The annual Amarnath Yatra to the Himalayan cave shrine in Jammu and Kashmir for 2020 will be of 15 days duration beginning on July 21 and ending on August 3, officials of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) said.

SASB manages the affairs of the Yatra to the cave shrine situated at 3,880 metres above the sea level in J&K’s Anantnag district.

The officials told that the duration of the Yatra has been cut short this time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, the ‘Pratham Puja’ for the Yatra was held. Except for the Sadhus, only pilgrims below 55 years of age will be allowed.

As per the SASB official, all those undertaking the Yatra must possess COVID negative certificates.

“The pilgrims will be cross-checked for the virus before they are allowed to undertake the Yatra on entry into J&K”, an official of the SASB was quoted as saying by IANS.

It has also been decided that the ‘Aarti’ performed at the cave shrine in morning and evening during the 15 days will be telecast live for devotees across the country.

Officials said because of the non-availability of local labourers and the difficulties in maintaining the track from the base camp to the cave shrine, Yatra 2020 will be performed by using helicopters from Baltal base camp in Ganderbal district to the cave shrine.

Yatra 2020 will only be undertaken through the north Kashmir Baltal route.

“No pilgrim will be allowed to undertake this year’s Yatra through the Pahalgam route”, officials said.

Yatra 2020 will conclude on August 3 on Shravan Purnima which coincides with the Raksha Bandhan festival.

(With inputs from IANS)