Over 1,000 pilgrims of the first batch of the 2015 annual Amarnath Yatra, left Jammu, for the high-altitude cave shrine in the Kashmir Valley. The holy shrine, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is considered to be one of the most sacred sites for Hindus all over the country. State Health Minister Chowdhary Lal Singh, flagged off a convoy of 34 vehicles carrying 1,280 pilgrims from Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in Jammu, towards the valley.
This year’s yatra, to the 14,500-feet-high Himalayan ice stalagmite in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, is spread over 59 days. It will begin on July 2. Pilgrims use the south Kashmir Pahalgam and the north Kashmir Baltal routes to reach the cave shrine.
Two base camps – one at Baltal and the other at Nunwan (Pahalgam) – have been set up, for the pilgrims to begin an uphill mountain trek to reach the destination.
The shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. Devotees believe the structure, called ‘Lingam’, symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva.
A three-tier security drawn from the army, the central paramilitary forces and the state police, have been deployed to guard the yatra, which has, often in the past, come under terror attacks .