Category Archives: Amarnath Yatra

Mountaineering institute to aid in Cave Climb

Srinagar: In the wake of several accidents on a slippery stretch en route the Amarnath cave shrine, the Jammu and Kashmir governor today deputed an eight-member team of mountaineering experts to assist the movement of pilgrims.
The team from the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering, Pahalgam was deputed in addition to the 20 state police personnel comprising two mobile rescue teams which have already been deployed to assist the pilgrims between Sheshnag and Poshpathri along the traditional Pahalgam route.
The team was deputed after reports of several accidents on the difficult 5km stretch between Sangam Top and the shrine, which becomes extremely slippery when the snows start melting.
Sangam is a point en route to the 3,880m cave shrine where the pilgrims from both the traditional 46km Pahalgam route in Anantnag district and shortest 16km Baltal in Ganderbal district meet.
The annual two-month Amarnath yatra commenced from both the routes on July 1 and so far 1,41,232 pilgrims have paid obeisance at the shrine. PTI.

Helicopter Service for Amarnath Yatra

A yatra – the pilgrimage –  via a copter is no Yatra. Sure.

Having said that, people still want to do darshan at Shri Amarnath Ji – and some are too frail, while some have no time, while some just have that extra capacity to afford. So doing the yatra using a Copter for a big leg of the journey is increasingly becoming popular.

One could argue that using a pitthoo or doing the Yatra on horseback in no better than the helicopter. Perhaps yes, ethically speaking, but on the pony back you still have to endure the pony ride itself (which is tough on the body in its own right) – while a helicopter ride over the mighty beautiful Himalayas is plain fun and bliss!

Anyhow, since the service is becoming popular, here is how to book it:

Pawan Hans – Shri Amarnath Ji Booking website is here:
https://booking.pawanhans.co.in/web/ta/home.aspx
Or Contact Numbers:
011-24651248, 24690924,
09868906223, 09968686822,
09968686811, 09419169875-76-77

From Pahalgam to Amarnath Ji, contact
http://www.globalhelicorp.com/
globalhelicorp@gvhl.net
+91-11-46433300

Maximum 5 per charter 0 the GVHL one flies over the traditional route. Can also contact at yatra@gvhl.net

Pony and labourer rates for Amarnath Yatra

Following are the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board approved rates:
(All Rates in Rupees for 2010):
I Riding/Pack Pony
– Chandanwari to Holy Cave and back 2782.5
– Baltal to Holy Cave and back 1800

II Dandy
– Chandanwari to Holy Cave and back 10500
– Baltal to Holy Cave and back 6000

III Labourer
Chandanwari to Holy Cave and back 1365
Baltal to Holy Cave and back 1000

IV Labourer with Pithoo
Chandanwari to Holy Cave and back 1470

Helicopter services for the Yatris would be available on each of the two routes viz. Baltal – Panjtarni – Baltal and Pahalgam – Panjtarni- Pahalgam. The one way heli-fare for Baltal- Panjtarni and Pahalgam-Panjtarni has been fixed at Rs. 2425/- and Rs. 3800/-, respectively. Children, between the age of 2-12 years, will be required to pay half the prices.

2010 Amarnath Yatra Registration

  • Registration to Start June 8
  • e-registration is unlikely this time
  • Registration slips in seven colors, separate colors for all seven days of the week
  • registration will last about 76 days
  • pilgrims taking aerial route will have to trek seven kms
  • First batch of the yatris is scheduled to have darshan on July 1 from both the tracks
  • Last darshan will be performed on August 24

123 branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited (JKBL) will start registration of Shri Amarnath ji shrine pilgrims, tentatively from June 8 to 10 all over the country. The registration process will last 76 days during which a maximum number of 4.10 lakh pilgrims will be registered for annual Amarnath Yatra. Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), like the previous year, has entered into an agreement with Jammu and Kashmir Bank Limited (JKBL) for registration of 4.10 lakh pilgrims-2.5 lakh each from Baltal and Pahalgam tracks.

The agreement has been finalised and the process of registration will begin most likely from June 8 or latest by June 10.The registration will continue up to August 22 for Pahalgam (Chandanwari) route and up to August 23 for shorter Baltal track. Annual pilgrimage to Shri Amarnath ji shrine is scheduled to begin from July 1 and will conclude on August 24 coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan. The yatra will last 55 days.

