JAMMU: More than 4.28 lakh pilgrims have undertaken the Amarnath Yatra so far this year, surpassing the last year’s total with nearly three weeks still to go before the pilgrimage ends, an official said on Friday.
The 62-day pilgrimage to the cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas commenced on July 1 through twin tracks – the traditional 48-km Nunwan-Pahalgam route in Anantnag and the shorter 14-km Baltal route in Ganderbal district. It is scheduled to conclude on August 31, coinciding with Raksha Bandhan festival.
‘As many as 4,28,318 pilgrims paid their obeisance at the 3,880-metre cave shrine till Thursday evening. The footfall this year has already surpassed the last year’s total of 3,04,493,’ the official said.
He said while the naturally formed ice Shivlingam at the cave melted on July 23, the devotees continued to visit the shrine even though the daily numbers have come down of late.
Amid elaborate security arrangements by police, central armed police forces and the administration, the yatra has been going on smoothly.
A total of 44 pilgrims have lost their lives due to health-related reasons during the yatra so far this year, he said, adding that last year 71 pilgrims had died.
The official said hi-tech equipment including drones and advanced technical instruments were deployed while quick response teams, avalanche rescue teams, medical teams and NDRF teams have ensured safe passage of devotees in the difficult mountainous terrain.
The yatra also witnessed foreign pilgrims from the US, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea visiting the shrine, the official said, adding several distinguished personalities from various walks of life including spiritual guru Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Swami, badminton player Saina Nehwal and Bollywood actor Sara Ali Khan also visited the holy cave.
The commemoration of Kargil Diwas, marking the victory of Indian troops in the 1999 war with Pakistan, was held at all yatra base camps on July 26, the official said.
He said the weather has also been favourable by and large.
The radio frequency identification (RFID) management has been robust this year despite the huge rush of pilgrims, the official said.
Meanwhile, no fresh batch of pilgrims left for Kashmir from the Bhagwati Nagar base camp in Jammu Friday morning.
Although no reason was given by the authorities for the suspension of the yatra from the Jammu base camp for the day, sources said the yatra from Jammu is likely to run on alternate days due to the decline in the number of pilgrims reaching the city.