Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday morning flagged off the first batch of pilgrims for the annual Amarnath Yatra from the Bhagwati Nagar base camp in the 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 arrangements.
Flanked by political leaders and officials, including Jammu Mayor Chander Mohan Gupta, BJP leader Devender Rana and Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, the lieutenant governor flagged off the convoy of buses and other vehicles carrying pilgrims on their inward journey to the twin basecamps in Kashmir.
"The pilgrimage has been 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.
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 the 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 the Jammu city. Security is a major challenge," Jammu Senior Superintendent of Police Chandan Kohli said.
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.