As the annual Amarnath yatra was resumed after two years due to pandemic, locals in Ganderbal and Anantnag welcomed the yatris with garlands wishing them safe yatra ahead. So far more than 40K yatris have already performed darshan and thousands are waiting for their turn to perform darshan at Holy cave which is accessible through two routes Baltal and Pahalgam.
While the Pahalgam route passes through the southern part of Kashmir and is a longer route, the Baltal route is 14 kilometers from the base camp however it is considered a tough trek which is being avoided by aged and pilgrims with medical conditions.
This time yatra is being performed under heavy security and if officials are to be believed more than 50,000 forces personnel have been deployed to make the passage of yatra safe from threats. The yatris for the first time have been provided RIFD (Radio Frequency Identification tags) to help find out their location in real time. Despite a higher level of security, officials aren’t taking any chances vis vis security of the routes taken by the pilgrims. This time unregistered yatris are not being allowed to go towards base camps. On the first day of pilgrimage, J&K Lt Governor performed darshan and hoped this year’s yatra would be successful and peaceful.
“I have full faith that the devotees traveling from all over the country to seek the divine blessings of Shri Amarnathji will have a safe and memorable pilgrimage,” the Lt Governor said.
The yatra is being held after two years of tough covid and government is expecting a heavy footfall of yatris. Even for people who are unable to travel, arrangements have been made for a smooth yatra….
“The devotees can have ‘Darshan’ of the Holy Ice Lingam at the Holy Cave Shrine through live telecast of Morning and Evening Arti through Shri Amarnathji Shrine website link,” a senior officer associated with yatra said.
The base camps in both Baltal and Pahalgam are filled with yatris and enthused pilgrims are waiting for their turn to go up in the mountains. The atmosphere at Baltal is filled with religious chants and hymns as yatris after yatra take rest in the tents pitched at the basecamp.
“I have been taking this yatra for the past one decade. Due to the covid19, I couldn’t visit the holy cave. This year I am going for the yatra,” said Sunil Kumar, a yatri from Bihar who was accompanying his uncle Ramesh.
“Other than heavy security, every arrangement is good. I will be trekking to the holy cave tomorrow morning and after darshan will be back in the evening.”
Another pilgrim Deepak Pandit said that after many years his dream to go for yatra has been fullfilled…”From many years I have been making plans to perform the yatra this year my wish has been answered by Baba Barfani.” So far thousands of yatris have already performed darshan at the holy cave.
Even the locals who are associated with the yatra are happy that pilgrimage has been restored…”We earn our livelihood through this yatra. Due to covid19, we faced a lot of problems. Hope this year we can make good earnings as a good number of pilgrims are expected to visit Amarnath,” said Mohammad Sultan, a ponney wala.
Group of Concerned Citizens (GCC ) described Amarnath Yatra as an integral part of Kashmir tradition and Kashmiryat and appealed for smooth and safe conduct of the yatra.
The group welcomed the Lieutenant Governor’s outreach to the political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir in connection with Amarnath Yatra to seek their and people’s cooperation for the smooth and successful conduct of Yatra this year and the GCC has reiterated that Amarnath Yatra is part of Kashmir tradition and Kashmiris from all communities have always extended full support and cooperation for the comfort and safety of the yatris and smooth conduct of the yatra.
The GCC however appealed to government agencies to ensure that immediately after the conclusion of the yatra, all plastic and non- biodegradable waste and debris on the two yatra routes is collected, removed and brought to the dumping sites down below for further appropriate disposal.
Earlier for the smooth functioning of the yatra, J&K’s Lt Governor invited top political leaders to Rajbhawan and sought their cooperation in the peaceful and smooth function of the yatra.
National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, J&K Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Ravinder Raina and Congress president GA Mir were among the notable leaders who attended the meeting. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti, however, skipped the meeting.
“Met representatives of political parties & discussed arrangements and management of Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra. The sacred pilgrimage strengthens our faith in the goodness of mankind & its successful conduct is responsibility of every citizen of J&K UT,” Sinha’s office posted in a tweet along with photos of the leaders who attended the meeting at the Raj Bhavan.
“All the senior leaders in the meeting speaking in one voice observed that Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra is like a big festival, a celebration of Kashmiriyat for common man of J&K and each & every citizen of UT will ensure warm hospitality & comfort of the pilgrims,” the LG’s office said in another tweet.
This year officials said that they expect to host eight lakh yatris and termed the yatra necessary for the cultural and heritage of J&K and for its ethos and traditions.