Srinagar: The 62-day annual Amarnath Yatra culminated on Thursday as ‘Chhari Mubarak’, carried by a group of sadhus and devotees led by its custodian Mahant Deepindra Giri, arrived at Amarnath cave shrine in the early hours of Thursday for day-long prayers.
Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, who supervised the security arrangements for the yatra in Kashmir division said that the yatra was incident free and peaceful.
“All the stakeholders played an outstanding role during the yatra,” he said. “J&K Police and all security agencies exhibited excellent synergy during the yatra. Besides security forces, people extended their full cooperation during the entire yatra.”
The ADGP Kashmir credited people and all stakeholders for the peaceful yatra.
The Amarnath Yatra holds immense significance as a pilgrimage for Hindi devotees who wish to undertake it at least once in their lifetime.
Annually, thousands of devotees participate in the Amarnath Yatra, which takes place between the months of June and August.
The yatra is organised by the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB).
This year, the 62-day long yatra commenced on July 1, 2023, and culminated on Thursday.
The yatra commenced simultaneously for both routes — the Pahalgam track in the Anantnag district and Baltal in the Ganderbal district.
The yatra is undertaken to visit Amarnath cave shrine, which is one of the most revered sites among the Hindus.
Located at a height of 13,000 feet, it is considered to be one of the holiest shrines of Lord Shiva.
Officials here said that about 4.5 lakh yatris offered prayers at the Amarnath cave shrine in the south Kashmir Himalayas this year.
“A total number of 4,45,338 devotees paid obeisance to the naturally formed ice Shivling during the yatra,” officials said. “A total of 48 people, including yatris and service providers, died during the course of the yatra this year and 62 suffered injuries.”
They said that the number of yatris who undertook the yatra this year was higher than last year's 3.65 lakh.
Officials said almost all deaths were due to weather-related incidents or natural causes.
Early Thursday morning, the 'Chhari Mubarak' carried by a group of sadhus and devotees led by its custodian Mahant Deepindra Giri arrived at the Amarnath cave shrine for day-long prayers.
The group of sadhus and devotees trekked 42 km from Pahalgam to reach the Amarnath cave shrine with night halts at Chandanwari, Sheshnag, and Panchtarani.
The security forces in large numbers including BSF, CRPF, ITBP, and SSB were deployed for the smooth conduct of the yatra.
The deployment was in addition to the existing Indian Army, CRPF, BSF, and J&K Police already present in Kashmir.
“The additional forces are withdrawing gradually,” officials said. “They are going to places where from they were sent for the yatra duty.”
IRFAN RAINA adds from Baltal
Several foreign nationals including two US citizens were among the yatris who undertook the yatra this year.
Distinguished personalities from various walks of life including renowned badminton player Saina Nehwal, and Bollywood actress Sara Ali Khan also undertook the yatra this year.
The Government had appointed two IAS officers as Nodal Officers for smooth conduct of the yatra and for better coordination.
Secretary Planning, Development and Monitoring Department, Raghav Langar was posted as Nodal Officer for Baltal axis while Administrative Secretary Revenue Department Piyush Singla was posted as Nodal Officer for Pahalgam axis.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha was personally monitoring the yatra and under the supervision of Chief Executive Officer SASB, Deputy Commissioners (DCs) of Ganderbal and Anantnag were on a regular basis updating the LG.
Meanwhile, the officials said that SASB would start sanitation and cleaning work in close collaboration with the Sonamarg Development Authority (SDA) and Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) in their respective areas of the yatra jurisdiction.