Annual Amarnath yatra to start on Jun 28, registration from Apr 1

Annual Amarnath yatra to start on Jun 28, registration from Apr 1

Jammu: The annual 56-day Amarnath yatra will commence on June 28 with all COVID-19 protocols in place, and culminate, as per the tradition, on the day of Raksha Bandhan festival on August 22, officials said on Saturday.

They said the registration process for the pilgrimage to the 3,880-metre high Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir would begin on April 1 through 446 designated branches of Punjab National Bank, Jammu and Kashmir Bank and YES bank in 37 states and Union Territories. A decision to this effect was taken at the 40th board meeting of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) chaired by Lt Governor Manoj Sinha at Raj Bhavan here, the officials said.

Last year, the yatra was restricted to a group of Sadhus due to coronavirus pandemic, while in 2019 it was called off mid-way due to a "terror threat" on August 2, three days before the Centre revoked provisions of Article 370 and divided the state in to two union territories.

In 2019, over 3.42 lakh pilgrims visited the Hindu cave shrine, housing the naturally formed ice-shivlinga, while the highest number of over 3.52 lakh pilgrims paid their obeisance at the shrine in 2015.

As many as 3.20 lakh offered their prayers at the shrine in 2016, 2.60 lakh in 2017 and 2.85 lakh in 2018, the officials said.

Keeping in view the safety and security of the pilgrims, the board has decided that the yatra this year would commence simultaneously from both the routes –the traditional 46-km Pahalgam track in Anantnag district and 12-km Baltal in Ganderbal district on June 28, the auspicious Hindu day of 'Ashaad Chaturthi', an official spokesperson said.

"This year's Yatra will be held as per COVID-19 SOPs developed by the government. No person below the age of 13 years and above the age of 75 years will be permitted to undertake the pilgrimage," he said. The spokesperson said the board also decided to enhance the daily route-wise pilgrims ceiling from 7,500 per day per route to 10,000, excluding yatris who would travel by helicopters.

One of the highlights of this year's yatra would be the introduction of free of cost battery car service up and down of the 2.75-km-long Baltal to Domel stretch, the spokesperson said.

During the meeting, the SASB also approved the enhancement of remunerations for Pujaris (priests) from existing Rs 1,000 per day to Rs 1,500 per day for the next three years, he said.

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