Amarnath yatra ends, least number of pilgrims in decade

Srinagar: The 48-day annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas ended today, coinciding with the festival of Raksha Bandhan, with over 2.20 lakh pilgrims offering prayers to the naturally formed ice-shivlingam despite the ongoing unrest.

This year's figure is the lowest in the past decade.

The holy mace of Lord Shiva popularly known as 'Chhari Mubarak', carried by a group of sadhus and devotees led by its custodian Mahant Deepindra Giri, arrived at the holy cave in the wee hours for the day-long prayers, officials said.

The group of sadhus and devotees trekked 42 kilometres from Pahalgam to reach the cave shrine with night halts at Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarani.

After traditional rituals at the sanctum sanctorum, the holy mace would start the return journey before dusk today.

While officially the yatra ended today, 'pujan' and 'visarjan' (immersion) ceremonies for the journey of 'Chhari Mubarak' would be performed on the banks of Lidder river in Pahalgam on August 20. It will be followed by a traditional open kitchen, the last ritual of the pilgrimage.