|Early Times Report|
Srinagar, Aug 26: The 60-day Amarnath Yatra ended peacefully on Sunday with over 2.85 lakh pilgrims performing the Himalayan pilgrimage this year. The Yatra started on June 28. The 'Chhari Mubarak' (Lord Shiva's Mace) carried by a group of Hindu priests headed by Swami Deepinder Giri, its custodian, reached the cave shrine on Sunday morning.
The priests offered the final prayers at the shrine. Some senior officers of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the annual Yatra were also present. Swami Deepinder Giri told that the devotees prayed for peace and prosperity of the country, especially in Jammu and Kashmir.
More people performed this year's pilgrimage than in the last three years. Due to extraordinary security arrangements that included the deployment of over 70,000 security personnel and the cooperation of local Muslims, this year's Yatra ended peacefully. Except for four pilgrims who died in a landslide, the Yatra was incident free this year. No militant outfit carried out any attack on the pilgrims' convoys and most outfits issued statements that the Yatra was not on their target list as it was a purely religious exercise.
Located 3,880 meters above the sea level in Kashmir's Himalayas, the cave shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that wanes and waxes with the phases of the visible moon.
Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure symbolizes the mythical powers of Lord Shiva. Devotees approached the cave shrine both from the north Kashmir Baltal base camp and the south Kashmir Pahalgam base camp. Helicopter services were also available for the pilgrims.