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Amarnath shrine not a silent zone, NGT clarifies

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New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday clarified that it did not declare the Amarnath cave shrine a silent zone and that silence has to be maintained only in front of the ice shivlingam (the idol).

Considered one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism, the Amarnath shrine, located in the Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir, is visited by lakhs of people during the pilgrimage season in the monsoon.

Declaring the shrine a silent zone on Wednesday, the Tribunal had barred bells, chants and religious offerings beyond the entry point.

The directions by a bench, headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, were aimed at avoiding avalanches, maintaining the pristine nature of the holy cave and the eco-sensitivity of the region.

The decision attracted protests from Hindu groups who called the order a diktat. A detailed order is awaited.

The Tribunal, which on November 15 appointed a committee to look at environment protection during the annual Amarnath Yatra, had asked the authorities to ensure that the directions come into effect before January 18, the next date of hearing.

This year the annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine saw over 2.6 lakh pilgrims over 40 days between June 29 and August 7.

The dates for pilgrimage in 2018 are awaited though expected to be between July 2 and August 26.

Over 200 stairs lead to the cave from the base camp sites. Pilgrims take two traditional routes of 14 km and 45 km to reach the shrine situated at 3,888 meters above sea level.

IANS

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