The Amarnath Yatra crisis seem to have blown over after Hindu rights activists offered the first prayers near Panjtarni, six kilometres from the cave shrine.
Surinder Mohan Aggarwal and Karan Singh Charak, president and general secretary, Baba Amarnath and Buda Amarnath Yatra Niyas, which had threatened to start the yatra 15 days before the official date, accompanied by RK Goyal, chief executive officer of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) flew from Srinagar to offer prayers at Panjtarni along the Chandanwari-Holy Cave track.
It was for the first time that the Pratham Pooja was not held at the cave shrine. Aggarwal however played down the matter saying that Pooja was held at Panjtarni because the chopper could not land at the cave shrine.
"The chopper could not land at the cave shrine and therefore the pooja was held at Panjtarni. The authorities have assured us that yatra would start soon after the trek is cleared of snow and made operational for pilgrims," said Aggarwal
A major row had erupted over the decision of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board to curtail the duration of this year’s pilgrimage to holy cave shrine by 15 days. Niyas had threatened to take out yatra on their own from June 14. After hectic negotiations, the Niyas watered down their stand and agreed to hold the pooja before the official yatra starts on June 29.
Situated in a narrow gorge at the altitude of 3,888 metres, the holy Amarnath cave is 44.8 kilometres from Pahalgam. The Pahalgam – Holy cave trek is an ancient pilgrimage route which is covered in four days and there lies the ice lingam of Lord Shiva that is formed naturally, which waxes and wanes with the moon.
The new Baltal route is now preferred by the pilgrims since it is shorter (though steeper) than the ancient route. The private helicopter services operating there also makes the route a favourite among the pilgrims.
Meanwhile, an official spokesperson said Goyal also reviewed the ongoing Yatra-related works at the Panjtarni Camp which are progressing satisfactorily. He issued instructions to all concerned to ensure that all the arrangements need to be positioned on ground as per the envisaged time lines.