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Communal harmony at display at Amarnath Yatra

Simultaneously, a large number of community kitchens (free meal langars) are set up by mostly non-locals.
06:20 AM Jul 06, 2024 IST | Irfan Raina
communal harmony at display at amarnath yatra
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Baltal, July 5: Farooq Ahmad Khan, a local horseman who has been taking yatris to the Amarnath cave shrine for many years during the annual Amarnath Yatra, said that he cares more about the devotees than himself during the journey.

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“I am used to such high terrains but the devotees are our guests.  I thank God when I drop them safely at the entrance of the cave and return to get another batch,” he told Greater Kashmir.

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Khan along with three other colleagues ferries aged and ailing yatris to Amarnath cave shrine from Baltal camp on his middle-aged shoulders.

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While the yatris relax on the comfortable chair, he and his colleagues ferry the palanquin from Baltal to Amarnath cave shrine and back to Baltal, a distance of 32 km to and fro.

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“The oxygen level dips during the trek, as the cave is at a height of 13,700 feet above the sea level. The weather also changes unexpectedly during the journey, from sunny to rainy to snowy,” Khan said. “Braving everything we ensure the safe journey for the yatris.”

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Ferrying yatris on a palanquin, Liyaqat Ahmad had the same things to say.

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At Baltal, one of the base camps, the common sight is of Kashmiri Muslims, who are the major local service providers to Amarnath yatris.

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The local service providers mostly consist of people who have installed their kiosks and tents for yatris and are seen eagerly waiting to receive them.

Simultaneously, a large number of community kitchens (free meal langars) are set up by mostly non-locals.

Leaving the base camp to the Amarnath cave shrine, the shorter route to the cave shrine is just about 14 km long, but this route has a very steep gradient and is quite difficult to climb.

It starts from Baltal and passes through Domial, Barari Marg, and Sangam before reaching the cave shrine.

While some yatris reach the cave shrine by foot or by chopper, the majority prefer pony (horses) rides or palanquin rides.

Local Muslims are seen carrying the yatris either on ponies or on their shoulders.

They risk their lives and brave the difficult trek, rains, hot and humid weather conditions, and mud all along the route upto the Amarnath cave shrine.

The treacherous route to the Amarnath cave shrine remains abuzz with yatris while Kashmiri Muslims simultaneously advise pedestrians to stick to the hill end and not move on the valley end lest they fall.

Enroute there are also many tea stalls with photographs of Shiv Lingam on the hoarding of almost every shop.

Besides being a business provider for the locals, the Amarnath Yatra also showcases the bonding between Kashmiris and the yatris.

“Being hosts we ensure that the guests don’t face any inconvenience,” said Muhammad Akbar, a local service provider.

The Amarnath yatris praised the hospitality of Kashmiris and their helping nature.

A group of yatris from Gujarat said the Amarnath cave shrine offers the best lesson on how people should live.

“This is the best example for the world of how we all should live in peace and harmony,” they said.

Ajay Sharma, a young devotee, said the Amarnath Yatra was a great example of interreligious harmony.

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