‘Gangbal yatra begins in central Kashmir amid tight security’

KANGAN (J&K), Sept 5:
The annual pilgrimage to the 14,500 feet-high Harmukh-Gangbal lake shrine in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district began on Thursday amid the lingering uneasy calm in the region after abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status last month.

A group of nearly three dozen Kashmiri pandits left for the shrine from Naranag temple here amid tight security, said officials.

The group, mostly comprising migrant pandits, commenced the 36-km journey on foot after performing “Charri Puja” at the ancient Naranag temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, which historians say, was built by King Lalitaditya Muktapida of the Kayastha Naga Karkota Dynasty in the 8th century AD.

Officials said the pilgrimage was flagged off by Deputy Superintendent of Police S Tahir Amin, while a security team led by Inspector Latief Ali of the local police is accompanying the pilgrims to ensure smooth journey.

The three-day pilgrimage under the banner of the Harmukh Ganga (Gangbal) Trust (HGGT) and the All Parties Migrants’ Coordination Committee (APMCC) will end on Saturday, the officials said.

APMCC chairman Vinod Pandit, who is the part of devotees, said the annual pilgrimage to the Harmukh-Gangbal shrine was restarted by HGGT and his group in 2009, after a gap of nearly a century and has been going on since then with the support of the Ganderbal civil administration and police.

“Gangbal lake is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva and therefore we will offer special prayers for early return of peace which is eluding Jammu and Kashmir for many decades,” Pandit said.

The Gangabal lake, located in the foothills of majestic Harmukh mountain, is about 3.5 km long, half-a-km wide and 80 metre deep.

Kashmiri Hindus used to immerse the mortal remains of their departed relatives at Gangbal from time immemorial.