Srinagar, June 23 (Calcutta Tube) Preparations for the two-month-long annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir starting July 1 are in full swing.
Dozens of ‘langars’ (voluntary kitchens) have reached the north Kashmir Baltal base camp in Ganderbal district.
The 14-km trek from Baltal to the holy cave, which is snowbound, is being cleared. The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board officials expect the route to be ready for the pilgrims by next week.
Security arrangements have been made for thousands of pilgrims who have registered themselves at different branches of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank in the country.
‘A three-tier ring manned by the local police, the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) and the army would provide security to the yatra,’ a senior police officer said here.
At the Manigam transit camp in Ganderbal district, arrangement for free food, parking and night halt for the pilgrims have been made.
According to officials, no pilgrim without prior registration would be allowed to proceed towards the cave shrine either from the north Kashmir Baltal base camp or from the south Kashmir Nunwan (Pahalgam) base camp.
Scores of beautifully decorated makeshift tea stalls and roadside eateries have come up along the 85-km Srinagar-Baltal road. The stall owners are expecting a good business this year.
‘I have set up the dhaba near the Wayil Bridge in Ganderbal. I am confident of generating sufficient income,’ said Meraj-ud-Din, owner of a Punjabi dhaba en route to the Baltal base camp.
This year a record number of pilgrims are expected to take part in the yatra.
The Amarnath cave has a natural stalagmite formation believed to be the icon of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity.
While the traditional south Kashmir route from Pahalgam tourist resort to the cave shrine involves a four-day long trek one way, the pilgrims using the north Kashmir Baltal route return to the base camp after praying at the shrine in just one day.
Helicopter services have been made available for the affluent pilgrims from both Baltal and Pahalgam base camps.