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Over 2,700 pilgrims leave Jammu for Amarnath cave shrine

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Jammu: The 23rd batch of 2,723 Amarnath pilgrims on Wednesday left Bhagwati Nagar base camp here to undertake the annual pilgrimage in south Kashmir Himalayas, officials said.

The pilgrims, including 626 women, five children and 141 sadhus (saints), left for the Valley in a fleet of 100 vehicles under tight security cover in the early hours, they said.

They are expected to reach the twin base camps of Pahalgam in Anantnag district and Baltal in Ganderbal district later in the day, the officials added.

The yatra, which started from the traditional 36-km Pahalgam route and shorter 14-km Baltal route on July 1, was progressing smoothly and so far 2,96,302 pilgrims have offered their prayers at the 3,880-metre high holy cave, housing the naturally formed ice-shivlingam, they said.

Of the latest batch, the officials said, 1,476 pilgrims, including including 220 women, one child and 141 sadhus, are heading for Pahalgam base camp, while the rest of 1,247, including 406 women and four children, would perform the yatra from Baltal track.

The yatra, which is scheduled to end on August 15 coinciding with the Raksha Bandhan festival, had crossed the last year's figure of 2.85 lakh on the 22nd day of the yatra Monday evening.

As many as 3,52,771 pilgrims had performed the yatra in 2015, 3,20,490 pilgrims in 2016 and 2,60,003 yatris in 2017.

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