The Amarnath Yatra that starts in the month of Sawan every year will be conducted in a staggered manner due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not more than 500 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the shrine daily, officials said on Wednesday. The Amarnath Yatra is likely to commence on July 21.
Allowing pilgrims to visit Amarnath and Vaishno Devi, two of the most sacred shrines for Hindus, was discussed at a meeting attended by G Kishan Reddy and Jitendra Singh, senior ministers in the Narendra Modi cabinet. The meeting, via video conference, was also attended by Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, GC Murmu, Chief Secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam and other senior officers.
A final decision on the schedule of Amarnath Yatra will be taken later next week, news agency PTI quoted officials.
Around 9,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Jammu and Kashmir so far and around 145 people have died.
The administration in the Union Territory is already stretched due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say, symptoms for the virus and high-altitude sickness are almost same and allowing a large number of pilgrims to Amarnath, at a height of 13,000 feet, will be an additional burden on the infrastructure.
In case of the Vaishno Devi shrine, devotees will not be allowed to visit the temple till July 31. Local people may be allowed first and then depending on the coronavirus situation, devotees from outside the state may be allowed, officials said.
The Kanwar Yatra has already been cancelled for this year due to the pandemic. Water from the Ganga at Haridwar will be collected in urns and sent to the states by road.
Devotees of Lord Shiva visit the Amarnath shrine, Vaishno Devi Temple and go on Kanwar Yatra in the auspicious month of Sawan or Shravan.