Amarnath Yatra cancelled, religious rituals must be performed according to tradition

Srinagar: The annual Amarnath Yatra would only be symbolic this year, following the Covid pandemic, but all traditional religious rituals will be performed at the cave shrine as per practice, the J&K government decided on Monday.

A detailed discussion took place with the members of the sanctuary council on the current Covid-19 situation before the decision.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha who is also the Chairman of the Board of Shri Amarnathji Shrine held deliberations with Chief Secretary, Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta, DGP, Dilbag Singh, Principal Secretary, Home, Shaleen Kabra , and Principal Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor, Nitishwar Kumar, who is also the CEO of Shrine Board, and ordered that worshipers be allowed to attend morning and evening aarti in online mode.

He said it would help them pay their bow while avoiding travel and exposure.

The meeting was informed that the shrine council has set up a virtual and televised mechanism for the live broadcast of “aarti” from the sacred cave.

“It is important to save people’s lives. It is therefore not advisable to organize and conduct this year’s pilgrimage in the wider public interest. The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board is aware of and respects the feelings of millions of devotees, and to keep the feelings alive, the Council will continue the live broadcast of the morning and evening aarti from the sanctuary of the Holy Cellar,” the Lieutenant Governor said.

He also stressed the need to follow Covid protocol on important and pious days like ‘Pratham Pooja’ and ‘Samapan Pooja’. He further pointed out that saints visiting the cave shrine to perform “aarti” according to “Shastras” would follow proper Covid behavior.

The shrine board CEO said arrangements have been made for the ‘Chhari Mubarak’, the mace of Lord Shiva, to be taken to the sacred cave on August 22, when the yatra is due to end, coinciding with the festival of Raksha Bandhan.

“The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board has assessed the Covid situation in the Union Territory and the country. Our goal is to contain the pandemic and strengthen the health infrastructure,” he said.

Nitishwar Kumar said the morning broadcast of 6 a.m. aarti and 5 p.m. evening aarti, each for 30 minutes, is to be broadcast live on the shrine’s website and special app for faithful.

Devotees can pay virtual homage to the sacred ice ‘Lingam’ online via the shrine board link www.shriamarnathjishrine.com/AartiLive.html. The same can also be streamed through its mobile app which can be downloaded through the link http://play.google.com/store/apps/details?idcom.ncog.shriamarnath from the Google Play Store.

Ruth R. Culp