Srinagar, Aug 7 (IANS) The 40-day-long Amarnath Yatra ended on Monday with the arrival of the ‘Chari Mubarak’ (Lord Shiva’s Mace) at the cave shrine where final prayers were performed.
Swami Dipendra Giri, the custodian of the Holy Mace, reached the shrine. A small group of devotees who had reached the Baltal base camp in the northern part of the Kashmir Valley on Sunday also reached the shrine on Monday.
This year around 2.60 lakh pilgrims performed the pilgrimage, up from 2.30 lakh last year.
This year, 48 pilgrims lost their lives: 17 in a road accident and eight in a terror attack while 23 died due to natural causes.
The pilgrimage started on June 29 and concluded on Monday on Shravan Purnima coinciding with Raksha Bandhan festival.
Situated at 3,888 metres above sea level, the shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that waxes and wanes with the size of the visible moon.
Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure symbolizes mythical powers of Lord Shiva.
During the pilgrimage, the cave is approached by pilgrims either through the 46-km-long traditional Pahalagam-Chandanwari-Sheshnag-Panchtarni trek or through the 14-km-long Baltal-Dumail trek.
More than 35,000 security personnel drawn from the Army, the CRPF, the ITBP, the SSB and Jammu and Kashmir Police were deployed this year.