Highest number of 26 J&K Bank branches will register the yatris in New Delhi. Fourteen branches have been designated for registration in Mumbai and 13 in Jammu and Kashmir. Seventy branches will offer registration to pilgrims in rest of the country including Chandigarh zone, Chennai, Lucknow, Ahmedabad etc. 5000 pilgrims will be registered every day by the J&K Bank branches including 2500 each for the two tracks-Baltal and Pahalgam. As the registration will last about 76 days, the Bank will register a maximum of 4.10 lakh pilgrims. Depending upon rush for the pilgrims in some zones, more yatris can be registered on some days to complete the quota of 4.10 lakh. The Bank has printed 4 lakh tickets but could add 10,000 more, if the situation warranted.

To ensure that the pilgrims registered for a particular day undertake journey on the scheduled date, the Bank has this time published registration slips in seven colors, separate colors for all seven days of the week. On Monday, white color slips will be issued for Pahalgam route and craft paper for Baltal track. On Tuesday, it will be red color for Pahalgam and white for Baltal while on Wednesday the pilgrims will get ground orange slips for Pahalgam and red for Baltal route.

Colors will be changed to yellow for Pahalgam and ground orange for Baltal on Thursday while it will be green for Pahalgam and yellow for Baltal on Friday, blue for Pahalgam and green for Baltal on Saturday and craft paper for Pahalgam and blue for Baltal on Sunday.The color slips will help the security and police personnel on duty to ensure that only the registered pilgrims and that too of the same date undertook journey to have darshan of holy Ice Lingam of Lord Shiva. The J&K Bank will notify its branches designated for the pilgrims through advertisements in newspapers nation wide to ensure that the aspirants could get to know of their nearest branch for registration.

The e-registration is unlikely this time, sources said, adding the decision to do away registration, sitting at home, might have been taken as a security measure. Last year, a number of pilgrims had registered themselves via internet. First batch of the yatris is scheduled to have darshan of holy Ice Lingam of Lord Shiva on July 1 from both the tracks. Last darshan will be performed on August 24 on the occasion of Shravan Purnima. As reported, the administration has decided to make tight security arrangements, almost at par with last year, for the yatra. IGP Kashmir Farooq Ahmed and IGP Jammu Ashok Gupta will supervise security arrangements in their respective zones. The deployment of para-military personnel will start from June 15 and it will be completed well ahead of scheduled date of start of yatra.The State has requisitioned nearly 75 additional companies of para-military from the Centre which were expected to start reaching here before June 15. Rest of the security will be met through internal resources including para-military deployed in less sensitive areas and local police.The SASB has already decided that air services for this year’s yatra will be operated from Baltal as well as Pahalgam but only up to Panjtarni, which means that the pilgrims taking aerial route will have to trek seven kms to reach the holy cave shrine.

Travelogue – Starting for Amarnath Yatra from Pahalgam

Amarnath Yatra
Date: June 21, 2006 -> Tata Sumo is the vehicle of choice for going from Pahalgam to Chandanwari. The cost is Rs600 for the entire vehicle one way, or one could take a seat on a per seat basis (negotiable). For Amarnath Yatra, the vehicles line up at the security checkpoint at Laripora village (2km from Pahalgam towards Chandanwari) where they are allowed to go ahead at a certain time early in the morning (between 6:00 AM and 7:00 AM). (Check for the latest arrangements on this account)

Local commuter mini-bus service is also available, but is generally used only by the locals.
The vehicles are reserved in advance from Pahalgam Taxi Stand. There are more than a hundred of such Sumo Taxis available, and most are generally busy during the yatra period, so booking in advance is highly recommended. The taxis make five to six trips to Chandanwari everyday during the Yatra period.

