Annual Amarnath Yatra ends peacefully
The month-and-a-half annual Amarnath Yatra ended peacefully Thursday after Shravan Purnima prayers at the 13,500 feet high Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra, who is also chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, attended the concluding prayers led by Swami Dipinder Giri, the custodian of the 'Chhari Mubarak' (Shiva's mace).
After an overnight halt at Panchtarni, the Chhari Mubarak arrived at the cave shrine early Thursday.
The end of the yatra coincides with the Hindu festival Raksha Bandhan.
This year over 6.20 lakh pilgrims had a glimpse of the ice stalagmite structure inside the cave which devotees believe symbolizes the mythological powers of Lord Shiva.
A three-tier security was provided to the pilgrimage with the army, paramilitary forces and police forming the security ring.
No separatist attack occurred against the pilgrims this year although the number of pilgrims dying due to natural causes remained a huge concern.
The Supreme Court took a suo moto cognizance of these deaths, passing directions to the central and state governments and also the Board to step up healthcare facilities for the pilgrims.
This year, 95 pilgrims died during the pilgrimage due to natural causes including high altitude sickness triggered pulmonary oedema, brain oedema and cardio-vascular failures.
The victims included 87 pilgrims, two civilians assisting the pilgrims, five sadhus or holy men and a sevadar (volunteer).
In addition, 31 pilgrims died in road accidents and three died of natural causes while staying in local hotels.
The Amarnath Yatra gets the full backing of local Muslims. Hundreds of Muslims work as potters, ponywallahs, roadside tea-stall owners as well as taxi and travel operators.