Sinha flags off first batch of 4890 pilgrims to holy cave amid chanting of Vedic hymns

Lt Governor Manoj Sinha flagging off first batch of Amarnath yatra from Bhagwati Nagar base camp (left), enthusiastic and jubilant holy cave bound pilgrims waving flags and chanting 'Bum Bum Bhole'' (right) on Wednesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh
Lt Governor Manoj Sinha flagging off first batch of Amarnath yatra from Bhagwati Nagar base camp (left), enthusiastic and jubilant holy cave bound pilgrims waving flags and chanting 'Bum Bum Bhole'' (right) on Wednesday. -Excelsior/Rakesh

Hails role of civil society, locals in Amarnath Ji yatra

Avtar Bhat

JAMMU, June 29: Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha flagged off the first batch of 4890 pilgrims to holy cave of Shri Amarnath Ji from Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas here early this morning amidst chanting of Vedic mantras.

Click here to watch video
The yatris left under tight security arrangements, chanting “Bum Bum Bhole”, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Vande Matram” with ringing of quench shells. The Lt. Governor prayed for the peace, prosperity and a safe spiritual journey for pilgrims on the occasion.
The yatris including men and women were waiving Bhagwa Dhawaj and national flags, besides singing bhajans in praise of Baba Barfani.
Marking the beginning of the annual pilgrimage, the first batch of 4,890 Yatris was flagged off at around 4 in the morning from the Bhagwati Nagar- base camp for Kashmir valley in a cavalcade of 176 light and heavy vehicles for both Baltal in Ganderbal district of Central Kashmir and Nunwan in Anantnag district of South Kashmir base camps wherefrom they will leave for holy cave early tomorrow morning.
Reports reaching here from Kashmir said 8621 pilgrims have reached two base camps of Nunwan Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district of Central Kashmir from Jammu by 9 pm today. Out of them, 5900 have reached Baltal base camp while 2721 reached Nunwan. Pahalgam base camp.

Yatris who reached Baltal base camp from Jammu on Wednesday.- Excelsior/Shakeel
Yatris who reached Baltal base camp from Jammu on Wednesday. – Excelsior/Shakeel

