Amid tight security arrangements, the annual yatra to the holy shrine of Amarnath began on June 29 from Pahalgam and Baltal in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Nestled in the Himalayas and snow-capped mountains, the annual pilgrimage is a centuries-old tradition of Hindus as thousands of devotees visit to the holy site during summers.
The Amarnath cave is believed to have been re-discovered by a Kashmiri Muslim shepherd, Buta Malik in the 15th century and since then every year thousands of Hindu devotees throng to visit the cave shrine. Despite the unrest in Kashmir valley, Amarnath yatra continue to take place smoothly as it is perhaps Kashmiri Muslims who provide them with all facilities during the entire pilgrimage period.
First batch of Amarnath Yatra began their journey from Chandanwari, 15km from beautiful valley of Pahalgam. Pilgrims usually face a lot of problems as the route to the cave is treacherous. However, state government along with security forces has put adequate arrangements to facilitate the pilgrims to the cave.
The shrine is located at an altitude of 12,756 feet and about 141 kms from Srinagar.
Kashmiri ponies, palanquins usually carry the pilgrims to reach to the Amarnath cave - and in doing so risk their own lives.
Braving cold weather and foggy weather conditions, devotees look determined to visit to the cave.
This year, the yatra will continue to last for 40 days, eight days shorter from last year.
The pilgrims proceed to the cave shrine chanting 'Bam Bam Bholay' and singing bhajans.
The 40-day annual event represents the history of communal harmony between communities in the valley.
More than six lakh people registered for the yatra in 2011, the highest number of Yatris ever.
The event also holds importance for the livelihood to some Kashmiris.