The 20th batch comprising 4158 Amarnath pilgrims including 1137 women and 260 sadhus on Sunday left Bhagwati Nagar base camp to pay obeisance at the 3,880-metre-high cave shrine of Amarnath in South Kashmir Himalayas. The yatra is going on smoothly from both the tracks—traditional 36-km Pahalgam and shorter 14-km Baltal route. The yatra resumed from Baltal route on Saturday morning after the upward movement was suspended Friday due to rain and slippery track conditions. The pilgrimage is scheduled to end on August 15, coinciding Raksha Bandhan festival.
As many as 2,59,889 Yatris have visited the cave shrine till now.
Stringent security arrangements have been made for smooth conduct of the annual pilgrimage. "A robust security cover has been put in place for the yatra which includes satellite and chip-based tracking of vehicles and pilgrims. The deployment of forces is in various layers to ensure smooth conduct of the pilgrimage," officials said.
As many as 2,85,006 lakh pilgrims had paid obeisance at the shrine last year, while the number of pilgrims was 2,60,003 in 2017, 3,20,490 in 2016 and 3,52,771 in 2015.
Devotees start the Amarnath Yatra from Srinagar or Pahalgam on foot and take one of the two possible routes. The 14 km long Northern route, which starts from Baltal, is shorter, but difficult to climb due to an almost vertical slope. It passes through the routes of Baltal, Domial, Barari and Sangam and allows people to take a round trip in 1-2 days. However, this route is considered ideal for returning back from the shrine as the steep slope can cause serious health problems among unexperienced vsitors while they are on their way up. Generally, young, healthy and experienced trekers take this trek for a fun-filled and adventerous trip.
The longer route for the Amarnath Yatra passes through Pahalgam and is preferred by most of the devotees. The length of the trek varies from 36 to 48 km and takes 3-5 days to reach the shrine. This route is much wider than the Baltal trek and slopes gradually. However, one will find it crowded with aged, sick and people suffering from some illness taking this route for Amarnath Yatra. Ponies are also allowed in this route unlike the Baltal route.