The road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari has been notoriously bad for all these years – in fact there hardly has been any road. But in March 2006 the entire stretch has been laid well with good quality macadamized road, though its still one lane. But most of the drivers are very well versed with each and every curve and turn on the 12 odd km stretch. The steep curves and the high speeds can make the ride very exciting, but spend your time looking outside at the meandering river Lidder flowing below with gushing waters and steep drops. And don’t miss the view of the mouth of the lidder valley as you leave it behind when you take the height; and the many water falls you see on the way.
road-to-chandanwari Only in five miles you will see on your right a widening of the valley as the Lidder calms down over a flat land. Localites fondly remember the location for the “shooting” of the famous hindi movie Betaab. This was the place where the farmhouse that was the centerpiece of the movie, was set up. As you drive up, you will see directions to Shiv Temple Cave, at Shivmarg. This is not a well known temple, apparently having come there in past few years. Try to stop by and take a look if you can; but the taxi Sumos would not.
The taxi stand is one and a half km short of Chandanwari snow bridge. Expect to be encountered by a horde of “ghorewalas”. Now if you have not already arranged for a pony (or a horse, however you would like to call the animal), this is your “moment of truth”! Getting the right pony and the right pony-wallah is crucial to a good, well organized and safe yatra experience.
bettab-valley-chandanwari-pahalgam
There are three basic categories of ponies and pony-wallahs.
The first category are the ponies and ponywallahs that belong to Pahalgam and surrounding areas. These are experienced ponies and experienced guides who have traversed the yatra route multiple times – even the ponies understand the route.

The second broad category is the gujjars who jump into the fray to make some money during yatra days. Their ponies are actually “ponies” – smaller built and also not too familiar with the route peculiarities. They may come at a slightly lower rate, but the gujjars lack professionalism – and that, like in any other service profession, has its own value. Professionalism means that the guy keeps an eye on the rider all the time, it means when to hold the horse or the rider during a steep climb down, it means to be not only timely with lunch breaks, but to be able to guide and suggest as to how much time is good for a break, etc.

The third type is the ponies and their owners who come all the way from Katra (in Jammu) specifically for Amarnath Yatra. Of course, their knowledge of local terrain, language and experience is limited.

By one account there are just 1,200 ponies which actually belong to the Pahalgam area, out of a total of about 10,000 that may be active on the route on a yatra day.

The ponies themselves are a stretched lot: not very long ago, the ponies were awarded a day of rest after every two or three days of labor, which means a day off for rest after every trip to Amarnath. But not any more. They work continuously for ten days and even more before they are rewarded with a day of rest.

Amarnath Yatra 2009 Update

The annual Amarnath yatra commenced from the traditional Pahalgam route from today (06/26), while the pilgrimage has already been in progress via Baltal route on the Srinagar-Leh axis from June 16. The yatra via Pahalgam route earlier scheduled to begin from June 7 could not be started due to bad weather conditions and accumulation of heavy snow on several patches along the 32-km-long Chandanwari-holy cave stretch.

A batch of 1,415 pilgrims, who were camping at the Nunwan Base Camp, Pahalgam, was allowed to proceed for the pilgrimage this morning via the traditional Chandanwari route.

Meanwhile, the Amarnath Shrine board has once again appealed to the intending pilgrims registered for the Pahalgam route to keep adequate flexibility in their travel plans as only 2,000 registered pilgrims per day would be permitted in the initial phase to proceed on the yatra on a first-come, first-served basis on the traditional Pahalgam-Chandanwari-holy cave route in view of the track and weather conditions. No old or infirm person and children below 12 years will be permitted to undertake the yatra on the Sheshnag route in view of the difficult snow route.

Women pilgrims have been advised to avoid undertaking the yatra on this route, at least for the next seven days or so.

How to register for Amarnath Yatra 2009

As every year, the Jammu and Kashmir Bank has been authorised by the government to register the intending pilgrims. You can click here to register.
Around 110 branches of the bank spread over the country will facilitate the registration of the pilgrims.
Bookings up to 3,00,000 are being done at counters;  and up to 1,20,000 through Internet   – which is a preferred means. The bank is also providing the mobile banking facilities at the base camp that will remain open from June 6 to August 5. ATM facility will be available round the clock.
In Jammu, the bank has set up an extra counter at the Exhibition Ground for registration, which will remain open on week days from 3.p.m in the afternoon till 6.p.m. , and on Saturday from 1.p.m to 4.p.m. in the afternoon.

The registration will close on July 30.

Additionally, the SASB has earmarked a daily allocation of 200 Yatra registrations each to a recognized travel and tour operator, and a daily quota of 50 registrations each in favour of the hotel industry in both Jammu and Kashmir divisions.

