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The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

India coronavirus: Amarnath pilgrimage cancelled due to Covid-19

| Updated: July 23, 2020 14:46:30


Hindu pilgrims trek through mountains to reach the holy Amarnath cave shrine, where they worship an ice stalagmite that Hindus believe to be the symbol of Lord Shiva, near Pahalgam in the Kashmir region, July 27, 2019. REUTERS/Alasdair Pal Hindu pilgrims trek through mountains to reach the holy Amarnath cave shrine, where they worship an ice stalagmite that Hindus believe to be the symbol of Lord Shiva, near Pahalgam in the Kashmir region, July 27, 2019. REUTERS/Alasdair Pal

An annual Hindu pilgrimage to a Himalayan cave shrine in Indian-administered Kashmir has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials cited rising cases as the reason, saying the health concerns were "serious".

The Amarnath Yatra attracts hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims annually over two months, according to a BBC report.

All places of worship in Jammu and Kashmir are closed to the public until 31 July.

On Tuesday, the region recorded 608 new cases, taking the total caseload past 15,000, media reports said.

Thousands of Hindu pilgrims make the journey to the Amarnath cave shrine located high up in the mountains. The shrine has a naturally formed stalagmite that is worshipped as an incarnation of Hindu god Shiva.

A statement from the Amarnath Shrine Board said that diverting resources to the pilgrimage would be an "immense strain" on the already stretched health system of the region.

"This would also unnecessarily put the Yatris [devotees] at risk of catching Covid-19," the statement read.

Rituals at the cave shrine would be telecast live for devotees, it added.

This is the second time in a row that the pilgrimage has been affected. Last year, it was cancelled midway after the Indian government revoked Article 370 - part of the constitution that gave Indian-administered Kashmir special status.

The region, which is disputed between India and Pakistan, has seen an armed insurgency against Indian rule since 1989.

In 2017, seven Hindu pilgrims, six of them women, were killed in a militant attack after their bus, returning from the Amarnath pilgrimage site got caught in the crossfire.

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