Jammu:Over 2.3 lakh pilgrims have performed the ongoing Amarnath Yatra during the last 18 days as another batch of 3,627 yatris left Jammu on Friday to offer their prayers at the holy cave shrine in Kashmir.
Since it started on July 1, as many as 2,32,860 pilgrims have had darshan at the shrine during the last 18 days. Another batch of 3,627 pilgrims left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas for the valley today in two escorted convoys.
Of the 3,627 pilgrims, 1,411 are going to the Baltal base camp while 2,216 are going to the 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 45 kilometre long Pahalgam route or the shorter 14 kilometre 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, 19 pilgrims have died during the Yatra. While 17 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.