Jammu, Jun 5: The traditional ‘Pratham Pooja’ (first prayer) for the annual pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath in South Kashmir Himalayas was held here on Friday, officials said.
Normally, the ceremony marks the start of the Amarnath Yatra which spans nearly two months. However, this year, according to sources, the yatra is likely to begin in the last week of July and its duration shortened to 15 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The ‘Pratham Pooja’ was conducted by principal secretary to Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor and CEO of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) Bipul Pathak, and SASB Additional CEO A K Soni.
The first prayers were performed as is the annual practice. This was done as per schedule, Pathak told reporters.
“The yatra will be conducted with social distancing measures and other SOPs in place,” he said to a question about the commencement of the pilgrimage to the 3880-metre high cave shrine this year.
Pathak said the yatra may take place after taking into consideration all possibilities.
“There are some problems. There is a shortage of labourers due to lockdown and preparations are still on,” he said.
According to the sources, helicopters are likely to be used for the yatra and it will conclude on August 3.
Earlier, the Amarnath Yatra was scheduled to begin from the twin tracks of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district on June 23. It would have concluded on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) on August 3.