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Amarnath Yatra begins via Baltal instead of Pahalgam

Jun 15, 2009 04:09 PM IST India India

Srinagar: The Amarnath yatra begins on Monday after a week's delay. Authorities are on alert, given last year's violence and clashes in the Valley and the Jammu region over the shrine board controversy. The snow-bound tracks leading to the shrine have been cleared. Chants of “Bham Bham Bhole” in honour of Lord Shiva can be heard in parts of Srinagar where the pilgrims are housed. Authorities are clearing one vehicle after another for the arduous journey to the cave shrine of Amarnath. An eight-member group from Pune hopes to be the first to have darshan at the Amarnath cave. Their dream may finally come true. The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board has cleared the snowed in Baltal route in time for Monday's inauguration, after it was sharply criticised for deliberately delaying the pilgrimage by a whole week. But the traditional Pahalgam route which is still covered in snow will be opened up later One happy pilgrim, Vinay Gokale said, “The Pahalgam route seems to have some problems but there is another route from Baltal which we shall try to access to reach the Amarnath cave. We shall go pay obeisance at the shrine.” Unlike last year when the Amarnath land row overshadowed the yatra (pilgrimage), this time the devotees and Kashmiris say there's no communal tension. A resident of Srinagar, Bashir Ahmad said, “Allah willing, we have all hopes that the Yatra will go on well. We are eager to extend hospitality to the tourists as well as to the devotees. I see no communal tensions or worries ahead.” The pilgrims were unafraid and upbeat too. A devotee, Yogesh Pardesi, “The atmosphere here is of camaraderie, people are co-operative. One route has opened up. With the blessings of Lord Shiva, the other route will open up too. We are hopeful of a wonderful pilgrimage.” Heavy snowfall and bad weather had prompted the Shrine Board to postpone the annual pilgrimage by a week. But now the 14 foot lingam formation in the Amarnath cave more than makes up for the delay for pilgrims. So far, more than two lakh pilgrims have registered for the holy journey.