Jammu and Kashmir's Lt. Governor, Manoj Sinha on Friday flagged off the first batch of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims from Jammu city.
The first batch comprising around 3,300 pilgrims left the Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in 159 escorted vehicles for the Baltal and Pahalgam base camps in the Kashmir Valley.
The 62-day long Amarnath Yatra will begin on Saturday and will end on August 31 coinciding with the Shravan Purnima festival.
There are two routes to approach the cave shrine, the shorter 13 km-long Baltal route in Ganderbal district and the longer 43 km Pahalgam route in Anantnag.
Those using the Baltal route return to the base camp the same day, while those taking the traditional Pahalgam route take three to five days to just reach the shrine.
Situated at an elevation of 3,888 metres above sea level, the cave shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure called the holy ‘Lingam’ which symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva, according to the devotees.
The ice stalagmite structure wanes and waxes with the phases of the moon.
Foolproof three-tier security is being managed by the army, paramilitary forces and the local police to ensure that the Yatra passes off peacefully.
To prevent deaths due to high altitude sickness, authorities have declared the Amarnath Yatra 2023 tobacco free and also advised various community kitchens called ‘Langars’ run along the two routes not to serve any junk food or halwai items to the pilgrims.
Bottled cold drinks have also been banned.