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First batch of pilgrims leave for Amarnath

IANS
Jun 16, 2009 at 01:28pm IST

Srinagar: The first batch of pilgrims left the Baltal base camp on Tuesday for the holy Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir. More than 10,000 pilgrims, who had reached the Baltal base camp in north Kashmir Ganderbal district on Monday, started their 14-km mountain trek towards the holy cave Tuesday morning.

Heavy rains had lashed the yatra route and the rest of the Valley on Monday.

"Showers are expected at many places during the day and there has been a drop in the temperature as well. Though the minimum and maximum temperatures would range between 15 and 23 degrees Celsius in the Valley, these would definitely be much lower along the yatra route," said an official of the local weather office here.

IN GOD'S NAME: Devotees have battled rough weather and other difficulties to complete pilgrimage.

The pilgrims will offer their first prayers inside the cave on Tuesday where an ice stalagmite is formed and is seen as an icon of Lord Shiva by the devotees.

The Shivalingam is the main attraction for thousands of devotees who throng the cave shrine each year. Amid shouts of Bam Bam Bhole and Har Har Mahadev, the traditional cry hailing Hindu god Shiva, the first batch of pilgrims from various parts of the country, especially Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana left Jammu early on Monday for this year's annual pilgrimage to Amarnath.

For the time being the yatra is being allowed only from the north Kashmir route while snow on the traditional south Kashmir route of Pahalgam is being cleared to make both the routes functional for the pilgrims.

Many Amarnath pilgrims stranded in Jammu

Meanwhile, on Monday June 15, 2009 in Jammu, pilgrims have been battling impediments and dilemmas.

Lakhan Kishore, a pilgrim from Uttar Pradesh, is already here with his family for the Amarnath pilgrimage in the Kashmir Himalayas.

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But Kishore, who was among the first to register for the journey, is not sure of the dates he would be allowed to proceed towards the shrine and may have to stay on in Jammu for a day or two at least.

The pilgrimage to the cave shrine located at an altitude of 13,500 feet in the Kashmir Valley began on Monday but many pilgrims were stranded in Jammu as they were not allowed to move on.

Belated snowfall and delay in opening the traditional route from Pahalgam have held up the pilgrims in Jammu.

The delay in the pilgrimage, which was to start earlier on June 7, caused confusion for many pilgrims who had registered themselves according to the initial schedule.

Kishore was registered to set out on the trek on June 14 from the Baltal route, a shorter but steep track to the shrine.

After he learned that the pilgrimage would start on June 15, he assumed that his pilgrimage day would be a day later than original June 14.

"Now I am being told that I would have to get my registration revalidated and that too if there is quota available on a particular day," said an angry Kishore.

"I did not delay the pilgrimage. They (the shrine board) did it," he said.

"They should have adopted normal procedure, on first come first serve basis," he said as many other stranded pilgrims, caught in the similar situation, also complained.

Many of the pilgrims have come with their families. Assistant tourist officer Anil Koul said the government and the temple board have cleared the registration of stranded pilgrims for the Baltal.

But he said the pilgrims who want to travel through the traditional route involving a 46-km trek from the tourist resort of Pahalgam may have to wait for some more time as heavy snowfall has already delayed the start of the pilgrimage on this route.

"We are not sure of the Pahalgam route," Koul said.

A decision on opening the Pahalgam route is likely to be taken on June 22.

"I have been undertaking pilgrimage from the (Pahalgam) route for the past five years," said Abhay Kumar, a lawyer from Agra. In a fix, Kumar said he cannot wait till June 22 and going back home without undertaking the pilgrimage was a bad omen.

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