From Khajuria S Kant in Jammu
Despite intermittent rains and icy cold winds, over 3.75 lakh pilgrims have paid obeisance in first 16 days since the pilgrimage to the 3,880-mt high holy cave shrine began from the twin tracks of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district on June 25. A record number of 43,401 pilgrims performed darshan in holy cave of Swami Amarnath on July 9.
This is the highest number of pilgrims visiting the holy cave during a single day in first 16 days of pilgrimage, which will culminate on Sawan Purnima coinciding with Raksha Bandhan on August 2.
While the Amarnath yatra is going on in full swing, with hordes of pilgrims thronging the 3,880-m high cave shrine in south Kashmir from the Baltal and Chandanwari routes, the death toll of Amarnath pilgrims has gone up to 67 since the pilgrimage commenced 16 days back. Sources said that most of the deaths have taken place due to cardiac arrests.
Despite the fact the SASB had, for the first time, made it mandatory for the pilgrims to submit a medical certificate before undertaking the yatra, the toll during the first 16 days has risen to 67 against a total of about 120 pilgrims who lost their lives during the pilgrimage last year.
Sri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) has regularly been issuing appeals to yatris to follow health advisories issued by the board. The SASB has made it mandatory for pilgrims to produce a health certificate before embarking on the yatra, while medical camps have also been set up on both routes.
VHP and other Hindu bodies have expressed grief and anguish over the death of about 67 pilgrims visiting Shri Amarnath Shrine during the first fortnight of this annual pilgrimage. This speaks volumes about the inadequate arrangements made for the safety and welfare of the devotees.
As the Amarnath pilgrimage is of national importance in the State, so in this situation it was the major duty of the State authorities and also that of the Shrine Board to look after the well being of the pilgrims. But the manner in which the deaths are taking place is a matter of serious concern and all this indicates that there are many flaws in performing the duties by the State to ensure safety and proper medical aid to the devotees who come here for a pilgrimage and die with nobody taking the responsibility.
The Amarnath Yatra is performed through the Baltal route in Ganderbal district and the Chandanwari route in Anantnag district. While the steeper Baltal route is preferred by those who wish to return to the base camp in a day, the other route, which is longer, is preferred by the elderly and hardcore devotees, who believe that Lord Shiva took the same route to the holy cave.
The feeling of divine which is always beneath ones’ heart, burst out and one realises ‘Moksha’ as one visits the Cave and perform the prayer before the Shivling. Surrounded by beautiful valleys, mountains, one will always feel his presence on the paradise of the earth, the memory of which hardly vanishes with time. A journey which will rediscover the nature and its love which is always inside but one has never felt. The temple exists for last 5,000 years and is worshiped every year by lakhs of devotees across from India and also by devotees belonging to other countries and religions. Cave is located at a height of 14,000 feet. Pilgrims visit this temple on foot or take the journey on horseback via Pahalgam and Baltal track; however traditional route is via Pahalgam. The traditional route to holy Amarnath cave is the southern route from Chandanwari to the Holy cave via Sheshnag, is a grueling trek of 34 kms. As the whole valley receives snow in winter the route remains closed for almost 9 months. Before the commencement of annual Amarnath Yatra, Army opens the route to deploy its troops in the region.