Hindu devotees begin the Amarnath Yatra annual pilgrimage to to an icy Himalayan cave, in Chandanwari, Pahalgam, south of Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Thursday, June 30, 2022.

The Amarnath shrine is located at an altitude of 3,888 meters, in the Anantnag District of Jammu and Kashmir union territory. Thousands of people visit the shrine to worship Lord Shiva. It is believed that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of an ice stalagmite in a cave located here.

India’s iconic pilgrimage to the Amarnath Shrine has resumed after a gap of two years as the first group of pilgrims reached Nuwan Pahalgam base camp in Anantnag District of Kashmir from Jammu on Thursday.

The Jammu and Kashmir Government had cancelled the annual Amarnath pilgrimage due to the prevailing COVID-19 situation in 2020 and 2021 after a discussion with the Amarnathji Shrine Board members.

According to photos and videos circulating online, devotees expressed happiness and excitement on being able to undertake the pilgrimage after such a long wait.

The pilgrims started from Jammu on Wednesday amid tight security arrangements made by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) along with the army and the local police with special emphasis on the use of over 130 sniffer dogs on the vehicles' routes heading towards the shrine. It aims to ensure a safe pilgrimage amid heightened terror threats.

Calling the pilgrimage a "symbol of the glorious tradition of Hindu culture", federal Home Minister Amit Shah extended his best wishes to all the devotees.

In a tweet in Hindi, Shah said: "Amarnath pilgrimage is a symbol of the glorious tradition of Sanatan (Hindu) culture. I extend my best wishes to all devotees going on this holy journey and wish them a smooth and happy journey. Har Har Mahadev! (Hail Lord Shiva).”

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor (LG) Manoj Sinha said the annual Amarnath pilgrimage strengthens the faith in the goodness of mankind and its successful conduct is the duty or every citizen of the Union Territory.