First batch of pilgrims leave for Amarnath cave in Kashmir

More than 10,000 pilgrims, who had reached the Baltal base camp in north Kashmir Ganderbal district Monday, started their 14-km mountain trek towards the holy cave on Tuesday morning.

Heavy rains had lashed the yatra route and the rest of the Valley on Monday.

"Showers are expected at many places during the day and there has been a drop in the temperature as well. Though the minimum and maximum temperatures would range between 15 and 23 degrees Celsius in the Valley, these would definitely be much lower along the yatra route," said an official of the local weather office here.

The pilgrims will offer their first prayers inside the cave Tuesday where an ice stalagmite is formed and is seen as an icon of Lord Shiva by the devotees. The Shivalingam is the main attraction for thousands of devotees who throng the cave shrine each year.

Amid shouts of "Bam Bam Bhole" and "Har Har Mahadev", the traditional cry hailing Hindu god Shiva, the first batch of pilgrims from various parts of the country, especially Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana left Jammu early on Monday for this year's annual pilgrimage to Amarnath.

For the time being the yatra is being allowed only from the north Kashmir route while snow on the traditional south Kashmir route of Pahalgam is being cleared to make both the routes functional for the pilgrims.

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