Amarnath Yatra begins from Baltal, Pahalgam routes

Amid tight security, the first batch of nearly 3,000 Amarnath pilgrims from Jammu reached the twin base camps at Baltal and Pahalgam in Kashmir on Wednesday evening. PTI file photo

The annual Amarnath Yatra to 3,880-metre high cave shrine in south Kashmir started from both Baltal and Pahalgam routes on Thursday after a delay of several hours due to heavy rain in the morning.

"The yatra began from Baltal base camp as the first batch of pilgrims made their way towards the holy cave," a spokesperson of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) told PTI. 

The yatra also commences from the traditional Pahalgam route as 59 pilgrims from Chandanwari were allowed to proceed towards the cave shrine, she said.

Heavy rainfall in the morning delayed commencement of annual Amarnath Yatra.

Amid tight security, the first batch of nearly 3,000 Amarnath pilgrims from Jammu reached the twin base camps at Baltal and Pahalgam in Kashmir on Wednesday evening.

After getting road clearance, the second batch of 3,434 pilgrims left Bhagwati Nagar base camp from Jammu for Kashmir in the early hours today, officials said, adding they are expected to reach the base camps of Nunwan-Pahalgam and Baltal in the valley later in the day.

Over two lakh pilgrims have so far registered for the 60-day yatra which is scheduled to conclude on August 26 coinciding with the 'Raksha Bandhan' festival.

A total of 2.60 lakh pilgrims offered prayers at the shrine last year.

The government is for the first time using radio frequency (RF) tags to track Amarnath-bound vehicles, while the CRPF has introduced motorcycle squads with cameras and various life-saving equipment.

The security has been heightened for this year's yatra in view of the militant attack on a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims last year that left eight of them dead and 18 others injured.

Around 40,000 security personnel from the Jammu and Kashmir Police, paramilitary, National Disaster Response Force and the Army, have been deployed for this year's pilgrimage.

Considering the carrying capacity of the existing tracks and other available infrastructure in the pilgrimage area, the SASB has decided to allow 7,500 pilgrims on each route daily.

While the pilgrims performing the yatra via shorter Baltal route usually return to the base camp within a day, those taking the traditional Pahalgam route have to trek 42 kms, with an overnight stay at one of the halting stations before they can pay obeisance at the cave shrine.

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Amarnath Yatra begins from Baltal, Pahalgam routes

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