Jammu: In the wake of protests from Hindu organisations over curtailment of the annual Amarnath yatra to 39 days this year, the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board on Sunday said the decrease in the duration was due to the Raksha Bandhan festival which is falling 11 days earlier than last year.

It was also not possible to maintain a fixed duration of the yatra every year, SASB Chief Executive Officer Navin Kumar Choudhary told reporters here.

As per tradition, the annual Amarnath yatra concludes on the date on which Raksha Bandhan falls. Last year, the 46-day-long pilgrimage commenced on June 29 and concluded on August 13, the date of the festival.

"This year the duration of the yatra has been reduced by seven days as Raksha Bandhan is taking place 11 days earlier than last year on August two even though the pilgrimage is scheduled to commence on June 25, four days earlier than last year," the CEO said.

 "The annual pilgrimage culminates on whatever date the Raksha Bandhan falls," he said.

 "Its duration in a given year can be 20-25 days longer or 20-25 days shorter than the preceding year, depending on the date in August on which Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) is to be observed," Choudhary said.

 "It is, therefore, not possible to maintain a fixed duration of the pilgrimage every year," he said.

In 2009, it was announced the yatra would be for 60 days along both the routes but it had to be curtailed to 51 days on Baltal route and to 40 days on Pahalgam route owing to adverse weather and slow melting of the snow on tracks, the CEO said.

During 1995-2003, the average duration of the yatra was 29.5 days, he said.

 The Shrine Board had set up a committee, comprising eminent religious figures, to consider all relevant factors before finalising its recommendations pertaining to annual pilgrimages to the holy cave shrine.