Baltal, Aug 12: Locals and service providers have expressed satisfaction and happiness as the 44-day long Amarnath Yatra concluded peacefully on Friday.
The service providers including tent owners, shopkeepers and others have closed their business establishment and are leaving the Baltal base camp..
Mostly local Muslims are the major service providers in Baltal and Pahalgam. The Pony wallas, tent owners, shopkeepers, labourers and others mostly local Muslims offer services to Amarnath pilgrims during yatra .
" We have always welcomed the Amarnath pilgrims who are our guests. The yatra is not only just business or earning livelihood for us," the locals said.
Risking their lives and braving the difficult trek , rains, hot and humid weather conditions, mud, and what not all along the route upto holy cave the local services providers manage to provide a safe and comfortable pilgrimage to the Amarnath pilgrims.
Over three lakh pilgrims paid obeisance at the cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas this year.
The 44-day annual pilgrimage to the 3,880-metre-high cave shrine commenced on June 30 from the twin routes — the traditional 48-km Nunwan-Pahalgam route in Anantnag and the 14-km shorter Baltal route in Ganderbal which concluded on August 12 on the occasion of ”Shravan Purnima” coinciding with ”Raksha Bandhan”. Lieutenant Governor Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha on Friday morning performed the 'Samapan Pooja' which marks the end of annual Amarnath Yatra, and prayed for peace, progress and prosperity of the people. “I truly admire and appreciate the selfless contribution of all stakeholders and citizens for making this difficult Yatra hassle-free for the pilgrims”, said the Lt Governor. Barring inclement weather killing atleast 15 pilgrims in flash-floods triggered by a cloudburst on July 8, the annual Amarnath Yatra passed off peacefully, though only over three lakh visited the Holy Cave against the expected six to eight lakh pilgrims this year.
On August 2, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had appealed to the pilgrims to visit the cave shrine before August 5 in view of a forecast of inclement weather and more rains after that. On July 8, a cloudburst struck near the cave shrine causing flash floods at tented accommodation of pilgrims killing 15 yatris and injuring 55 others besides washing away a major portion of the track.
It was a hectic time for the security forces and other agencies that launched a massive rescue operation and built alternative routes working day and night for several days to make the yatra resume smoothly. The authorities had to suspend the yatra for three days from the shortest route Baltal and for four days from the traditional Pahalgam route after the cloudburst. Following the incident, the authorities took all precautionary measures and yatris were not allowed to move whenever the erratic weather struck. There was little respite from rain for many days.
An official said that the 44-day-long annual Amarnath Yatra ended on Friday with the arrival of the 'Chari Mubarak' (Lord Shiva's Mace) at the cave shrine where final prayers were performed.
'Chhari Mubarak', being carried by a group of Sadhus led by its custodian Mahant Dipendra Giri, arrived at the 3,880 metre holy cave in the wee hours after tracking a distance of six kilometers from Sheshnag halting station, marking the conclusion of the yatra, officials said. Special prayers were held at the cave shrine, which houses the naturally formed ice-shivlingam, after the arrival of the 'Chhari Mubarak', the holy mace of Lord Shiva, they said.
Elaborated arrangements were made by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and district administration Anantnag and Ganderbal for a smooth and peaceful annual Amarnath pilgrimage.
The civil and police administration worked day night to ensure a hassle free and incident free yatra.
Security personnel drawn from the Army, the CRPF, the ITBP, the SSB and Jammu and Kashmir Police were deployed this year. Adequate security arrangements had been put in place to ensure smooth conduct of Amarnath Yatra.
Though the CRPF shoulders the responsibility of regulating the pilgrimage, contingents of the army, Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Sashastra Seema Bal besides Jammu and Kashmir Police, state and national disaster response forces were also deployed for the yatra.
Notably, during the annual Amarnath pilgrimage, the holy cave is approached by pilgrims either through the 46-km-long traditional Pahalagam-Chandanwari-Sheshnag-Panchtarni trek or through the 14-km-long Baltal-Dumail trek.
Meanwhile, the officials said that Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has already initiated the sanitation and cleaning work in close collaboration with the Sonamarg Development Authority and Pahalgam development authority in their respective areas of yatra jurisdiction.