Notice regarding Re-Registration of Yatris for Shri Amarnathji Yatra- 2009
 

 
Consequent upon the rescheduling of the Yatra 2009, which was to commence on 7th of June instead will now start on 15th June, and culminate on 5th August 2009. The rescheduling of the dates will definitely cause inconvenience to those who have already registered themselves for Darshan for the dates from 7th June to 14th June online or offline. The Yatris can approach the designated branches for certain recourse and help. The Branches in such case will accede to their request and act accordingly: –
For Manual Booking:
The already registered Yatri who will approach the branch for the change of date of the Darshan will be accommodated in other dates to his convenience subject to the availably of the quota in that particular Darshan date without any further charges, however the route of the Yatra will remain unchanged.
The modified date on the already issued Slip will be countersigned and seal affixed.
In case the already registered Yatri intends to change the Route the fresh slip will be issued to the Yatri on further charges.
The facility is to be offered to the Yatris who have the registration of 7th June to 14th June.
For Online Booking:
The already registered Yatri (online) will revisit the site opt for re-registration and punch the Registration No. of the slip he/she is already holding and the caller mail id which has been put in on the actual registration.
Then he/she will select the next available date of his/her convenience subject to the availability of the quota on that particular date, however the route of the Yatra will remain unchanged.
The system will generate the fresh Yatra slip without asking for any further charges.
The facility is restricted to the Yatri who have the registration of 7th June to 14th June in there already registration.

Booking can be scheduled or rescheduled here.
 

Preparations for main Amarnath Yatra in good shape

Read about final preparations for the Chhadi Mubarak, as well as more on the take of Mahant Deependra Giri on how and why yatra through Pahalgam route contitutes the only legitimate way of doing this holy pilgrimage.

Srinagar, July 14, KONS- The custodian of the holy mace of lord Shiva or ‘Charri Mubarak’, Mahant Deependra Giri today announced the programme for the commencement of the ‘religious’ yatra to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in South Kashmir Himalayas.
Giri, who had earlier campaigned for restricting the yatra to a period of one month, said rituals connected with Chhari-Mubarak will begin with Bhoomi-pujan and Dhawajarohan ceremonies at Pahalgam on ‘Vyas-Purnima’ which falls on July 18, marking the commencement of the religious yatra.
It is note worthy that a record number of 4, 73,744 pilgrims have already visited the holy cave for darshan so far with 3313 leaving for the cave shrine from the base camps on Monday.
Giri said, after performing the ‘Chhari-Pujan’ at Dashnami Akhara in Srinagar on Nag-Panchami, which falls on August six, the holy mace would be taken in a procession to the cave shrine.
On way to the holy cave, special prayers would be offered at various temples, the Mahant said, adding, the holy mace will reach the cave shrine for ‘darshan’ on Shravan-Purnima falling on August 16 which marks the conclusion of the annual yatra.
Giri, who has also expressed disappointment over preference of the shortest Baltal route to the traditional Pahalgam track, said Mahadev Gir Dashnami Akhara trust has made all arrangements for Sadhus coming from across the country for annual pilgrimage.
All necessary arrangements for their comfortable stay and food have been made at the Akhara building in Srinagar, the head priest said.
Mahant Deependra Giri, resigned as member of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) following the differences over duration of yatra and the artificial ice lingam controversy in 2006.
The Mahant is of the opinion that the annual pilgrimage should be conducted during the month of “Shravan” only as per the age-old religious customs and traditions.
Even as he disassociated himself from the Board, he however, continued to do on his own “all that might be required to maintain the sanctity of the annual pilgrimage of Amarnath”.
Giri, has asserted that using the man-made Baltal route for the pilgrimage — which is significantly more convenient than the original one — goes against the Hindu scriptures.
 According to Giri, ancient scriptures hold the trek through Pahalgam as the only authentic route for the pilgrimage.
 He argues that the yatra is not sanctimonious if there is no penance.
 “There is no mention of Baltal in the scriptures, which means Pahalgam is the only authentic route for the pilgrimage. This is as per Hingish Sahita — the only authentic scripture which explains Amarnath pilgrimage at length and bears description of how to conduct this yatra. As far as Baltal goes, the route was thrown open by the Army,” Giri says.
 The contention of the SASB so far has been that “reaching the cave is of utmost importance, and the route has no bearing on the pilgrimage”.
 Meanwhile 1846 pilgrims were allowed from Nunwan base camp along the Pahalgam route and 1465 devotees left Baltal base camp on their way to the cave shrine on Monday morning.
Two women pilgrims including one from Delhi, died of cardiac arrest on way to the cave shrine, raising the number of deaths during the ongoing annual pilgrimage to 51, official sources said.