The annual Amarnath Ji yatra is being organized after a gap of two years due to the COVID pandemic and extensive arrangements have been made by the UT administration for the smooth conduct of the same.
The 43-day pilgrimage to the cave shrine will begin from twin base camps in Kashmir tomorrow and will conclude on August 11 on the occasion of Shravan Purnima coinciding with Raksha Bandhan.
The yatra passed through Udhampur and Ramban districts amid a grand welcome accorded by the top officials of the district administration led by DCs and SSPs.
Meanwhile, speaking during a programme at SKICC, Srinagar organized by Civil Society of Kashmir & PHDCCI to welcome Swhri Amarnath Ji yatris, Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha said participation of Civil Society members and locals are inextricably woven into Swami Amarnathji yatra,.
Many generations here have assisted in this spiritual journey and darshan of Shri Amarnath Ji.  Apart from having a spiritual significance, integral part of lifetime, the pilgrimage also gives J&K opportunity to showcase its rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality, said the Lt Governor
There is tremendous enthusiasm among devotees and people of J&K for Shri Amarnath Ji yatra beginning tomorrow and everyone is contributing to make this sacred pilgrimage successful, he added.
For many centuries, Shri Amarnath Ji pilgrimage is strengthening the bond of brotherhood and social unity, besides having a greater impact on the J&K’s economy, observed the Lt Governor.
Government is making efforts to provide best possible facilities to the yatris, however, such holy occasion may not be complete without the wholehearted participation of the civil society.  “I have full faith that the devotees of Swhri Amarnath Ji will return with God’s blessings and everlasting memories of warm hospitality of the 1.25 crore people of Jammu and Kashmir”, the Lt Governor said.
There are many families in J&K who had to face financial hardship since Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra could not be held for the last two years due to Covid pandemic. “Now, it has become our collective responsibility to make this yatra a success which will also serve as a great opportunity for lakhs to generate livelihood,” added the Lt Governor.
The Lt Governor also asked the stakeholders to dedicate themselves to serve the pilgrims and cement the bond between people.
Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, Chief Secretary, speaking on the occasion, appreciated the gesture of the Civil Society members to organize a programme to welcome the pilgrims of Shri Amarnath Ji yatra. He also highlighted the development taking place in the UT in terms of connectivity, tourism, livelihood generation of the locals etc.
In Jammu, Daleep Singh, a devotee from Barmer in Rajasthan, said, “There is no fear, no threat, only unbridled passion to reach the cave shrine quickly and have a glimpse of Lord Shiva.”
Asha Devi, who is a part of an over 40-member group of pilgrims from Kanpur, said, “We urge people from all over the country to come and pay obeisance at the cave shrine.”
Multi-tier security arrangements have been put in place in and around the base camps, lodging, registration and token centers with the deployment of over 5,000 security personnel in Jammu city, officials said.
The yatra will commence on June 30 from the traditional 48-km Nunwan route in South Kashmir’s Pahalgam and the 14-km Baltal route in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district to holy cave situated in snow bound Himalayas in Anantnag district of South Kashmir at an altitude of 3880 meters.
This year, the Government has introduced a Radio Frequency Identification to track the movement and well-being of the pilgrims, they said. Besides, 130 sniffer dogs have also been pressed into service from Lakhanpur to holy cave for security purposes.
“Adequate security measures have been put in place for the base camps and lodging places in Jammu city. Security is a major challenge,” Jammu Senior Superintendent of Police, Chandan Kohli said.
The police have issued special stickers for vehicles ferrying pilgrims. No vehicle without the sticker will be allowed to proceed towards the cave shrine, officials said.
It may be recalled that over 3.42 lakh pilgrims had paid obeisance at the shrine from July 1 to August 1, 2019, before the Government cancelled the pilgrimage midway ahead of the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories.
The pilgrims leaving the base camp on the first day were very excited for the yatra and expressed full faith in the capability of the security forces including CRPF to accomplish incident free and safe yatra for them. During the flag off ceremony CRPF band was also displayed. CRPF is also providing security on NH 44 and escorting the Yatri convoy from Jammu to Pahalgam and Baltal axis for safety of Yatris.
During the flagging off ceremony at Bhagwati Nagar Base camp, Mayor Jammu Municipal Corporation, Chander Mohan Gupta; Chief Secretary, Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta; Deputy Mayor, Purnima Sharma prominent political and religious leaders including former MLA and senior BJP leader, Devender Singh Rana and senior officers of UT administration including ADGP Jammu, Mukesh Singh; , I G CRPF, P S Ranpse, I G CRPF, Divisional Commissioner Jammu, Ramesh Kumar; DC Jammu, Avny Lavasa, Commissioner JMC, Rahul Yadav, DIG CRPF (COPs) Ashok Samyal Rajesh Kumar Pandey DIG CRPF Range Jammu besides others were present.
Meanwhile, a group of pilgrims at Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas protested this morning for not allowing them to leave with the convoy to holy cave. They alleged that they were not allowed to leave with the convoy on last moment.
They said “Earlier we were asked to park the buses behind the convoy and when we tried to leave for Baltal we were stopped by police,. Our plea that we have already made booking for the chopper from Baltal tomorrow and back was turned down”.
Another group of pilgrims from UP and MP at Vaishnavi Dham said that they were facing problems of accommodation and registration. They said the Government has made claims that arrangements for accommodating one lakh pilgrims has been made in J&K but “we are passing the day under the shade of a tree here as there are no proper arrangements. Even there is no facility of drinking water’? Moreover, the registration counters are closed at 2pm and the pilgrims who have been in the queues for hours together are asked to come tomorrow. The Government should deploy staff for registration in shifts so that the pilgrims don’t face problems in getting themselves registered, they added.
There has been unabated rush of pilgrims and hundreds of yatris have reached here from different parts of country by this evening. As per reports, 1273 pilgrims crossed Lakhanpur by surface transport up to this evening while hundreds have reached through Railways and by Air.
Over 3000 pilgrims are camping at Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas while more than that are camping outside including Vaishnavi Dham, Saraswati Dham and other places of the city. They will leave for holy cave early tomorrow morning.
Reports reaching from Srinagar said 2000 unauthorised pilgrims who were not allowed to leave for base camp of Nunwan and stopped at Mirbazar, Kulgam in Kashmir Valley by the administration yesterday also left for base camps of Nunwan and Baltal early this morning.
Reports said that weather in the cave shrine area and on both the tracks remained pleasant and sunny today.
The authorities of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) gave final shape to decoration of cave shrine today. An SASB spokesperson told Excelsior that camps have been established enroute both tracks and service providers have reported at both the base camps, holy cave and other camps and everything is in place.
He said, there is festivity on both base camps of Nunwan , Pahalgam and Baltal besides, holy cave and pooja will be performed at cave shrine tomorrow morning. Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha is likely to join the pooja at holy cave tomorrow, spokesman added.