As there has been a surge in terror attacks in the Valley recently, the security agencies have put in the "highest level of the security measures" and deployed thousands of security personnel along the routes.
The 40-day Amarnath pilgrimage began with the first batch of 2,280 pilgrims, who will reach Lord Shiva's cave through the shorter Baltal route and the traditional Pahalgam route which is 45-kilometre longer. The 72-vehicle convoy left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas in Jummu around 5.30 am amid chants of "Jai Bholay Nath" and "Bum Bum Bholay". This year, the yatra will be eight days shorter than last year's and will conclude on August 7.
A heavy security blanket of over 35,000 to 40,000 troops comprising special Quick Action Teams, the police, Army, BSF and CRPF will guard the highway. Closed circuit cameras are installed along the highway and at sensitive locations on the Yatra route.
Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath shrine stands at 3,888 metres, 46 km from Pahalgam and 14 km from Baltal.
A 10-bed hospital at Nunwan and 20-bed hospital at Chandanwari have been established for any medical exigencies. Oxygen cylinders, ECG machines, defibrillators, oxygen concentrators, CPR machines, X-ray machines, ventilators, resuscitation sets have been installed and life-saving medicines will be available at the hospital, an official spokesman said.
Residential accommodation and mess facilities for about 250 medical personnel, including those arriving from different parts of the country, to provide medical assistance for the pilgrims have also been put in place.
(With inputs from agencies)