Only Pahalgam route to Amarnath has sanctity

Some may take the recent comment by Amarnath shrine custodian, Mahant Deependra Giri as part of his tussle with the official shrine board – SASB. However it does merit some thought. Is really getting to Amarnath, by whatever means, the end? Or going through the hardship of climbing up to get to Him also part of the bigger game? Most of the Hindu shrines are only reachable after going through trecherous mountain climbs. Perhaps the idea always has been that go through the difficulty, go through the hardship and the risk, before you can get to the God, and do any kind of penance, etc.
Even going on a horse or a pony up to the cave from Pahalgam gives a sense of not doing enough for the Yatra. You see hordes of families, old, children and women, all going on the foot, and can’t help but feel guilty riding a pony. Considering this, one should/would feel very unsatisfied if one was to take a copter ride and land at 500 feet from the gufa. Or for that matter take Baltal route which some much shorter and quicker. After all the end is not paying your obeisance only; its going through the arduous yatra to do that. Is saying that one should avail of the technology also holds true in the matters of emotion and faith?
Anyhow, here is the news coverage:

Sringar: The Amarnath pilgrimage, scheduled to begin from June 18, is mired in yet another controversy.

The shrine custodian, Mahant Deependra Giri, has asserted that using the man-made Baltal route for the pilgrimage — which is significantly more convenient than the original one — goes against the Hindu scriptures. According to Giri, ancient scriptures hold the trek through Pahalgam as the only authentic route for the pilgrimage. He argues that the yatra will have no sanctity if there is no penance.

“There is no mention of Baltal in the scriptures, which means Pahalgam is the only authentic route for the pilgrimage. This is as per Hingish Sahita — the only authentic scripture which explains Amarnath pilgrimage at length and bears description of how to conduct this yatra. As far as Baltal goes, the route was thrown open by the Army,” Giri says.

At an imposing altitude of 3,888 metres, the Amarnath cave is 44.8 km from Pahalgam base camp. However, worshippers frequently use the 13-km Baltal-cave route and avail facilities like chopper services. Some say, commercialisation has ruined the true idea behind the pilgrimage.

“Every pilgrimage and every shrine has become a centre for earning money. The same holds true for Amarnath yatra, “ Hindu scholar T N Ganju laments.

Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) officials, however, say that reaching the cave is of utmost importance, and the route has no bearing on the pilgrimage.

“Suppose we have helicopters and ropeway up there, you think people will not go there? If there is modern technology, people will avail it,” defends SASB CEO Arun Kumar.

Amarnath Yatra Registration 2008

Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra 2008 Registration Form

Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra 2008 Duplicate Receipt Generation 

JK Bank Global Help Desk Contact Numbers

For 2008, a registration fee of Rs 15 has been fixed while Rs 24 is charged by way of an insurance policy to the pilgrims.

Name, Age, Address, Blood Group – undertaking that you are physically fit to undertake trek at 14000 feet altitude
For credit card verification, the billing address as it appears on your credit card statement
Pay By Credit Card [ Diners Club Card/ American Express/ JCB card/ Visa ] [Need verification number]
Pay By ATM-CUM-DEBIT CARD
Pay Using Your Internet Enabled Bank Account
Pay by PayMate(Mobile payment)
Pay by ITZ CASH CARDS

With the annual Amarnath yatra set to commence from June 18, registration of devotees has started across the country.

Devotees can register themselves at 80 different branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank across the country. Registration would end on July 13.

A total quota of 28,6680 pilgrims would be registered across the country by the bank branches.

While 9000 pilgrims would be registered in Jammu, 1200 will be registered in Srinagar, 720 in Kathua, 480 in Rajouri, 480 in Poonch and 600 in Udhampur.

Here is the list of Jammu and Kashmir Bank branches where yatris can register

Andhra Pradesh – Hyderabad – Pather Ghatti, J.N.Road

Bihar – Patna – Phulwari Sharief

Chandigarh – Sector 17

Delhi – Azadpur; Chandni Chowk; Naraina; Navin Shadara; Okhla; Rohini; South Extenison; Sarita Vihar; Vasant Vihar

Goa – Panaji

Gujarat – Ahmedabad; Baroda (Lal Bagh); Surat

Haryana – Ambala Cantt; Gurgaon; Hissar; Karnal; Panipat;Rohtak

Himachal Pradesh – Dharmshala; Kullu; Shimla

Karnataka – Bangalore – SPJ Road; Infantry Road; Mysore

Kerala – Kochi; Ernakulam; Thriuvananthapuram

Maharashtra – Mumbai; Andheri (East); Kalbadevi, Mira Road, Vashi; Aurangabad; Nagpur; Pune

