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Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Aug 7, 2017:: The 40-day long Amarnath Yatra concluded on Monday with as many as 2.6 lakh pilgrims making the pilgrimage to offer prayers at the Amarnath Shrine in south Kashmir’s Himalayan region. The yatra this year was hit by a terror attack in which eight people were killed but that did not deter devotees from making the pilgrimage which concludes on the day of the festival of Raksha Bandhan every year.
[From the statistics of footfall as reflected in Amarnath Ji Shrine Board, it is seen that the present years pilgrims count of 2.60 lakh increased by forty thousand as a total pilgrims of 2.20 lakh visited the shrine in 2016. ~ Ed. Hindu Existence.]
The shrine is located at a height of 3,888 metres. The ice stalagmite structure in the shrine cave waxes and wanes according to the varying sizes of the visible moon. It is a belief that the ice stalagmite structure is a symbol of Lord Shiva’s powers. There are two ways of reaching the shrine. One way is the 46-km traditional pilgrimage trek i.e. Pahalgam-Chandanwari-Sheshnag-Panchtarni. The other way is the smaller 14-km long Baltal-Dumail trek.
The shrine board said the number of pilgrims who did darshan by Thursday evening stood at 2,57,589. This year, however, the second lowest count of pilgrims in the last 14 years. In 2016, the number was 2.2 lakh as the yatra happened amid unrest in Kashmir.
The yatra’s security forces were drawn from the Indian Army, CRPF, ITBP, SSB and the Jammu and Kashmir Police. As many as 35,000 security personnel were deployed for the security of the yatris.
Besides the deaths in the terror attack, 17 people died in a bus accident and 23 of natural causes. The police had said the driver had violated rules, which said no yatra vehicle should be on the highway after 7 pm. Twenty-three people also died of natural causes.
The terror attack, which was perpetrated by the Lashkar-e-Toiba miliants on July 10 was the worst since the August 2000 attack at the pilgrims’ base camp in Pahalgam which claimed the lives of 30 pilgrims. After the July attack, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said: “The terrorists have tainted the name of Kashmiris and Muslims. We hang our heads in shame. I have no words to condemn this, I hope those involved will be arrested and punished soon. We will not rest before they are punished.”
Prior to the terror attack, the yatra was suspended for two days ahead of slain militant commander Burhan Wani’s death anniversary on July 9. Undeterred by the security situation, a fresh batch of pilgrims left for the pilgrimage on July 12 with an escorted convoy. This was the way of things for yatris leaving mostly from the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas.
After a testing 40 days, the yatra was concluded on Shravan Purnima. The holy mace of Lord Shiva and the Chhari Murabark arrived with the custodian Mahant Deepindra Giri and a group of sadhus at the shrine for day long prayers from the traditional trek. Now the holy mace will start its journey back to its abode at Amareshwar temple at Dashnami Akhara by evenfall.
The holy cave will now be closed for darshan from Monday onwards. The pujan and visarjan ceremonies that are to be performed for the Chhari Mubarak will be done at the banks of Lidder river in Pahalgam on Wednesday.
Courtesy: Indian Express.
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