Over 2.38 lakh pilgrims have performed the ongoing Amarnath Yatra during the last 19 days as another batch of 4,094 yatris left Jammu on Saturday for the cave shrine in Kashmir Valley, officials said.
Since the Yatra began on July 1, a total of 2,38,974 pilgrims had 'darshan' at the cave shrine. Police said another batch of 4,094 pilgrims left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas for the shrine in two escorted convoys.
"Of these, 1,686 yatris are going to Baltal base camp while 2,408 are going to Pahalgam base camp," a police officer said.
Situated 3,888 metres above the sea level in Kashmir's Himalayas, the cave shrine houses an ice stalagmite structure that symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva, according to the devotees.
The ice structure waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon. Pilgrims approach the cave shrine either through the longer 45 km-long Pahalgam route or the shorter 14 km-long Baltal route.
Those using the Baltal route return to the base camp the same day after performing the Yatra. Helicopter services are available for the pilgrims at both the base camps.
Local Muslims are lending a helping hand to ensure that their Hindu brethren can perform the Yatra with ease and convenience to uphold the centuries old tradition of Kashmir, abode of saints and Sufis.
The cave shrine was discovered in 1850 by a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik . To reward the shepherd, a saint gave him a bag of charcoal that turned out to be gold, says the local folklore.
Symbolically, the lore turned out to be true. The descendants of the shepherd have shared a portion of the offerings at the cave shrine for over 150 years. This year's Amarnath Yatra will conclude on August 15 coinciding with the Shravan Purnima festival.