SRINAGAR: The ice formation which resembles lingam of lord Shiva at the 3888-meter high Amarnath cave has completely melted, officials and eyewitnesses said.
The massive influx of pilgrims has contributed to the melting of ice Shivlingam in the cave shrine located in the South Kashmir Himalayas more than a month before culmination of the annual Hindu pilgrimage also known as Amarnath Yatra this year.
Amarnath yatra started on June 28 this year and was scheduled to end on August 21.
Even before the beginning of the annual pilgrimage, almost 40 percent of the lingam had melted away - the lingam was only 8-feet tall this year.
The premature melting of the Shiv lingam is rumoured to be the effect of either global warming or due to the heavy presence of pilgrims and security personnel inside the Amarnath cave.
Over 2 lakh people have visited the shrine till now.
It remains to be seen whether pilgrims will continue to flock to the holy shrine now that the lingam has melted away. Pilgrims start their journey to the 3880-metre-high cave shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas from both Baltal and Pahalgam base camps.
The Jammu and Kashmir government in the past made attempts to refrigerate the holy cave to prevent the ice lingam from melting.
The Amarnath Shrine Board (ASB) which manages the affairs of the cave shrine had given the go-ahead to the installation of radiant cooling panels that will ensure that the temperature inside the cave remains a constant -5 degrees centigrade.
There was even a controversy earlier in which a fake lingam was created with ice brought in from outside. This resulted in the ordering of a judicial inquiry into the matter. Although the inquiry gave a clean chit to the administration, a PIL was also filed in the Srinagar High Court. The court ordered that the natural process should not be interfered with.
The then governor (Rtd) General Sinha who acted as head of the SASB, had ordered installation of the cooling panels. According to him, the record number of pilgrims who visited the cave had to return disappointed because they did not get a glimpse of the lingam. This will not happen once we harness science to preserve the lingam, he once said.
The distance from north Kashmir's Baltal base camp to the cave shrine is around 14 km and the pilgrims are able to return after 'Darshan' the same day.
However, the traditional south Kashmir route from Nunwan base camp to the cave is 45 km passing through Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarni halting stations. The one-way journey to the shrine on this route takes three days.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.