Madhya Pradesh – Bhopal; Indore

Punjab – Amritsar – Shastri Market; Majith Mandi; Batala; Bathinda; Ferozepur; Jalandhar; Ludhiana; Khanna; Moga; Mohali; Mandi Gobind Garh; Mansa; Pathankot; Phagwara

Rajasthan – Jaipur

Tamil Nadu – Chennai – Mount Road; Parrys

Uttar Pradesh – Agra; Aligarh; Allahabad; Bhadoni; Greater Noida; Kanpur; Lucknow; Meerut; Muradabad; Noida; Varanasi

West Bengal – Kolkata- R.N. Mukherji Road, Mullick Bazar

Jammu and Kashmir – Jammu – TRC Extension Counter; Rajori Jawahar Nagar ; Poonch – Main Branch; Kathua-Main Branch; Udhampur-Shakti Nagar ; Doda-Pul Doda and Srinagar TRC Extension Counter.

For the past few years now, JK Bank is playing a crucial role in ensuring smooth conduct of yatra. No pilgrim is allowed to proceed for the yatra without proper registration. After it was made mandatory for the yatris visiting Amarnath cave to register themselves before entering into the State, JK Bank came forward to bail the State government out of crisis. While upholding its tradition of coming to the aid of the people, the bank, since 2002, has been shouldering the responsibility to register yatris throughout the country at its designated branches. This has won laurels for the bank from the yatris for smooth and satisfactory registration service rendered to them through the bank branches.¼br />  

No Amarnath ‘darshan’ before June 18 – lingam, 14 to 16 feet formed this year

News – The Telegraph, Calcutta: Srinagar, May 22: Planning to take off on a soul-cleansing journey to Amarnath within the next few days? Tarry a while.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has deferred the official date of the yearly pilgrimage as it wants to steer clear of any controversy over early melting of the Shiva lingam.

The two-month yatra will now officially start from June 18, authorities said, adding that the administration has banned any movement of pilgrims to the cave shrine ahead of that date.

“Yes, we have imposed Section 144 to prevent any pilgrim visiting the cave before the said date and we are fully implementing it,” Kashmir divisional commissioner Mehboob Iqbal said.

“We are doing so at the recommendation of the (Amarnath) shrine board.”

Official sources said police teams deployed at both the Baltal and Pahalgam routes to the cave were turning back pilgrims.

Over the years it had become a routine that the unofficial yatra would commence a month ahead of the formal opening, with the full backing of shrine board officials.

Last year, devotees were disappointed to find that the lingam had melted even before the official yatra commenced.

In 2006, the board was mired in another controversy after allegations that an artificial lingam had been placed to keep the pilgrimage going after the original lingam had completely melted.

“The board does not want any controversy this time, the reason the unofficial yatra is not taking place this year,” a source in the board said.

Reasons cited for the early melting have ranged from increase in the cave temperature because of the duration of the pilgrimage, hugging of the lingam by devotees to burning of incense sticks within the cave.

Board chief executive officer Arun Kumar, however, said there was no scientific evidence to prove that the lingam melts because of the long pilgrimage period.

“We have urged the government in the past also to prevent any unofficial yatra. This time we are happy that they are properly implementing it.”

Kumar said there had been reports of pilgrims going too close to the lingam last year and even hugging it. “This will not happen this year as we have erected a 53-foot-long and nine-foot-high iron fence around the lingam.” He added that a perfect lingam, measuring 14 to 16 feet, had formed this year.

Board sources said they were expecting around five lakh pilgrims, around two lakh more than last year.

Amarnath pilgrims can stay in Pahalgam hotels

In a decision of great significance to tourists and locals alike, the authorities agreed to let tourists and Amarnath Yatris stay in Pahalgam area hotels.

News item: Srinagar: The Amarnth pilgrims will be totally free to stay in private hotels at Pahalgam during the two-month-long yatra, starting from June 18, Chief Executive Officer(CEO), Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) Arun Kumar said today.

Announcing the decision at a joint meeting of various departments and representatives of hoteliers, he said the yatris would be free to decide whether they wished to stay in hotels or in the Nunwan camp. The hoteliers and other traders were protesting that their business was affected when the base camp was shifted to Nunwan.
He said it has been decided to regulate tourist and pilgrim movements to Pahalgam and to the base camp of the yatra at Nunwan.

