BY KHALID GUL & IRFAN RAINA
Although the rain has been a cause of anxiety for him since he arrived in Pahalgam with a group of pilgrims from Rajasthan—to undertake the trek up the treacherous mountains in order to perform the pilgrimage at the Amarnath cave—Dileep Kumar, 55, is nonetheless delighted that he is here for his seventh pilgrimage. And for that he is full of love and gratitude for the local population.
“I have even come here to perform Yatra even during 2010 and 2016 summer agitation. But never ever did I feel insecure. The love and warmth I receive every time I visit here prompts me to come again and again,” says Kumar.
Kumar and his co-pilgrims are waiting for the weather to improve so that they can begin the journey from the Nunwan base camp at Pahalgam towards the cave.
“He (Kumar) used to always tell me that Kashmir is a safe place for yatris and tourists and what was being portrayed by a section of media is only propaganda. It was on his insistence that I visited here. And now I realize what I had missed in my life,” says visibly excited friend of Kumaar who identified himself as Anand..
Narendra, from North Indian state of Puinjab, who has come with a group of twenty, echoed the same feeling. “The facilities here put up by the administration for the pilgrims are excellent and the security arrangements are also good. The rainfall might have halted our journey but it provided us an opportunity to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of Pahalgam. We moved around and enjoyed every bit of it,” they said.
While the pilgrims performing the yatra via the shorter Baltal route in Sonmarg usually return to the base camp within a day, those taking the traditional Pahalgam route have to trek 42 kms, with an overnight stay at one of the halting stations- Panchtarni, Sheshnag before they can pay obeisance at the cave shrine.
The yatris are very overwhelmed by the hospitality of locals. “People here are very cooperative and guide you well-. Hoteliers, pony walas and shopkeepers all have been very nice to us. The locals here have offered us warm clothes and blankets. We are very much overwhelmed,” said Shubam, 47, from Delhi putting up at the Chandwaniwari base camp.
The mood of gaiety pervades the air in Baltal too. It is the local Kashmiri muslims who are the major service providers to the Amarnath pilgrims during the annual yatra. “We are very excited about the yatra. I am coming for the second time but my each visit to the shrine makes me more excited,” said Suresh Sharma, a pilgrim from Delhi.
“With every passing year, the facilities and arrangements for the pilgrims have been improving. The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board and adminstration has made the pilgrimage more comfortable and smooth,” a group of yatris said.
“There is no fear in our mind, the locals are supporting us,” said Dhinkar Jain, a pilgrim from Gujrat. Local muslims are seen carrying pilgrims either on ponies or their shoulders. “It doesn’t mean only business for us, however besides earning livelihood it gives us an opportunity to serve and help the people of other religion which give us satisfaction,” Shabir Ahmed, a local service provider said.
Courtesy : Greater Kashmir