Amarnath Yatra cancelled due to COVID pandemic; online darshans to be arranged
- Amarnath Yatra was cancelled for the second time in a row due to the pandemic
- This years 'yatra' will be 'symbolic' only, the Amarnath Ji Shrine Board said
- Amarnath Ji Shrine Board said it will arrange online darshan for devotees worldwide
The Jammu and Kashmir government, on Monday, announced the cancellation of the annual Amarnath Yatra for the second time in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Shri Amarnathji Yatra cancelled in wake of COVID-19 Pandemic. Decision after threadbare discussion with Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board members," the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha of J&K said in a tweet.
"Yatra to be symbolic only. However, all the traditional religious rituals shall be performed at the Holy Cave Shrine as per past practice," he further added.
Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board said it will arrange online darshan for devotees worldwide.
The 56-day yatra to the 3,880-metre-high Himalayan cave shrine was proposed to start from the twin routes of Pahalgam and Baltal on June 28 and culminate on August 22. The pilgrimage was cancelled last year too due to the pandemic.
Sinha also directed officials to ensure devotees can virtually attend the morning and evening 'aartis' (prayers) at the shrine. This will allow them to pay their obeisance while also avoiding travel and exposure to the infection, the lieutenant governor (L-G) said.
He said that at the shrine, all traditional and religious rituals shall be performed according to past practice.
"It's important to save people's lives. So, it is not advisable to hold and conduct this year's pilgrimage in the larger public interest. Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) is aware of and respects the sentiments of millions of devotees, and to keep the sentiments alive, the board shall continue the live telecast of morning and evening 'aarti' from the holy cave shrine," Sinha, who is also the board's chairman, said.
The decision to keep the pilgrimage symbolic was taken after discussions with members of the SASB, an official spokesman said.
Following the meeting with the board's members, the L-G also held deliberations with Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta, DGP Dilbag Singh, Principal Secretary Home Shaleen Kabra, and Principal Secretary to the Lt Governor Nitishwar Kumar, who is also the CEO of the Shrine Board, he said.
Those in the meeting were informed that the SASB has made arrangements so that devotees can watch the morning and evening prayers on virtual platforms and television, the spokesman said.
The L-G stressed upon the need to follow Covid protocol on significant and pious days like 'pratham pooja' and 'samapan pooja'.
He further stressed that seers visiting the shrine cave to perform 'aartis' according to rituals must follow Covid appropriate behaviour.
The SASB CEO said the shrine board has made the arrangements for the mace of Lord Shiva ‘Chhari Mubarak' to be taken to the holy cave on August 22, when the yatra is to conclude coinciding with the festival of Raksha Bandhan.
"The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board has been assessing the Covid situation in the Union Territory and the country. Our focus is on containing the pandemic and strengthening health infrastructure," he observed. The CEO Kumar said that both morning telecast of 'aarti' at 6 am and evening ‘aarti’ at 5 pm, each for 30 minutes, is to be live-streamed on the board’s official website and an app specifically dedicated for devotees.
The devotees can pay their virtual obeisance online through the Shrine Board's ‘aarti’ link.