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In 5 Days, more than 71,000 pilgrims perform Amarnath Yatra

The 48-day long Yatra will conclude on August 17 coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan festivals

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Amarnath Yatra. Image source: www.thetathaastu.com
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  • Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure called the ‘Lingam’ symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva
  • The south Kashmir Pahalgam route passes through Chandanwari, Sheshnag, Pissu Top and Panchtarni
  • Hindu scriptures mention, this route that Lord Shiva used to reach the cave is where he told goddess Parvati the study of immortality and eternal life

Jammu: Over 71,000 pilgrims have performed the Amarnath Yatra so far as another batch of 1,612 pilgrims left Jammu on Thursday, July 7.

An official of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the affairs of the annual pilgrimage said, ” A total of 1,612 pilgrims comprising 1,266 males and 346 females left Bhagwati Nagar Yatri Niwas today (Thursday) in 35 buses and 22 light motor vehicles in a convoy escorted by security forces for the Valley.”

“Since the Yatra started on July 2, two pilgrims have so far died of natural causes.”

An ice stalagmite structure inside the cave situated at 3,888 feet above the sea level wanes and waxes with the phases of the moon.

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Devotees believe the ice stalagmite structure called the ‘Lingam’ symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva.

Pilgrims use the north Kashmir Baltal and the south Kashmir Nunwan (Pahalgam) base camps to reach the cave Shrine.

Source: Google images
Amarnath Yatra. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

From Baltal in Ganderbal district, pilgrims have to trek 14 km to reach the cave while those using the traditional Pahalgam route have to trek 46 km.

The south Kashmir Pahalgam route passes through Chandanwari, Sheshnag, Pissu Top and Panchtarni.

According to Hindu scriptures, this route that Lord Shiva used to reach the cave is where he told goddess Parvati the study of immortality and eternal life.

Helicopter services are also available for the pilgrims from Baltal and Pahalgam to and fro the shrine.

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Due to heightened militant activities in the Valley this year, extra security measures have been taken to provide protection to the pilgrims.

A three-tier security cover manned by the Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force, Central Reserve Police Force and state police are in place to secure the Jammu-Srinagar national highway which is the only surface link used by the pilgrims.

The 48-day long Yatra will conclude on August 17 coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan festivals. (IANS)

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.