Amarnath yatra begins with first batch reaching Baltal, Pahalgam28 June 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The 46 days long annual Amarnath yatra began today with religious fan fare and enthusiasm as the first batch of 2,096 devotees from different parts of the country left the Bhagwati Nagar base camp here for the forward base camps of Pahalgam and Baltal from where they would resume their journey tomorrow morning for holy cave shrine of Shri Amarnath ji, located at a height of 13,500 meters in South Kashmir Himalayas. While 2096 pilgrims left in official convoy from Yatri Niwas, Canal Road, the base camp of the pilgrims at 5 am today, a number of other yatris left in private vehicles on their own while many others were expected to leave for yatra from Srinagar directly tomorrow morning. The pilgrims taking Baltal route tomorrow morning were likely to have darshan of Lord Shiva’s holy Ice Lingam, which is in full bloom, by tomorrow evening, the yatris of Pahalgam route would have darshan by Thursday evening. First batch of the yatra was flagged off by Minister of Tourism, Nawang Rigzin Jora amid tight security arrangements. As the first bus left the base camp, the slogans of ' Bum Bum Bolay’’, 'Baba Amarnath Ki Jai’’ and blowing of conch shells rent the air. The yatris, who were in jubilant mood were chanting bhajans and dancing to the beating of drum beats. The yatra convoy comprised 1,369 males, 421 females, 110 children and 196 Sadhus. They left in 49 buses and 24 Light Motor Vehicles (LMVs) for Pahalgam and Baltal base camps in Kashmir valley and their onward journey to the shrine. The yatris scheduled to perform darshan via Chandanwari track reached Nunwan base camp in Pahalgam in Anantnag district by 9 pm today while those taking Baltal track reached Manigam base camp in Ganderbal district late tonight, official sources said. As part of stringent security measures, Road Opening Parties (ROPs), Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) and Mobile Rescue Teams (MRTs) had been positioned at several places to deal with any exigencies. The Jammu and Kashmir Police has also launched a reception-cum-yatri assistance center in Jammu to facilitate smooth and easy boarding and lodging of the pilgrims. This center would take care of the devotees lodging at base camp Yatri Niwas, he said adding that police would also distribute booklets, pamphlets, maps and other material to the pilgrims. The Amarnath yatra would conclude on August 13 on the auspicious occasion of Shrawan Purnima coinciding with Raksha Bandhan. Besides, Mr Jora top civil and police officers, leaders of Baba Amarnath Yatri Niyas and other social and religious organizations were also present during the flagging off ceremony at Yatri Niwas this morning. Mr Jora was accompanied by IGP Jammu, Dilbagh Singh, Divisional Commissioner, Dr Pawan Kotwal, DC Jammu, Sanjeev Verma and Director Tourism, Robin Singh Mehta. Talking to reporters later, Mr Jora informed that Government was committed to provide all facilities like accommodation, drinking water and electricity to the pilgrims. Expressing the hope that this year the yatra will go on smoothly, the Minister said there is a discernible change in Valley situation now. He said 2.50 lakh pilgrims have been so far registered for holy Amarnath yatra. He said that last year 4.5 lakh pilgrims had performed darshan at holy cave and this year the figure was expected to cross the mark of five lakh. Terming the good flow of tourists and pilgrims to the State a good omen, Mr Jora said this will help in promotion of both tourism and trade in all three regions. The first batch of yatris were given a rousing reception at Udhampur by the people and district administration. DIG Police, Udhampur-Reasi Range, Jagjit Kumar, DC Udhampur, Baseer Ahmed Khan and other senior officers were present on the occasion. Meanwhile Governor, N N Vohra who is also the chairman of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) at a meeting in Srinagar reviewed the overall arrangements for the annual pilgrimage today. The meeting was attended by Chief Executive Officer of the Board, R K Goyal, Additional Chief Executive Officer, Preet Pal Singh, and its other officers. The Governor reviewed the yatra arrangements at base camps enroute holy cave area which included arrangements regarding sanitation, cleanliness, water and power supply, medicare, telecommunication, safety and security of the yatris, essential commodities and accommodation etc. Meanwhile, a 55-year-old pilgrim from Rajasthan died of heart attack at Baltal base camp, where hundreds of yatris have assembled to leave for Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalyas tomorrow. Official sources said pilgrim Rajender Singh of Rajasthan suffered a massive heart attack at the camp this morning. He was immediately rushed to base camp hospital where he was declared brought dead. This was the first death of a yatri during 2011 pilgrimage. Hundreds of devotees, who had reached Baltal base camp for the past few days, will leave for the cave shrine tomorrow morning to pay obeisance to the 18 feet holy ice Shivlingam.