Chants of ‘Bham bham bhole’ started reverberating across Jammu with the start of annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Amarnath from Thursday.
The first batch of 3157 spirited pilgrims consisting of 563 women and 37 children was flagged off by the Tourism Minister G A Mir amidst tight security bandobast from the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri base camp around 5.45 a.m. Majority of pilgrims said the recent flash floods in Uttarakhand and security threat do not figure on their mind as they are determined to perfrom darshan of the holy stalagmite inside the holy cave shrine located at a height of 13500 ft in South Kashmir.
Since wee hours the mood in the camp was upbeat as the pilgrims danced to the drum beats of ‘bole bhum’, shouted chants and clapped hard as one by one the caravan of buses, LMV and other passenger vehicles were flagged off by the Tourism Minister.
The quick reaction team along with sharp shooters led the convoy of pilgrims to ensure their safety. The national highway and the yatra track were already sanitised by the joint patrolling party and road opening parties of the CRPF and the army.
Senior officials of the police and district administration, hoteliers and others including IG Jammu range Rajesh Kumar, Divisional Commissioner Jammu Pradeep Gupta, DC Ajeet Sahu, DIG Mohd Shakeel Baig were also present on the occasion and cheered pilgrims during the flag off ceremony.
Religious gurus present on the occasion offered special prayers before the flag off ceremony at the exit gate of the yatri niwas.
Pandits blew counch shells to kick start the annual pilgrimage amid chanting of sholokas and religious slogans.Interacting with the media person Tourism Minister GA Mir expressed hope of peaceful conduct of the annual pilgrimage and appreciated the overall arrangements made by the state administration and the Shri Amarnath yatra shrine board keeping in mind the requirements of pilgrims.
Welcoming pilgrims on the occasion Mir said as compared to previous year he is expecting the overall yatra figure to cross the previous records. He said already 3 pilgrims have registered themselves while fresh registration counters have been set up to facilitate spot registration.
Senior police officers present on the occasion also expressed hope that elaborate security arrangements are in place and welcomed more and more pilgrims in the state.The first batch of pilgrims is expected to perform prayers inside the cave shrine on Friday as per rituals. the yatra would end on the occasion of Raksha bandhan after the traditional chadi pujan on August 21. As per the standard operating procedure (SOP) only 15,000 yatris will be allowed to move towards the Amarnath cave shrine every day – 7,500 from Pahalgam and an equal number from Baltal. According to SASB CEO Navin Choudhary a total number of 12717 pilgrims have secured registration to perform yatra from two different routes of Baltal and Pahalgam.