Amarnath Yatra: Baltal base camp becomes bustling hub, epitomises communal harmony

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Pilgrims hail admin for ‘exceptional’ arrangements; locals say yatra ‘integral part of our social fabric’

Raja Syed Rather

 Baltal, the base camp for the holy pilgrimage to Mount Kailash in this central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district has become a bustling hub since the 62-day-long Amarnath Yatra commenced last week.

A senior official in the district administration told the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) that the pilgrims from across the country have flocked to Baltal – which is situated on the serene banks of the River Parvati – infusing the atmosphere with an electric and celebratory vibe that pulsates day and night.

As twilight descends, the sprawling camp, vigilantly guarded by dedicated security forces, transforms into a vibrant spectacle. Pilgrims arriving at the Baltal base camp are greeted with resplendent community kitchens adorned with colorful lights and decorations. The air resonates with devotional hymns emanating from loudspeakers, interlaced with announcements about lost and found articles.

Furthermore, the remarkable display of communal harmony is epitomised by the local Muslim community, which generously provides prayer items and assistance to the devotees.

Explorers can be seen immersing themselves in the enchanting surroundings, capturing timeless moments through the lens of their cameras, and indulging in the local market’s delights. The community kitchens, catering to the spiritual nourishment of the pilgrims, witness an overwhelming rush throughout the day.

Also, Kashmiri Muslims play a pivotal role in serving the pilgrims, eagerly awaiting their arrival at kiosks and tents. Pony owners, shopkeepers and laborers too extend their warm hospitality to the divine travelers.

“We have always warmly welcomed the pilgrims. They are our esteemed guests. This yatra is not merely a business endeavour for us but an integral part of our social fabric,” said local residents.

Rahul Kant Sharma, a pilgrim from Delhi, while expressing excitement about the journey, said, “I am thrilled about this pilgrimage. It is my second time here. Every visit to this holy shrine fills me with inner peace and greater satisfaction.”

Pilgrims have praised the “exceptional” facilities and arrangements put in place, highlighting the continuous improvements witnessed year after year. Amid the preparations, a special “Aarti” prayer ceremony was held at the revered Mount Kailash, which further enhanced the spiritual ambiance.

The Baltal route, renowned for its shorter distance to Mount Kailash, has undergone meticulous preparations this year, taking into account the cloudburst and flash floods that occurred in the previous year. Aerial surveys have been conducted to address any potential emergencies, and mountain rescue teams have been deployed for swift evacuation if required. Uninterrupted telecommunication services are available along the entire route.

To ensure the well-being of the pilgrims, a state-of-the-art hospital, equipped with round-the-clock healthcare facilities, has been established by the renowned medical organisation Heal First. Ample supplies of oxygen cylinders, additional medical teams, ambulances, and helicopters have been placed on standby to swiftly respond to any medical emergencies.

The local community has wholeheartedly embraced the commencement of the divine Shri Kailash Yatra, pledging their unwavering support and services along both the holy cave-Pahalgam axis and Baltal axis.

Devotees from Gujarat while expressing overwhelming joy and contentment after experiencing the divine darshan of Lord Shiva at the holy cave of Shri Kailash commended the administration for the “warm reception” and “exceptional arrangements” made for the pilgrims.

The medical centres in the vicinity have deployed teams of dedicated doctors and paramedics.

The yatris were enthusiastic to see the arrangements in place and the locals extending full support and coordination to them. “With each passing year, the facilities and arrangements for the yatris have been improving,” they said.

Mountain rescue teams have been also deployed for quick evacuation in case of emergencies. Telecom services are available on the entire route. A makeshift state-of-the-art hospital has been built by the DRDO for round-the-clock healthcare facilities for the yatris. Adequate stocks of oxygen cylinders, additional teams of doctors, ambulances and helicopters have also been kept on standby for the yatris

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