to proceed to the valley as the annual Amarnath Yatra is concluding on August 7.
This year’s 40-day long Yatra started on June 29 and will conclude on August 7 on Shravan Purnima coinciding with Raksha Bandhan festival.
The conclusion of the Yatra will be marked by the arrival of the ‘Chhari Mubarak’ (Holy Mace) at the cave shrine in the morning of August 7 after which t he final ‘Puja’ will be offered inside the shrine.
Situated at 3,888 metres above the sea-level in the Himalayas, the cave shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that waxes and wanes with the size of the visible moon.
Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva.
The cave is approached by pilgrims either through the 46-km long trad itional Pahalagam-Chandanwari-Sheshnag-Panchtarni trek or through the 14-km long Baltal-Dumail trek.
Helicopter services are also available for the pilgrims both at Baltal and Pahalgam. Till Thursday evening, 2,57,589 pilgrims had ‘darshan’ inside the cave shrine.
Last year only, 2.30 lakh pilgrims performed the Yatra. This year, 48 pilgrims have lost their lives during the Yatra.
Of these, 17 died in a road accident, eight were killed in a terror attacked while 23 died of natural causes.
Over 35,000 security personnel drawn from the army, CRPF, ITBP, SSB and state police have been deployed for this year’s Yatra.