"A three-tier security arrangement manned by the local police, paramilitary forces and the army has been put in place."
Srinagar, June 28 - The annual Amarnath Yatra started Saturday as nearly 7,300 pilgrims left the north Kashmir Baltal base camp for the holy cave.

Also, the second batch of pilgrims left winter capital Jammu for the Kashmir Valley.

The second batch of 742 yatris left Jammu in a convoy of 34 vehicles this morning for the Valley, an official of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) told IANS in Jammu Saturday.

On Friday, the first batch of 1,160 yatris had left for the Valley from Jammu to perform the yatra.

The treacherous maintain trek from Baltal base camp in Ganderbal district to the cave shrine is 14 km long. The pilgrims can return to the base camp after darshan the same day.

The Himalayan cave shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure believed by devotees to represent the mythical powers of Lord Shiva.

State Governor N.N. Vohra, who is the chairman of the SASB, will also visit the cave shrine Saturday to perform the Pratham Puja to mark the beginning of the yatra, sources said.

The annual yatra was started this year from the north Kashmir Baltal route only as the traditional south Kashmir Pahalgam route is still snow bound.

The SASB has put in men and machinery to clear the nearly 39 km long trek from Pahalgam to the holy cave. It is meeting here July 1 to take the final call on when the yatra should start from the Pahlagam route.

This year 193,000 pilgrims have registered for the nearly one and a half month long yatra that will end Aug 10 coinciding with the Shravan Purnima festival.

A three-tier security arrangement manned by the local police, paramilitary forces and the army has been put in place.

A transit camp has been set up at Manigam, 30 km from Srinagar city, in Ganderbal district to regulate the passage of the pilgrims to Baltal base camp on the Srinagar-Leh national highway.


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