The local government in India-administered Kashmir is contemplating setting up makeshift shelters and facilities for 600,000 Hindu pilgrims for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage, which it intends to host this summer despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The pilgrims will visit the Amarnath cave shrine, perched 3,880-meters (12,730 feet) above sea level in the Himalayas.
The government will set up two base camps — one called Baltal and another called Chandanwari — for the pilgrims, who intend to make the journey on foot. From Baltal, the pilgrims will have to walk a distance of 14 kilometers (9 miles), while those approaching Chandanwari will have to trek 32 kilometers to reach the cave shrine housing the ice stalagmite, referred to by Hindus as the Shiv Lingam (the phallus of Lord Shiva).
Although authorities have temporarily suspended online registration for the pilgrimage in the wake of a spike in daily coronavirus cases, the site still says that the pilgrimage will take place as scheduled from June 28 through August 22.
Recently, hundreds of devotees, including nine top saints, tested positive for COVID-19 in the northern city of Haridwar, where hundreds of thousands of devotees gathered to participate in the Kumbh Mela festival.