The traditional “Pratham Pooja” (first prayer) for the seasonal pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in south Kashmir Himalayas was held here on Friday, officials said. Normally, the ceremony marks the start of the Amarnath Yatra that spans over 2 months. However, in 2020, Amarnath Yatra is likely to begin in the last week of July, and duration has been shortened to 15 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Pratham Pooja” was conducted by principal secretary to Jammu & Kashmir Lieutenant Governor and CEO of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) Bipul Pathak, and SASB Additional CEO A K Soni.
The first prayers were performed as is the annual tradition. This was done as per schedule. “The yatra will be conducted with social distancing measures and other SOPs in place,” Bipul Pathak said to a question about the commencement of the pilgrimage to the 3880-meter high cave shrine this year. Pathak said the yatra may take place after taking into consideration all possibilities. “There are some problems. There is a shortage of laborers due to lockdown and preparations are still on,” he said.
According to the sources, helicopters are likely to be used for the yatra and it will conclude on August 3. Earlier, the Amarnath Yatra was scheduled to begin from the twin routes of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district on June 23. It would have concluded on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) on August 3.
This year those only below 55 years of age will be allowed to go on the yatra except for the sadhus.