Special prayers were Sunday held at Pahalgam on the occasion of 'Ashad-Purnima', marking the traditional commencement of the annual Amarnath yatra in the south Kashmir.
While the government has not yet announced formal dates for the commencement of the yatra, Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam on Saturday said keeping in view the prevailing circumstances, the pilgrimage this year would have to be undertaken in a restricted manner.
In view of the yatra, the holy mace of Lord Shiva was taken to Pahalgam and Martand Surya temples in South Kashmir. The annual pilgrimage begins today with Bhoomi Poojan at Pahalgam and Chaddi Ashnan (Holy Bath) at fresh water springs of Martand Surya Temple.
A special bhoomi pujan was organized in Pahalgam under the supervision of Mahant Dipindra Giri. Although there was a significant shortage of devotees due to the coronavirus pandemic, local devotees were present at the Martand Suyra Temple in Mattan during the holy Ashnan.
On this occasion, Mahant Dipendra Giri said that it is very important to organize the yatra, while in the current situation the number of pilgrims or the choice of alternative route does not matter. He said that this holy pilgrimage has been going on in Kashmir for centuries which is confirmed by holy books like Brengish Reshi.
The holy mace of Lord Shiva was received with warmth by the people belonging to Hindu, Muslim and Sikh sects.
The custodian of the 'Chhari-Mubarak' (holy mace of Lord Shiva) said these are the important rituals prior to the main course of the annual pilgrimage, which is likely to start later this month."The sound of conch shell reverberated the whole atmosphere. Keeping in view the COVID-19 pandemic, only selected number of Sadhus accompanied the holy mace from Dashnami Akhara Srinagar to Pahalgam," he said.
Meanwhile, the administration says that all arrangements for the yatra have been completed. This year, the snow has not been removed from Pahalgam to Panchatarni just because the pilgrimage may begun from Baltal axis, but the snow has been completely removed from the Himalayan routes from Baltal and Panchatarni to the sacred cave in Himalayas of Southern Kashmir has been made accessible to pilgrims.
While reviewing the preparations for the yatra, the chief secretary said a maximum of 500 pilgrims only would be allowed per day by road from Jammu towards the cave shrine.