Jammu: Over 1,000 pilgrims of the first batch of this year’s annual Amarnath Yatra left Jammu on Wednesday for the high-altitude cave shrine in Kashmir Valley.
State Health Minister Chowdhary Lal Singh flagged off a convoy of 34 vehicles carrying 1,280 pilgrims from Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas here towards the valley.
This year’s yatra to the 14,500 ft. high Himalayan cave shrine in south Kashmir Anantnag district is spread over 59 days. It will begin on Thursday.
Pilgrims use the south Kashmir Pahalgam and the north Kashmir Baltal routes to reach the cave shrine.
Two base camps – one at Baltal and the other at Nunwan (Pahalgam) – have been set up from where the pilgrims will begin an uphill mountain trek to reach the cave.
The shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure called the ‘Lingam’ symbolizes mythical powers of Lord Shiva.
A three-tier security drawn from the army, the central paramilitary forces and the state police have been deployed to guard the yatra which has been attacked by separatist guerrillas in the past.