Nearly 2.60 lakh pilgrims performed the ongoing Amarnath Yatra in the last 20 days as another batch of 4,158 Yatris left Jammu on Sunday for the cave shrine in Kashmir Valley.Since the Yatra commenced on July 1, 2,59,889 pilgrims have visited the shrine, officials of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) said. Another batch of 4,158 pilgrims left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in Jammu in two escorted convoys for the Valley on Sunday."Of these, 2,139 Yatris are going to Baltal base camp while 2,019 are going to Pahalgam base camp," police said.Situated 3,888 metres above the sea level in south Kashmir Himalayas, the cave shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva according to the devotees.The ice structure waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. Pilgrims approach the cave shrine either through the longer 45 km-long Pahalgam route or the shorter 14 km-long Baltal route.
Those using the Baltal route return to the base camp the same day after performing the Yatra. Helicopter services are available for the pilgrims at both the base camps. Local Muslims are lending a helping hand to ensure that their Hindu brethren can perform the Yatra with ease and convenience to uphold the centuries old tradition of Kashmir, abode of saints and Sufis.So far, 24 pilgrims have died during the Yatra. While 22 of them died of natural causes, two passed away in accidents.The cave shrine was discovered in 1850 by a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik . To reward the shepherd, a saint gave him a bag of charcoal that turned out to be gold, says the local folklore. Symbolically, the lore turned out to be true. The descendants of the shepherd have shared a portion of the offerings at the cave shrine for over 150 years.This year's Amarnath Yatra will conclude on August 15 coinciding with the Shravan Purnima festival.