With the beginning of the Amarnath yatra, one of the two base camps of the Amarnath yatra, Baltal – in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir – wore a festive look on Monday.
The base camp at Baltal on the banks of River Sindh remains operational round the clock during the yatra period every year. Pilgrims in thousands board their buses and travel on the 300-km-long Srinagar-Jammu national highway to Baltal and Pahalgam base camps.
Once you reach Baltal base camp after going through a couple of checking points you come across the festive fervour. Well lit and decorated ‘langars’ with loudspeakers blaring bhajans greet the visitors.
At base camp here is a full fledged market run by local Muslims selling ‘puja samagri and other stuff.
The enthusiasm of the pilgrims can be seen during the arrival and stay at base camps with the whole area reverberating with the chants of ‘Bam Bam Bhole.’
The pilgrims are seen freely moving around the base camp busy clicking pictures buying different kinds of things available in the market. The langars (community kitchens) set up for the yatris see a huge rush.
Talking to Greater Kashmir many pilgrims said that they are very enthusiastic about the yatra and have no apprehensions in their mind.
“There is no fear in our mind, the arrangements by the government and the administration here are satisfying, the locals are supporting us,” said Kamal Mishra, a pilgrim from Ahmedabad.
“With every passing year, the facilities and arrangements for the pilgrims have been improving. The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board and administration has made the pilgrimage more comfortable and smooth,” a group of yatris said.
The common sight at Baltal is of the Kashmiri Muslims who are the major local service providers to Amarnath pilgrims during the annual yatra.
The local service providers mostly consist of those people who have installed their kiosks and tents for yatris and are seen eagerly waiting to receive them.
“We are very excited about the yatra. I am coming for the second time but my each visit to the shrine makes me more excited,” said Suresh Sharma, a pilgrim from Delhi.
Once you leave the base camp for the cave shrine, the shorter route is just about 14 kms long, but has a very steep gradient and is quite difficult to climb. It starts from Baltal and passes through Domial, Barari, and Sangam to reach the cave.
Some pilgrims reach the cave shrine by foot or by chopper with majority of the pilgrims preferring ponies.
Local Muslims are seen carrying pilgrims either on ponies or in palanquins on their shoulders.
The Amarnath Shrine Board, civil and police administration have made all the arrangements for the annual yatra. Besides heightened security arrangements have been made to ensure a peaceful yatra.