Covid-19: Amarnath Yatra Cancelled for 2nd Year in Row

Yatris enroute to cave shrine - File Photo: Abid Bhat

Srinagar- For the second consecutive year the Amarnath Yatra has been cancelled in view of Covid-19 pandemic, the Jammu and Kashmir government announced on Monday. Last Yatra was cut short following New Delhi's decision to strip Kashmir of its semi-autonomous character on August 5, 2019.

The 56-day Amarnath Yatra was due to start simultaneously on both Pahalgam and Baltal routes from June 28 and culminate on August 22.

The decision to put off nearly two-month pilgrimage to the cave shrine was taken after a threadbare discussion with the members of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), including Swami Avdheshanand , DC Raina, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, Prof Anita Billawariya, Sudarshan Kumar, Prof. Vishwamurti Shashtri, Pandit Bhajan Sopori, Dr. C.M. Seth and Mrs. Tripta Dhawan on the present Covid-19 situation before arriving on the decision, a government spokesperson said Monday.

“It's important to save people's lives. So, it is not advisable to hold and conduct this year's pilgrimage in the larger public interest. Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board is aware of the respect the sentiments of millions of devotees, and to keep the sentiments alive, the Board shall continue the live telecast of morning and evening Aarti from the Holy Cave shrine,” Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said, as per official spokesperson.

The LG, he said, stressed upon the need to follow Covid protocol on the significant and pious days like Pratham Pooja, Samapan Pooja. He further stressed that saints visiting the Shrine cave to perform Aarti as per “Shastra” would follow Covid appropriate behavior.

Earlier, Sinha, who is also SASB Chairman held a detailed deliberations with his Principal Secretary Nitishwar Kumar, who is also the CEO of Shrine Board, Chief Secretary Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta, DGP, Dilbag Singh and Principal Secretary Home Shaleen and directed that devotees should be enabled to attend to morning and evening Aarti in online mode.

The LG, he said, asserted that it would help them to pay their obeisance while also avoiding and travel and exposure,”

The meeting was informed that the Shrine Board has put in place a virtual and televised mechanism for live Darshan of Aarti from the holy cave.

CEO Shrine Board Nitishwar Kumar, as per the official spokesperson said that all arrangements have been made for the mace of Lord Shiva- Chhari Mubarak' to be taken to the holy cave on 22nd August, when the yatra is to conclude coinciding with the festival of Raksha Bandhan.

“Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board has been assessing the Covid situation in the Union Territory and the country. Our focus is on containing the pandemic and strengthening health infrastructure,” Kumar said, as per official spokesperson.

The CEO, he said, announced that both morning telecast of Aarti at 6 AM and evening Aarti at 5 PM, each for 30 minutes, is to be live-streamed on Shri Amarnath ji Shrine board official website and the app specifically dedicated for the devotees.

The devotees can pay their virtual obeisance to the Holy Ice Lingam online through the Shrine Board’s link The same may also be streamed through the Shrine Board’s mobile based application which may be downloaded through the link from the Google play store.

Third Year of Disruption

In 2019 the then J&K administration had curtailed Amarnath Yatra two weeks ahead of its scheduled closure saying the unprecedented measure was necessitated by intelligence inputs that terrorists were planning to target it. The order directing pilgrims as well as tourists to curtail their stay in the valley had triggered panic.

Days later Delhi  striped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and statehood downgrading it into two union territories.

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