Amid tight security the first batch of Amarnath pilgrims were flagged off Saturday morning to the Holy Cave simultaneously from both routes — the Pahalgam track in the Anantnag district and Baltal in the Ganderbal district, officials said.
This year, the 62-day-long Yatra will culminate on August 31. Amidst spiritual chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev’ and ‘Jai Baba Barfani ‘, the enthusiastic pilgrims left from Nunwan base camp in Pahalgam and Baltal base camp in Ganderbal in the early hours on Saturday.
The pilgrims were flagged off from Nunwan by Nodal Officer Phalgham axis, Piyush Singla. From Baltal base camp the Yatris were flagged off by Nodal Officer Baltal axis, Raghav Langer. At both flag off ceremonies, respective Deputy Commissioners senior officers were present. “ It has been a nice experience and forces are fully supporting us,” said a lady pilgrim from Lucknow.
She said there was no fear among the pilgrims. The Amarnath Cave, deep in the Himalayas, is located at a height of 3,888 metres and is considered as one of the holiest shrines of Lord Shiva. The Amarnath cave can only be reached on foot or by pony.
Officials said an unprecedented multi-layer security cover has been put in place to ensure a peaceful Yatra. The J&K government has deployed Police, Army, and Central Armed Police Forces to secure the Yatra route. Apart from security men on ground, technology has been used extensively for the peaceful Yatra. “We have placed drones for aerial surveillance and also tagged the pilgrims with RFID (radio frequency identification) to keep track of them,” a security official said.