Symbol of Communal Harmony

Amarnath Yatra Returns After Two Years

Kashmir Magazine

After a gap of two years, the holy pilgrimage of Amarnath Yatra resumed in Jammu and Kashmir on June 30 amid rousing reception to pilgrims by locals, administration, hoteliers, ponewalas and unprecedented security measures. The yatra remained suspended for two years due to Covid-19 pandemic and was cut-short in 2019 due to abrogation of article 370 and 35-A


The resumption of yatra to the holy cave shrine in the Himalayas of South Kashmir also renewed the bonhomie and age-old tradition of the people of Kashmir to host the pilgrims amid unfavorable conditions. The resumption of holy pilgrimage also witnessed the bonhomie of LG Manoj Sinha with the mainstream politicians of Jammu and Kashmir after the former hosted high tea at Raj Bhawan to seek cooperation and support of J&K politicians in the successful conduct of the annual yatra.


Meanwhile, officials said that the Yatra would give a major boost to the economy of Jammu and Kashmir as the government expects 2000 to 3000 Crore revenue from over a million pilgrims intending to visit the UT for undertaking holy pilgrimage also visiting other tourist places in Jammu and Kashmir.


The first batch of pilgrims was flagged off by Lieutenant Governor Jammu and Kashmir, Manoj Sinha from base camp in Bhagwati Nagar area of Jammu on June 29, which was received by administration, locals and other dignitaries with rousing reception at Pantha Chowk Yatri Niwas. Next day the first batch of pilgrims set out on holy pilgrimage from Nunwan base camp in Pahalgam toward the holy cave shrine in the Himalayas of South Kashmir through a tedious trek.


Emotional scenes were witnessed at Pahalgam and Baltal base camps as locals and officials received Yatris with open arms. The pilgrims were presented garlands and bouquets, while many locals were seen hugging the pilgrims, giving the emotional touch to the Yatra.


The 43 day Yatra this year will conclude on August 11 on the Occasion of Raksha Bandhan.


“I am coming for the 25th Yatra and we are very happy with the arrangements made by the government. We will visit Chandanwari and Baltal and will pray for peace and prosperity of the country,” said a Yatri.


Ram Chander, a pilgrim from Maharashtra who had come for yatra fourth time on way to Chandanwari said that he prays for the peace in the country.


“Our message to everyone will be that there is no fear, there are best security arrangements and anyone can come here without any problem as people here are very helpful,”he said.


He appreciated the hospitality and cooperation of people.


"I have been paying obeisance at the cave shrine regularly for the past 15 years. This year too, I am going to seek peace and prosperity for mankind,” said another pilgrim from Chhattisgarh.


Anil Sharma from Delhi while moving through Baltal route said that weather is very pleasant and that he was enjoying it.


“There is no threat as best security arrangements are here and we are hopeful that everything has begun well and everything will end well,” he added.


Vikas, another pilgrim from Madhya Pradesh said that he is very excited that the yatra has begun after two years.



Jammu Muslims welcome Amarnath Yatra pilgrims


In a show of communal amity, Muslims in Jammu welcomed the pilgrims headed for Amarnath shrine in Kashmir with sweets and food.


Prominent Gujar leaders Ch Hussain Ali Waffa and Parvez Waffa set up a langar (community kitchen) on the Jammu-Pathankot Highway near Kunjwani Chowk and welcomed the pilgrims by garlanding them and offering sweets and Prasad on entering Jammu district.


Speaking on this occasion, Ch Hussain Ali Waffa said that the region has always remained a symbol of composite culture, amity and mutual brotherhood and this Yatra provides them an opportunity to become a host for thousands of yatris visiting Holy Cave.


Waffa hoped that Yatris would serve as ambassadors of peace and work as a bridge between the communities and help in establishing peace in the state.


Pilgrims get rousing reception Kashmiris


Over the years Kashmiri people are known for hospitality and brotherhood and the same is showcased during the decades old annual Amarnath Yatra, particularly at a time when security concerns of pilgrims have become a major talking point in the country.


However, help and assistance to Hindus by local Muslims paint a portrait of communal peace and Kashmir’s old syncretic ethos.


For the local Muslims, who are major service providers, Amarnath yatra means more than doing a business and earning their livelihood.


