SRINAGAR, INDIA, July 1, 2022 (The Hindu): Enthusiastic about the reopening of the Amarnath cave shrine for the pilgrimage after a gap of three years, hundreds of pilgrims made their way up to the cave from the twin routes of Sonamarg and Pahalgam on Day 1 of the yatra on Thursday. At the first light, hundreds of pilgrims, including sadhus and women, queued up and left the Baltal base camp located at an altitude of 9,000 feet and trekked to an altitude of 12,000 feet to perform darshan at the shrine in central Kashmir. Many batches of pilgrims opted for the toughest route in south Kashmir’s Pahalgam where they trekked more than 18.6 miles and climbed the highest peak of the Mahagunas Pass located at an altitude of 14,000 feet to reach the shrine. It is the traditional route to the shrine.

In the morning, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha performed a puja to kick-start the 43-day yatra. Mr. Sinha on Wednesday held a meeting with senior leaders to discuss the preparations for the yatra. “At the meeting, all the senior leaders, speaking in one voice, observed that the yatra is like a big festival, a celebration of Kashmiriyat [the centuries-old tradition of communal harmony and religious tolerance in the Kashmir Valley] for the common man of Jammu and Kashmir. Each and every citizen of the Union Territory will ensure warm hospitality and comfort of the pilgrims,” a Raj Bhawan spokesman said. The yatra is being held after a gap of three years. In 2019, it was cut short ahead of the Center’s decision to end the special constitutional position of Jammu and Kashmir. The two waves of COVID pandemic also resulted in the cancellation of the yatra in 2020 and 2021. Officials are expecting the highest figure of 800,000 pilgrims this year.