First batch of Amarnath Yatra with over 4 600 pilgrims arrive in Kashmir

SRINAGAR/JAMMU — The first batch of pilgrims for the annual Amarnath Yatra reached the Kashmir valley on Friday amid stringent security arrangements, officials said.

After their arrival in Srinagar, senior officials in police and civil administration, and local people welcomed the 4,603 pilgrims at the Navyug tunnel in Qazigund area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, they added.

The 52-day pilgrimage will begin from the twin tracks — the traditional 48-km Nunwan-Pahalgam route in Anantnag and the 14-km Baltal route in Ganderbal — on Saturday and conclude on August 19.

Amid chants of “Bum Bum Bhole” and “Har Har Mahadev”, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha flagged off the first batch from the Yatri Niwas base camp at Bhagwati Nagar in Jammu early Friday morning.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha wished the pilgrims a safe journey.

“May the blessings of Baba Amarnath ji bring peace, happiness and prosperity to everyone’s life,” he said.

They reached Srinagar in a cavalcade of 231 light and heavy vehicles, the officials said.

Kulgam Deputy Commissioner (DC) Athar Aamir Khan told reporters that upon their arrival, the pilgrims who would travel via both the axis, Baltal as well as Pahalgam, were welcomed by the administration, members of civil society, trade fraternity, fruit growers, and market associations.

“We welcome all of them. There are proper arrangements in place for them,” Khan said.

The officials said the pilgrim convoys left separately for the base camps in Baltal and Pahalgam from where they will leave for the 3,880-metre-high holy cave shrine early on Saturday.

Comprehensive arrangements, including three-tier security, area dominations, elaborate route deployment and checkpoints, have been made to ensure a smooth yatra, a senior official told PTI.

“Traffic restrictions will be imposed on various routes from June 28 to August 19, with daily advisories issued to minimise inconvenience,” the official said.

According to reports, more than 3.50 lakh people have registered for this year’s yatra. As many as 125 community kitchens (langars) have been set up along the two routes to the cave shrine and are supported by over 6,000 volunteers. — (PTI)