The registration for the pilgrims of the 39-day annual yatra to the holy shrine of Amarthnath in south Kashmir Himalayas will begin from March 1.
The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has designated 433 branches of Punjab National Bank, Jammu and Kashmir Bank and YES Bank across the country for the registration of pilgrims.
This year, the yatra will start on June 29 and conclude on Raksha Bandan on August 7. This year’s yatra will be shorter by eight days against the 48 days that it took in 2016.
The new 14-kilometre Baltal-Holy cave route, although steep, is preferred by most pilgrims since the journey can be completed in a day.
“Permits for the annual yatra shall be in different colours for each day of the week, and a different route to facilitate police personnel at the access control gates (at Baltal and Chandanwari),” said PK Tripathi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SASB.
Tripathi said yatris will have to furnish a Compulsory Health Certificate (CHC) while seeking registration for the yatra.
“Persons under the age of 13 years or above the age of 75 years, and women who are more than six weeks pregnant will not be able register for this year’s yatra,” he added.
The CEO cautioned the intending yatris against undertaking this arduous pilgrimage without securing a yatra permit and the required CHC. “To ensure effective security arrangements along the difficult tracks, only those yatris who are in possession of a yatra permit, which is valid for a specified date and route, will be allowed to proceed beyond the base camps, and cross the entry gates at Domel and Chandanwari,” he said.
The format of the CHC and the state-wise list of doctors and medical institutes authorised to issue CHCs has been put on the website of the Shrine Board.
To counter fraudulent CHCs, only those issued by authorised doctors or medical institutes will be accepted at the registering bank branches.
However, yatris who intend to travel by a helicopter do not require advance registration as their helicopter ticket will suffice. But they will have to produce the CHC in the prescribed format issued by an authorised state government doctor before they are allowed to travel by helicopter.
Situated in a narrow gorge at an altitude of 3,888 metres, the Amarnath cave is accessible from two routes in the Valley. The 46 km Pahalgam trek is an ancient pilgrimage route, covered in five days where the ice lingam of Lord Shiva is formed naturally.
Official figures reveal that over 2,20,295 yatris visited the cave shrine in 2016 against the 3,52,771 pilgrims who visited in 2015.
In 2017, the Shrine Board decided to introduce multi-colour permit slips to ensure foolproof security of the pilgrims.