After the gap of two years following the Covid-19, this year Amarnath Yatra will start on June 30. We are expecting more than one million Yatris to visit Amarnath cave which is located 3800 meters above sea level in a very fragile ecosystem.
The 43-day-long yatra is scheduled to start on June 30 from the twin routes -- traditional 48-km Nunwan in south Kashmir’s Pahalgam and 14-km shorter Baltal in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal. The first batch of pilgrims including sadhus will leave for the twin base camps of Kashmir from Bhagwati Nagar and Ram Mandir in Jammu, a day ahead of the start of the yatra.
The Amarnath Cave is famous for the natural formation of Shiva Linga from the snow. A large number of devotees visit the Holy Amarnath Cave from June to August every year and Kashmiris have always welcomed the Yatris with open hearts.
The registration for the Yatra is underway at over 450 bank branches and through SASB’s mobile application as well. The traditional yatra begins from two routes Chandanwari, which is some sixteen kilometers from Pahalgam, via Sheshnag and Panchtarni, and concludes at the holy cave situated on the Amarnath Mountain.
This year pilgrims can directly book their helicopter tickets online from Srinagar to Panchtarni. It is for the first time devotees can complete the holy Yatra in a single day.
The helicopter service previously was operational for only two sectors, but now the pilgrims can avail the services in four sectors (to and fro) viz. Srinagar to Neelgrath, Srinagar to Pahalgam, Neelgrath to Panchtarni and Pahalgam to Panchtarni, with 11 helicopters to remain available for the passengers.
The addition of the two new sectors from Srinagar will encourage those Yatris who wish to complete the Yatra in a single day and can return home. Apart from less time, it will have also minor impacts on the local environment and will help to overcome the climatic crisis.
Amarnath cave falls at the far end of the Lidder mountain range where several glaciers like Kolhai, Bodpathri, and Nehnar are located.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration has also kept 70 health facilities from Jawahar Tunnel to the holy cave on both routes including Chandanwari and Baltal, which include six base hospitals, medical aid centres, emergency aid centres and 26 oxygen booths.
Two dedicated 70-bedded hospitals at Baltal and Chandanwari and on-route have been put in place. We have medical facilities available in less than every two kilometres with movable oxygen booths and movable emergency system been kept available, besides mobile booths to tackle any emergent situation.
The health department has kept ICU beds and oxygen available on both sides and at least 1500 staff members are being deployed there to work in three shifts with additional residential accommodations for them at all levels. The Yatra is set to start on June 30, 2022, and conclude on August 11, 2022, on Raksha Bandhan.
Do’s and Don’ts
The pilgrims who have done their registrations and are planning to do the same, must do the morning or evening walk for nearly 4 to 5 hours daily. This is a necessity to keep oneself fit as one comes at a very high altitude.
The holy cave is at 12,700 ft while you do have to cross 14,000 or 15,000 ft in your way. Also, practice deep breathing exercises as there are oxygen shortages at such high altitudes. Following a dip in temperature in the region during rains, pilgrims should carry warm clothes as a precautionary measure.
The temperature dips to nearly 5 degrees when it rains during the yatra. So do bring your warm clothes with you keeping this in mind. Do bring a walking stick, jacket and eatables. Keep hydrating yourself to avoid dehydration.
Those below 13 years of age or above 75 years of age are not allowed for the pilgrimage. Women over six weeks of pregnancy are not allowed for the Amarnath Yatra.
The Union Territory administration had stated that full year insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh and shall be provided for horses and ponies for their services in Amarnathji Yatra. The government had directed officers of the Labour Department to register 16,000 labourers to achieve the target of 35000 labourers to provide services during the yatra period.
The Animal Husbandry Department was asked to register an additional 5000 ponies to provide services for Shri Amarnathji Yatra. The govt has emphasized on officers to ensure that yatries are not overcharged by service providers.
Training to health care employees
Around 300 medicos and paramedics in High Altitude Medicine at Regional Institute of Health and Family Welfare (RIHFW) Dhobiwan were trained for upcoming Amarnath Yatra.
The health care workers were imparted training in high altitude mountain sickness, high altitude pulmonary edema, high altitude cerebral edema, acute coronary syndrome, Arrhythmias, oxygen therapy, emergency drugs, defibrillators, AED, transport of patients, auto CPR machine, airway management, basic life support and stabilization techniques etc.
The traffic department officials have been directed to ensure personal supervision and regularly brief traffic officials from time to time for a smooth and incident-free Yatra. Traffic on all the roads used by the yatri's should be managed effectively to avoid the congestion on the roads and delay in the movements of Yatra convoys. This year higher authorities have also stressed that facilitation of Yatri's is their top priority and every effort should be to make their journey comfortable.
Apart from various other arrangements, the stakeholders have been deliberating upon a disaster management plan at length. Efforts have also been made to ensure that various security aspects of the yatra are taken care of. A quality committee has undertaken a quality check of tents and bedding to be used for the Yatra.
The best part about SANJY-2022 is that all departments are working in complete synergy. From the Works Department to the Department of Tourism, all the line departments are working in tandem to ensure that the Yatra is a major success.
LED screens have been installed by the local Municipal Committees to welcome the Yatris. Conveyance facilities have also been created at the petrol pumps. This is going to provide an extra boost to the state’s economy.
(Author is a journalist based in Srinagar)