JAMMU: A batch of 835 Amarnath pilgrims, the smallest so far this year, left the Bhagwati Nagar base camp here on Friday for the twin base camps in Kashmir, officials said. The officials attributed the recent fall in the number of pilgrims mostly to bad weather conditions. The pilgrims left the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in a convoy of 35 vehicles amid heavy security of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the morning, they said. The officials said 306 pilgrims heading for Baltal were the first to leave the Jammu camp in 16 vehicles, followed by the second convoy of 19 vehicles carrying 529 pilgrims for Pahalgam. The number of pilgrims visiting the cave shrine has fallen drastically in the last three days mostly due to bad weather conditions, they said. While 3,862 pilgrims left for the cave shrine from Jammu on Monday, 2,189, 1,147 and 1,602 devotees left for Amarnath from here on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Till Thursday, a total of over 2.70 lakh pilgrims had offered their prayers at the cave shrine, housing the naturally formed ice-shivlingam, the officials said. With this, a total of 141,358 pilgrims have left from the Bhagwati Nagar base camp for the Valley since June 29, the day the first batch of pilgrims was flagged off by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha.
The yatra is scheduled to end on August 11, coinciding with Raksha Bandhan. A total of 36 people, mostly pilgrims, have died during the ongoing Amarnath Yatra. Additionally, 15 pilgrims died in the flash floods at the Amarnath cave shrine on July 1.