Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday flagged off the first batch of 4,890 pilgrims for the annual Amarnath yatra from the Bhagwati Nagar base camp in Jammu city for their onward journey to the Pahalgam and Baltal base camps in Kashmir.
The 43-day pilgrimage to the cave shrine will begin from twin base camps in Kashmir on Thursday and will conclude on August 11 on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan.
The annual Amarnath Yatra is being organised after a gap of two years due to the Covid pandemic.
Amid chants of 'Bam Bam Bhole' and 'Jai Barfani Baba ki', the pilgrims left the Bhagwati Nagar base camp here in a convoy of vehicles amid tight security.
Flanked by political leaders and officials, including Jammu Mayor Chander Mohan Gupta, BJP leader Devender Rana and Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, the Sinha flagged off the convoy of buses and other vehicles carrying pilgrims on their inward journey to the twin base camps in Kashmir.
The first batch of pilgrims left for the cave shrine amid chanting of Vedic mantras.
The Lt Governor prayed for the peace, prosperity and a safe journey of pilgrims.
Marking the beginning of the annual pilgrimage, the first batch left at around 4 am in a cavalcade of 176 light and heavy vehicles, officials said.
The yatra has passed through Udhampur and Ramban districts amid a grand welcome accorded by the top officials district administration led by DCs and SSPs.
"The pilgrimage has begun from Jammu. The convoy, flagged off by the L-G, has left for Kashmir from here," Jammu Mayor Chander Mohan Gupta told reporters.
He said all arrangements have been made to provide comfort to the pilgrims.
In Jammu, Daleep Singh, a devotee from Barmer in Rajasthan, said, "There is no fear, no threat, only unbridled passion to reach the cave shrine quickly and have a glimpse of Lord Shiva." Asha Devi, who is a part of an over 40-member group of pilgrims from Kanpur, said, "We urge people from all over the country to come and pay obeisance at the cave shrine."
Multi-tier security arrangements have been put in place in and around the base camps, lodging, registration and token centres with the deployment of over 5,000 security personnel in Jammu city, officials said.
The yatra will commence on June 30 from the traditional 48-km Nunwan route in south Kashmir's Pahalgam and the 14-km Baltal route in central Kashmir's Ganderbal.
According to officials, over three lakh pilgrims have registered so far for the annual Amarnath Yatra.
This year, the government has introduced a Radio Frequency Identification to track the movement and well-being of the pilgrims, they said.
"Adequate security measure has been put in place for the base camps and lodging places in Jammu city. Security is a major challenge," Jammu Senior Superintendent of Police Chandan Kohli said.
The police have issued special stickers for vehicles ferrying pilgrims. No vehicle without the sticker will be allowed to proceed towards the cave shrine, officials said.
Over 3.42 lakh pilgrims had paid obeisance at the shrine from July 1 to August 1, 2019, before the government cancelled the pilgrimage midway ahead of the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)