3.7 lakh visit Amarnath cave this year

Amid chanting of religious hymns in the spiritual ambience of south Kashmir's Himalayas, the 44-day Amarnath yatra concluded on Sunday on Shravan Purnima.

According to officials, 3.72 lakh pilgrims paid obeisance at the naturally-formed ice Shivalingam inside the 3,880-metre-high cave-shrine during this year’s yatra, which had commenced on June 28.

The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) took the control of the yatra in 2001. There has been a steady flow of pilgrims to the shrine every year since then. Jammu and Kashmir Governor and SASB chairman N N Vohra, Mahant Dipendra Giri and a group of sadhus who carried the Chhari Mubarak (holy mace of Lord Shiva) were among the first to have darshan on Sunday morning, said the officials.

They prayed for sustained peace, harmony, progress and prosperity in the state, the officials added. This year’s yatra was by and large peaceful, with the only aberration being clashes between local tent service providers and community kitchen operators at Baltal in Sonamarg.

According to the police, 46 yatris died during the 44 days of pilgrimage due to various reasons, with cardiac arrest accounting for the most number of deaths.

The deceased included 39 pilgrims, two sadhus and five sevadars (volunteers). Four volunteers had died in a fire incident inside a community kitchen.Meanwhile, after the completion of the yatra, the governor directed the SASB officials to ensure complete clean-up of all the camp sites and to prepare a camp and route-wise action plan for next year’s pilgrimage. He stressed that route-wise arrangements of all aspects of the yatra must be worked out well in advance.

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