New Delhi: The naturally formed ice Shiva lingam at the holy cave shrine of Amarnath has completely melted, that too on the very first day the Amarnath yatra finally began.
The melting was confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Shrine Board, Arun Kumar. The lingam has apparently melted down owing to the rise in temperature. Two other ice lingams, representing Ganesh and Parvati, have reportedly not melted, though their size has reduced.
Mahant Giri the head priest at the shrine said that too many visitors and human activities coupled with global warming have resulted in early melting of the Shivlinga. "The yatra was scheduled to start from June 30 onwards, but over 50,000 visitors swarmed the holy cave well before the scheduled date.”
“The choppers are doing around 300 sorties. People when they come here, burn campfires, cook food. All these factors combined with global warming are responsible for early melting of Shivling,” he added.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Lieutenant General (retd) SK Sinha, who is also the chairman of the SASB, told the media that the ice Lingam had grown to 14 feet when he visited the Cave early last month.
However, a police officer said: "It was one foot high when I visited the cave shrine a week back."
Last year's pilgrimage season was marred by a controversy that the Lingam had not formed naturally.
There has been a debate whether or not the decision to extend the annual pilgrimage season to two months from the traditional fortnight is wise.
Meanwhile, the yatra that could not commence Saturday due to heavy rains and flash floods officially took off Sunday.
"As the weather showed marked improvement, we have allowed pilgrims to move towards the holy cave on both the north and south Kashmir routes," a police officer said.
The officer added that around 6,500 pilgrims would move towards the cave from the north Kashmir Baltal base camp and around 2,000 devotees would trek from the south Kashmir Nunwan (Pahalgam) base camp.
The SASB, which conducts the annual pilgrimage, has decided not to allow any pilgrim movement Sunday from the winter capital Jammu to avoid the rush at the base camps. Nearly 4,000 pilgrims have been camping at Jammu since Saturday.