The first batch of over 2,200 pilgrims for annual Amarnath Yatra left for the Kashmir Valley amid high security, today. Over 1.5 lakh pilgrims from across the country have so far registered themselves for the Yatra, which takes place from the traditional 36 km Pahalgam track in Anantnag district and 14 km Baltal route in Ganderbal district.
According to police sources, the first batch of pilgrims include 1,051 bound for the north Kashmir Baltal base camp and 1,183 to the Pahalgam base camp. The pilgrims comprised 1,839 males, 333 females, 45 sadhus and 17 children.
The pilgrims left in security escorted convoys. No opposite movement of traffic will be allowed on the Jammu-Srinagar highway till 3 pm today (Sunday) in order to ensure that the pilgrims cross the Jawahar Tunnel without any delay.
During his first visit to Kashmir last year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah reviewed the security situation in the valley to a smooth, violence-free Amarnath Yatra this year.
The 45-day long Hindu pilgrimage would formally commence from Monday and end on August 15 coinciding with the Shravan Purnima festival. Hundreds of devotees, including sadhus (saints), arrived in Jammu to pay obeisance to the naturally formed ice-shivlingam.
The annual Amarnath Yatra is undertaken by pilgrims from all over the country to reach the Himalayan cave shrine, devoted to Lord Shiva, at an altitude of 13,500 feet.