Over 8,000 pilgrims begin Amarnath Yatra

Srinagar, July 2 (IANS) The annual Amarnath Yatra started on Thursday as over 8,000 pilgrims left from two base camps in Kashmir for the Himalayan cave shrine.

As many as 6,065 pilgrims left the Baltal base camp in Ganderbal district on Thursday morning, while another 2,330 left from the Nunwan base camp near Pahalgam to begin their trek towards the holy cave, a senior police officer told IANS here.

The two-month long Amarnath Yatra will conclude on August 29 coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan festivals.

Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra who is also the chairman of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) will pay obeisance at the holy shrine on Thursday. He will participate in the traditional ‘puja’ that marks the beginning of the yatra.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is also scheduled to offer prayers and have ‘Darshan’ of the ‘Lingam’ inside the cave on Thursday.

The Himalayan cave shrine situated 14,500 feet above the sea level houses an ice stalagmite structure that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon.

Hindus believe the stalagmite structure called the ‘Lingam’ symbolizes mythical powers of Lord Shiva.

Police, paramilitary forces and the army have been deployed to provide security to the pilgrims.

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