SRINAGAR, June 30 (IANS): More than 18,000 pilgrims were Thursday allowed to move towards the Amarnath cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir on the second day of the annual pilgrimage, officials said.
"A total of 15,463 pilgrims were allowed to proceed towards the holy cave from north Kashmir's Baltal base camp this morning," a senior paramilitary officer told IANS on phone from Baltal.
Around 3,000 pilgrims were allowed to proceed towards the cave shrine from south Kashmir's Nunwan (Pahalgam) base camp Thursday, said a senior police officer from Pahalgam.
Hundreds of buses, taxis and private cars carrying pilgrims from different parts of the country continued arriving here.
In its advisory issued for the pilgrims, the local weather office Thursday forecast cloudy skies with one or two spells of rain or thundershowers along both the Pahalgam and Baltal routes.
Heavy traffic jams on the Srinagar-Baltal road, especially from Ganderbal town towards the base camp, have affected normal life in many areas.
"It has taken us six hours to negotiate the heavy traffic jam from Baltal to Ganderbal town. It is quite frustrating," said Suhail Ahmad, a local resident.
Locals in Haripora village, which is adjacent to the Manigam transit camp of the yatra, also complained of noise pollution.
"Since yesterday, there has been so much loudspeaker activity for the entire night that one cannot sleep," said Abdul Majid, a resident of the village.
Authorities are battling hard to control the heavy rush of pilgrims.
"The proble is that we are fully geared to receive the pilgrims who have registered for the day but the huge rush of unregistered pilgrims is frustrating our plans," said an official.
The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) which conducts the annual yatra has also issued an advisory to the pilgrims making it clear that unregistered pilgrims would not be allowed to undertake the yatra.
"We have to look after the welfare of the pilgrims. We also have to ensure that the delicate environment along the yatra route and at the base camps is not adversely affected," an SASB official said.
"This is not possible if we allow unforeseen number of pilgrims to undertake the pilgrimage. There has to be discipline and system. This can only be maintained once we know the exact number of yatris we would be handling each day," he added.
Around 25,900 pilgrims, including the unregistered ones, proceeded towards the shrine Wednesday from both the camps.
The 13,500 feet high Himalayan cave houses a stalagmite which is believed to represent the mythical powers of Lord Shiva.
The 14-km long mountain trek from Baltal to the cave shrine passes through glaciers, mountain streams and tricky narrow paths where pilgrims have to move very carefully.
The 42-km long mountain trek from Pahalgam to the cave shrine passes through Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panjtarni where pilgrims make night halts before reaching the cave shrine.
The Pahalgam route is the traditional one. It is considered to be safer than the Baltal route although it takes three days for pilgrims to reach the cave shrine while pilgrims return via the Baltal route the same day.
The pilgrimage will last until Aug 13, when Hindus will celebrate Raksha Bandhan.