The Serbal security check post would also be relocated near Nunwan and the usual tourist traffic diverted to Pahalgam via a circuit road. Dr Kumar said the new plan of action was revealed under which a booth would be established near the check point to serve as an information counter regarding availability of accommodation in the picturesque valley for desirous pilgrims. The CEO said with this measure, tourists from outside could visit Pahalgam even during the yatra period without any obstacles. The measure, he said, would boost the occupancy of hotels even when schools reopen in the rest of the country after the summer vacations. ”’We want pilgrims to stay anywhere they like. In fact, the Shrine Board is not averse to shifting of the Nunwan base camp to its traditional and ancient location of Sadhu Paraw, ahead of Pahalgam that will be beneficial for all, the hoteliers, craft dealers and local traders,” Dr Kumar said.

Hotel assosiation against construction in Nunwan, Pahalgam

Long duration of Amarnath Yatra is anyways creating tourism related disruptions in Pahalgam as many casual toursits shy away from the place during those weeks. Now come the sudden step of Amarnath Shrine Board constructing pre-fabricated huts at Nunwan, on the outskirts of Pahalgam. Long term this could start effecting the center of gravity of toursist economy of Pahalgam to outside of Pahalgam, towards Nunwan. While constructing lavatories could make sense if SASB persists with keeping Amarnath yatris out of Pahalgam in a secluded (and perhaps secure) Yatri Camp at Nunwan, the whole idea really needs to be abandoned so that people coming to Amarnath Yatra from all over the country can visit the hill station as normal tourists and enjoy the beauty of it. Of course with it would come the issues of ecological degradation of Pahalgam valley by activities of Yatris, but thats a different problem, and SASB or other wise men can surely arrive at solutions to it. Anyhow, this is a release from KHAROF, typically harsh in wordings, but nevertheless in the right direction. Its from the Gk News network.

Srinagar, May 19: The Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Owners Federation (KHAROF) on Monday said the construction activities carried out by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) at Pahalgam are bound to damage the environment and ecology of the resort besides hurt the public sentiments.
 Acting on the news reports carried by this newspaper about Pahalgam, a KHAROF spokesman said the Federation members unanimously condemned “this anti-environmental, anti-ecological and anti-Pahalgam activities like construction of public lavatories, pre-fabricated huts on concrete plinths at Nunwan” by the SASB.
 “The tourism fraternity of Kashmir appeals to the government not to allow such activities which are bound to wipe out Pahalgam from the tourist map of the world,” a spokesman said in a statement. “And if the government fails to act immediately then the notion that the SASB is by itself a power centre—a state within itself—stand confirmed.”
 The spokesman said the tourism in Kashmir was bread and butter to a large populace, and Pahalgam being a famed tourist destination needs be preserved at any cost. “If such actions are not stopped, it would force us to go to any extent to save the place from human-inflicted injuries like massive constructions,” he said.
 The Federation also demanded that the Yatra period be restricted to 10 days as per the past practice. “Stretching the Yatra to two and a half months is degrading Pahalgam and its neighborhood environmentally and vandalizing it ecologically,” the spokesman added. “We humbly ask the powers that be to get up and save Pahalgam.”
 “It is ironical that few days back the Pahalgam Development Authority declared usage of rubber boats for rafting as an environmental hazard but at the same time it allows vandalism of Pahalgam.”

Managing lavatories for Amarnath pilgrims

One of the bigger deals with undertaking any pilgrimage with thousands of other people is to be able be reasonably manage needs arounds bathrooms and  lavatories. If you are in the basecamp at Nunwan in Pahalgam, or camp in Panchtarni or Sheshnag, no other problem is more exacerbated than this. The scene at 6:00 has to be seen to be believed. People sit out there in open, and feces are littered all over – without many reservations, people sit anywhere – simply because there is no choice.  Help is on way…

FAHEEM ASLAM / MUDDASIR ALI of GreaterKashmir  

Pahalgam, May 16: The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has constructed hundreds of lavatories and many huts at Nunwan base camp in this famous hill resort where
illegal constructions already pose a serious threat to its ‘fragile’ environment.

The land on which the lavatories and huts have come up is the state land acquired by the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) where construction of
any kind is strictly forbidden.

           “We have constructed 250 lavatories and 22 prefab huts for Yatris. The SASB has asked us to erect 100 more lavatories and 50 bathrooms in the base
camp,” said an SASB employee.

