The Bold Voice of J&K

Local Muslim service providers eagerly waiting for Amarnath Ji Yatra

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MASROOR AHMAD

SRINAGAR: The annual Shri Amarnathji yatra will begin on June 29 and conclude with Raksha Bandhan festival celebrations on August 19 , the day of Shravan Purnima.
While the administration and the security agencies are on their toes to make arrangements for the Yatra and to ensure that the annual pilgrimage goes off smoothly and peacefully, the local Muslim service providers are enthusiastic about the Hindu pilgrimage and are eagerly waiting to welcome pilgrims.
The Amarnathji pilgrimage is a symbol of communal harmony and brotherhood among different communities. It is a unique pilgrimage performed by the people of one faith and facilitated by the people of another faith. Instrumental in the running of the annual pilgrimage is the role that the local Kashmiri Muslims have played over the years, whatever the situation.
Over the years, Kashmiri people are known for hospitality and brotherhood and the same is showcased during the decade old annual Amarnathji yatra particularly at a time when the government agencies are on toes to ensure a peaceful and safe yatra. However, the help and assistance to Hindus by local Muslims paint a portrait of communal peace and Kashmir’s old syncretic ethos. Hundreds of local Muslims, who are the major service providers during the Amarnathji yatra have started reaching Baltal base camp in Ganderbal district ahead of the pilgrimage. For the local Muslims, who are the major service providers , the Amarnathji yatra means more than doing a business and earning their livelihood.
Risking their lives and braving the difficult tracks, rains, hot and humid weather conditions, mud, and other difficulties along the route up to holy cave, the local service providers including Ponywallas and Palanquin bearers manage to provide a safe and comfortable journey to the Amarnathji pilgrims.
The Kashmiri Muslims make a major part of the service providers who facilitate the annual Hindu pilgrimage every year showcasing the real Kashmiriyat and communal harmony. Instrumental in the running of the annual pilgrimage is the role that the local Kashmiri Muslims have played over the years whatever the situation arises.
Hundreds of locals every year also put up stalls at the yatra base camps at Baltal in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district and Pahalgam in south Kashmir offering different kinds of materials for the pilgrims. Besides being a business provider for the locals, the Amarnath Yatra also showcases the bond between Kashmiris and the pilgrims.
“We have been coming here for years now to provide services to the Amarnath pilgrims who reach the base camp and then leave for the holy cave for darshan. Cutting across the religious lines we being hosts ensure that the guests don’t face any inconvenience and also ensure their safety and successful pilgrimage”, Mohammad Akbar, a local service provider said.
“It doesn’t mean only business for us, it gives us an opportunity to serve and help the people of other religions, which gives us satisfaction”, another local service provider said.
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has already started preparation for the smooth conduct of annual yatra. Officials said best practices will be emulated this year.
The annual pilgrimage to the 3,880-metre-high Amarnathji shrine in south Kashmir Himalayas and yatra takes place from the twin tracks – the traditional 48-km Nunwan-Pahalgam route in Anantnag district and the 14-km shorter but steep Baltal route in Ganderbal district. This annual pilgrimage attracts lakhs of devotees from far and wide who come to pay their respects to Lord Shiva in the form of a naturally formed Ice Lingam within the Holy cave shrine.

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