New Delhi: The annual Amarnath Yatra began with much fanfare this year but the rising death toll of the pilgrims is a serious matter of concern. The Lord Shiva cave shrine has been pulling huge crowds every year with the devotees continuously swelling in number.

About 67 pilgrims have reportedly succumbed to the extreme weather conditions during this year’s yatra. Most of the casualties have occurred due to cardiac arrest and accidents.

Do's and Dont's for Amarnath yatra

Amarnath Yatra in pics

There is no reason for any kind of lacuna on parts of the authorities responsible for providing health care facilities to the pilgrims as they are believed to be equipped with all necessary facilities but the rising death toll seems to be like a mistry. While unfortunate mishaps lead to death of the pilgrims amidst extreme weather conditions, lack of oxygen at certain points during the yatra make it difficult for those not in the good of their health.

Talking to Jagran Post, Sanjeev, an amaranth pilgrim said, “Mishaps triggered by the harsh weather have led to the high death toll. The snow is soft and is continuously melting, making the way more slippery and dangerous.

It is to be noted that during first three days, the Amaranth shrine board did not impose any bar on the number of pilgrims visiting the shrine leading to a messy situation for the visitors. But later it announced that the pilgrims would leave in batches and each batch will comprise of approximately 4,500 visitors.

Highlighting the plight of the pilgrims, Sanjeev further added, “The large number of pilgrims led to unending queues on the tough route. The pilgrims had no way out but to bear the rain and snow out in the open. Also, the single crowd of horses and people on-foot make the journey increasingly difficult. The horses and pilgrims slip occasionally, raising fears of a stampede.

The Yatra has witnessed a heavy snowfall this season with snow cover stretching upto 5 kms. Those with weak hearts need to think twice for the yatra as the route is limited to just 2-2.5 foot wide at several places with one side snow-covered mountains and deep gorges on the other.

Those planning to go for the yatra also need to take only the necessary luggage with good knowledge and practice for the tough terrain.


However, those determined to mark the heavenly pilgrimage must not get disheartened by the alarming death toll.

The amaranth langar (free food distribution camps as a charity) sponsored by people or groups boasts of serving a nationwide cuisine consisting of a very wide variety of dishes, prepared in pure desi-ghee and served free to the pilgrims.   

The pilgrims can enjoy Lord Shiva’s darshan at the cave shrine but with care. Limited luggage, perfect health and utter care in moving towards the cave shrine can make the journey blissful.

The pilgrims are required to stand barefoot while close to the shrine therefore, those in very good health must take up the journey.

The pilgrims can easily get a tent accommodation at Rs 250 –Rs 400 per head (prior to change amid sudden rainfall, availability and high demand). The pilgrims can also opt for a horse ride at around Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500 per head (as per weight and weather vulnerability).

Helicopter service is also available for the devotees, who then need to walk just 6 kms to reach the cave shrine. One can avail the facility at just Rs 1,500 and above but the devotees may require to wait for 2-3 days for his or her chances.

Hot water is also provided to the pilgrims-in -need at Rs 50 per bucket and Rs 10 per mug during the yatra.

Although the cave is 20 kilometres from Baltal, the pilgrims can opt for the longer but comparatively easier Phalagam route. In case of any problem, they can contact any military personnel nearby, who cooperate with the pilgrims.

(Ruchi Kaushal/JPN)

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