The batch -- 696 men, 255 women, five children and 94 sadhus -- left in a motorcade of 30 vehicles from Bhagwati Nagar base camp here at 04:40 AM, a police official said.

The convoy has already reached Patnitop on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.

With today's batch, as many as 38,315 pilgrims have so far left from the Jammu base camp for the shrine.

About 2,50,000 pilgrims have visited the shrine till last evening.

The cave shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. Devotees call the stalagmite structure the 'Holy Lingam' and believe it symbolises mystical powers of Lord Shiva.

Jammu-Srinagar national highway is the only surface route for the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine situated 14,500 feet above the sea level in South Kashmir's Anantnag district.

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