Baltal: Baltal area of Sonamarg in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, which remains the base camp for the annual Amarnath yatra, is abuzz with the different activities these days as the pilgrimage is about to commence in the next three days.
Like every year, hundreds of service providers, most of them locals, who are the main facilitators, have reached the base camp Baltal, Dumail and cave route. They are busy setting up their establishments, mostly makeshift tents and shops during the last few days.
Besides them, the labourers, Ponywallas, Palkiwalas have also reached Baltal and are waiting for the yatra to start.
Amid tight security arrangements put in place, the annual Amarnath yatra will commence on June 30 from both sides of Pahalgam in South Kashmir and Baltal in central Kashmir's Ganderbal district.
Baltal route in central Kashmir's Ganderbal district is the shortest route. While pilgrims take a few days from the Pahalgam base camp to reach the cave shrine, those using the Baltal route return to the base camp after the 'Darshan', the same day.
Hundreds of tent owners and shopkeepers have set up their establishments and have been eagerly waiting to receive Amarnath pilgrims. Several Ponywallas and labourers have also reached Baltal and can be seen preparing and equipping their horses for the yatra.
Pertinently, except some langars run by non locals, the Kashmir Muslims are the only service providers that facilitate the Amarnath yatra well.
Every year, lakhs of Hindu pilgrims visit the Amarnath cave shrine in Kashmir for the annual pilgrimage. The pilgrims coming for the yatra have to trek along treacherous mountains to reach the cave shrine located at an altitude of 12700 feet.
Meanwhile just three days left for the official commencement of the annual Amarnath Yatra, thousands of Ponywallas have started equipping their horses by attaching horseshoes to their hooves.
The nailing of metallic horseshoes to hooves of the horses is in great demand at Sonamarg and Baltal as ponywallas are gearing up themselves as well as their horses for long treks to carry yatris to Amarnath cave during more than a month-long annual pilgrimage.
More than a dozen farriers (blacksmiths) are busy nailing the hooves of horses who carry thousands of the pilgrims to the cave.
“Amarnath Yatra is commencing in the next few days. We will be busy for more than a month taking Amarnath yatris to cave on horses. The horses have to trek the difficult path so we have to replace their metallic shoes with new ones,” said ponywala Javeed Ahmad in Sonamarg.
Meanwhile, the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) and the UT administration have put in place elaborate security and other arrangements for smooth and peaceful conduct of annual yatra.
Official sources said that the Lieutenant Governor Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha is personally monitoring the yatra and its arrangements.