           The huts, and lavatories made of angular iron have been erected on concrete plinths in the green zone with a land area of 226 Kanals.

           Adjacent to the lavatories, small pits have been dug for disposal of human excreta. Many of these pits have been connected to a two feet wide drain
leading to nowhere. The green zone area has another drain which empties into a wide pit, few meters outside the camp. The pit, which has been dug on one side of
the main road leading to Pahalgam, ultimately leads into river Lidder, one of the main attractions of the resort.

           “The drain has been dug last year for flow of residual wastes from Langers which are established every year for yatris. It (drain) will ultimately
carry the wastes to the pit outside for safe decomposition,” said another SASB employee.

           The SASB, according to the employee, has planned to concretize the drain. “The plan was formulated last year, but the board may implement it this
year,” he said. The board is also shifting the prefab huts to other side in the camp due to the high-tension power line passing above them.  Environmentalists and officials in the PDA say environment of Pahalgam is very fragile and any interference with it would be detrimental to its
ecosystem. “Even a minor activity undertaken in this green zone can prove disastrous,” said Dr Mubashir Rufai, a noted environmentalist.

           He said the establishments of lavatories in the zone will affect the environment as well as human health. “The human excreta from these lavatories
will ultimately seep into bottom layers of earth and reach the underground water layer and contaminate it.  It will also pollute the Lidder stream besides
increase the bacterial count of water, which will affect the humans who will consume this water in the lower regions,” Dr Rufai said.

           The PDA authorities, however, claim the excreta would be treated chemically and it will not affect the Nunwan environment. But environmentalists refute the claim. “To what extent can the excreta be treated chemically when you have a massive rush of people?” questioned Dr
Rufai.

           He said the “best solution” would have been to erect environment-friendly lavatories with an attached soakage pit. “The pit could be transported for
proper decomposition at proper locations,” Dr Rufai said.

           The pre-fabricated huts were set up last year by the SASB without seeking permission of the authorities concerned.

           Since then, there has been a strong correspondence between the PDA and SASB about their shifting to some other location. But nothing has been done so
far, even though the construction in this zone is drawing flak from PDA.

Amarnath Yatris may be allowed to stay in Pahalgam Hotels

Amarnath Yatris normally stay in Nunwan camp just outside of Pahalgam, and they have to hike all the way up to Pahalgam to just visit the beautiful Place (which is enroute to Amarnath yatra anyways). Because they don’t stay in Pahalgam proper, its a loss for the locals as well so they cannot reap much economic benefits. And of course its Yatris’ loss as they so close to Pahalgam, yet not in Pahalgam. The situation might change this year…..IT SHOULD.

Read what came out in News today: merinews.com – TRADERS IN Pahalgam, the traditional base for the annual Amranath Yatra, have decided to offer huge discounts to pilgrims making the yatra this year through the traditional route. They also sought the support of Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) in carving out a bigger role for the local business community.

In a meeting with the chief executive officer, SASB, Dr Arun Kumar, the Pahalgam Hotel Association said that it was ready to slash down tariff drastically, bringing it at par with the rates of tent accommodation. It also appealed that no one should be stopped from staying in their hotels during the yatra period.
The chairman of the association, Javed Burzza said that the hoteliers have all along extended hospitality to the pilgrims as this pilgrimage has been the only silver lining during the peak of militancy when tourist influx to the valley was almost zero. “It will not be an exaggeration to say that our sustenance during that period was due to Amarnathji pilgrimage,” he added.
The association said that it was not averse to having Nunwan as base camp but it should not be at the cost of hoteliers, whose business has suffered immensely during the past few years. They complained that the security exercise had created various obstacles in carrying out their vocation and called for its streamlining.
On his part, Kumar reiterated that the board wants massive local participation in the yatra and it will continue to remove obstacles in its way. He said that the law and order and security did not come under the ambit of the shrine board. However, it said that it will take up issues projected by the association at appropriate levels to enable maximum utilisation of the already available hotel accommodation in Pahalgam during the yatra period.
He appreciated the gesture of various trading association that have been meeting him for the past few days and gave an overview of measures being taken to elicit the local participation in yatra management like house keeping, distribution of prasad made of local ingredients, watch and ward, road and track maintenance and provision of various utility services.
Kumar suggested setting up of a tourist reception centre in Nunwan base camp with representatives of hoteliers and other associations for taking care of their interests during the yatra.