The number of pilgrims who offered prayers at the cave-shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir hills this year has surpassed the number of devotees who had undertaken the annual pilgrimage in 2016, even as there are two more weeks before the yatra concludes. According to a senior official, 2,40,249 pilgrims had ‘darshan’ at the cave shrine till last evening. “As per the figures for the year 2016, 2,20,490 devotees had offered prayers. So far, 19,759 more pilgrims have paid obeisance at Amarnath as compared to 2016,” the official said. However, the number of pilgrims this year is still less than the figure for 2015, when 3,52,771 pilgrims had visited the cave shrine, he said.
Meanwhile, the 25th batch of 673 pilgrims today left Jammu for the 3,888-metre-high Amarnath cave shrine of Lord Shiva. This is the lowest number of pilgrims in a single batch so far this year, according to officials. Escorted by the CRPF and police, the batch consisting of 477 males, 146 females plus 50 sadhus and sadhvis left in a convoy of 24 vehicles the for Baltal and Pahalgam base-camps this morning, officials said. With today’s batch, a total of 66,156 pilgrims have left Jammu for Amarnath this year. The yatra began from Jammu on June 28. The government has mobilised a heavy security blanket of over 35,000 to 40,000 troops including the police, the Army, the BSF and the CRPF, for the yatra.
On July 10, a bus carrying pilgrims in the Anantnag district was attacked by terrorists. Eight devotees died and 32 were injured in the attack. This year, the yatra will conclude on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) on August 7. Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath shrine is 46 km from Pahalgam and 14 km from Baltal.