The annual pilgrimage to the holy Kailash Kund lake located at an altitude of 14,700 feet has been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an official said on Thursday.
The 10-day pilgrimage had already been cut short to three days, allowing only the 'Chhari Mubarak' (holy mace of Lord Shiva) procession to the lake through traditional Himalayan route, they said.
The 10-day yatra was scheduled to start via twin tracks of Chattargala and Hayan in Jammu and Kashmir's Bhaderwah on August 8 but was delayed due to the pandemic outbreak.
"Based on the circumstances and SOPs (standard operating procedures), the J&K administration, in consultation with Kailash Sewa Sangh, Sanatan Dharam Sabha, Dharmarth Trust and Vasuki Annapurna Langar, has decided that it was not advisable to hold this year's Kailash Yatra and expresses its regret while cancelling it," said Bhaderwah's Additional Deputy Commissioner Bhaderwah Rakesh Kumar.
"In deference to the people's sentiments, especially those of Nag devotees, we have decided to allow 'Chhari Mubarak' procession with priests to perform rituals en-route Kailash kund (Holy Lake). The traditional rituals shall be carried out as per the past practice," said Kumar.
"The 'Chhari Mubarak' procession, which will start from Bhaderwah on August 16 and reach 'Kailash Kund' on August 18, will be facilitated by the government," he added.
The holy mace procession of the serpent god, which will start from ancient Nag temple of Gatha, will be joined on the way by another Chhari Mubarak procession from Vaska Dera.
The Kund is a big lake of cold and crystal-clear water with a circumference of 1.5 miles, situated at an altitude of 14,700 feet from the sea level.
Locals believe that Kailash Kund was the original abode of Shiva, who gave it to Vasuki Nag and himself went to live at Manmahesh in Bharmour in present Himachal Pradesh.