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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

Last updated on: July 7, 2009 

On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
With over 180,000 pilgrims visiting the holy cave shrine so far, the two-month long annual Amarnath Yatra is on in full swing. Rediff.com gives you a glimpse of the revered shrine.

Image: The ice lingam inside the cave shrine
Photographs: Umar Ganie
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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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Since the pilgrimage officially began on June 15, over 5000 to 7000 yatris have visited the Himalayan cave shrine, which houses the ice stalagmite.

Image: A sanyasi at the Baltal base camp

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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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Earlier, the yatra used to start from the Baltal route in north Kashmir. However, on June 25, the historic Pahalgam route in south Kashmir was also opened for worshippers.

The south Kashmir route couldn't be opened earlier due to heavy snow all along the trek.

Image: Many youngsters make annual trips to the cave shrine

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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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While the Baltal route is a treacherous 14 km trek through which pilgrims return to the base camp at Baltal, the south Kashmir route is 34 km long with night stopovers at Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarni.

Image: Devotees trek their way through the winding mountain

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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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Local porters carry the infirm and weak pilgrims on their backs to the cave and also use ponies to help the passage of the pilgrims.

Image: Porters carry an old woman to the cave shrine

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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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The sure-footed local porters are a great help to the pilgrims and without their active participation, the uphill track would present a formidable challenge to the pilgrims who are neither good mountain trekkers nor acclimatised to the cold Himalayan conditions.

Image: A woman makes her journey to top riding a pony

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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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Adequate security arrangements are in place at the base camps and along the north and south Kashmir routes for the pilgrims' safety.

Scores of langars (community dining halls) have been set up on both the routes, which provide food to thousands of pilgrims daily.

Image: Porters carry an old woman to the shrine even as thousands follow behind

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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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Elaborate arrangements for regulated passage of the yatris, timely weather forecast and police and paramilitary assistance have been made available both at Baltal and Pahlagam base camps.

Image: A rescue helicopter makes a sortie

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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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Buta Malik -- a Muslim shepherd from Batakote village in south Kashmir's Anantnag district, discovered the cave shrine, which attracts thousands of pilgrims from all across the country every year.

His descendants used to share the offerings by the pilgrims at the cave till the formation of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, which is headed by the state governor as its ex-officio chairman.

Image: People waiting at the base camp for to embark on the pilgrimage

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On a pilgrimage to the cave shrine

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The annual yatra often presents scenes of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood as the locals living along the yatra route provide pilgrims all possible assistance.

Image: A scenic view of the Himalayas along the Yatra route

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