Risking their lives and braving the difficult trek, rains, hot and humid weather conditions, mud, and what not all along the route up to holy cave, local services provided includes ponywallas and palanquin bearers who manage to provide a safe and comfortable journey to the Amarnath pilgrims.


The Kashmiri Muslims make a major part of the service providers who facilitate the annual Hindu pilgrimage every year showcasing the communal harmony. Instrumental in the running of the annual pilgrimage is the role that the local Kashmiri Muslims have played over the years whatever the situation be.


Thousands of Kashmir Muslims join the non-Muslim service providers during the Yatra, offering pilgrims’ services as workers, ponymen and palanquin-bearers thus helping aged pilgrims in climbing the difficult trek of Baltal up to the cave on a palanquin.


Hundreds of locals every year also put up stalls at the yatra base camps at Baltal in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district and Pahalgam in south Kashmir offering different kinds of materials for the pilgrims.


Besides being a business provider for the locals, the Amarnath Yatra also showcases the bonding between Kashmiris and the pilgrims.


“We have been coming here for years now to provide services to the Amarnath pilgrims who reach the base camp and then leave for the holy cave for darshan. Cutting across the religious lines we being hosts ensure that the guests don’t face any inconvenience and also ensure their safety and successful pilgrimage” Muhammad Akbar, a local service provider said.


The Amarnath pilgrims are also all-praise for the hospitality and helping nature of the Kashmiri people facilitating and providing different kinds of services to them to ensure a successful pilgrimage.


The yatris also hail the gesture and services of local Muslim service providers. A group of pilgrims from west Rajasthan, said the cave offers the best lesson on how people should live.


“This is the best example for the world on how we all should live in peace and harmony,” they said. Ajay Sharma, a young devotee, said the Amarnath pilgrimage is a great example of interreligious harmony.


Meanwhile, the Yatris said that they were impressed by the facilities having been arranged for them by the J&K administration besides also being touched by the hospitality of the Kashmir people.



LG Sinha hosts J&K politician over High Tea at Raj Bhawan


In a goodwill gesture and an effort to bridge the gap with the political parties, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha invited political leaders of various parties over a high- tea meeting to discuss ways and means for making the Amarnath pilgrims a grand success.


This is for the first time that LG Sinha reached out to J&K politicians seeking their support for making the annual pilgrimage a grand success


The meeting was attended by National Conference (NC) president, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, former Member of Parliament Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) president, Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Apni Party president Syed Altaf Bukhari, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) J&K unit president, Ravinder Raina, CPI (M) leader, Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami, Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) chief, Hakeem Muhammad Yaseen, Awami National Conference (ANC) senior vice president Muzaffar Ahmad Shah and JD (U) J&K head, G M Shaheen.


During the meeting, LG discussed the conduct of Amarnath yatra and sought suggestions from the participants with regard to ensuring peaceful conduct of the yatra. The meeting lasted for nearly an hour in which arrangements put in place and steps taken for the pilgrimage were shared with the leaders.


The leaders informed the meeting that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have always supported and cooperated to ensure smooth conduct of the yatra and also apprised LG that instead of the government, it’s the people who have extended support to the yatris whenever any accident or incident took place here.


The participants demanded that the civilian angle needs to be looked into as the local populace should not be forced to suffer during the yatra.


Soon after the meeting, JK Apni Party chief Syed Altaf Bukhari told reporters that the meeting was all about seeking support from political leaders for making the Yatra a successful and peaceful affair. “We told him that every Kashmiri is in favour of a peaceful Yatra as pilgrims have been our guests for the past so many decades. We, however, urged LG to ensure Yatra doesn’t cause any harm to the local population on highways and other routes,” he said.


Speaking on the occasion, Congress chief G A Mir said that he told LG that locals of Kashmir have always supported and welcomed the Amarnath pilgrims and in case of emergency, locals were the first to help the pilgrims in need.


J&K BJP chief Ravinder Raina said that LG sought collective support and cooperation from political leaders for making the Yatra a grand success. “All leaders assured full cooperation with LG and told him that Amarnath Yatra is a traditional thing happening since decades and this time also, it will be made a peaceful affair,” Raina said.