Third batch of pilgrims leave for Amarnath amid heavy rains


Braving heavy rains which briefly halted traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, the third batch of 2,876 pilgrims today left here for the base camps in Kashmir Valley to pay obeisance at the shrine of Amarnath, officials said.

The pilgrims left the Bhagwati Nagar base camp in a fleet of 90 vehicles under tight security at around 0630 hours, braving rains which lashed wide parts of Jammu and Kashmir for the third day today, the officials said.

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An official said that a group of 844 yatris comprising 615 males and 229 females left in 29 vehicles from the base camp at 6:25 am.

They chose the shortest 12-Km Baltal route. 2032 yatris comprising 1717 males and 315 females, which opted for the traditional 36-km Pahalgam route, left the Jammu base camp at 0705 hrs in 61 vehicles, said the official.

The 60-day annual pilgrimage was scheduled to start from the twin routes of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district Thursday morning but got delayed due to heavy rains.

Heavy rains in Banihal-Udhampur sector had triggered landslides and shooting of stones at four places at Panthal, Nedgard, Digdol and Samroli this morning, blocking the 260-km highway – the only all-weather road connecting Kashmir with rest of the country, the officials said.

However, they said the agencies concerned pressed men and machines into service and after hectic efforts cleared the blockade in the shortest possible time at around 0915 hours, allowing stranded vehicles to move towards their destinations.

The blocking of the highway resulted in traffic jam at several places and efforts are on to ensure smooth flow of vehicles, the officials said.

The 60-day annual pilgrimage started from the twin routes of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district yesterday with the first batch of over 1000 people offering prayers at the cave shrine housing the naturally formed ice-lingam.

The officials said the pilgrims were allowed only after getting the road clearance and are expected to reach the base camps of Nunwan-Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district later in the day.