The annual Amarnath yatra commenced today from Jammu amid tight security arrangements as the first batch of 1,280 pilgrims left for the cave shrine in South Kashmir Himalayas. A police officer said, the batch comprising 919 men, 191 women, 16 children and 154 sadhus left in a cavalcade of 34 vehicles guarded by heavy contingent of CRPF personnel from the base camp at 5:10 AM. The cavalcade has already crossed Kud in Udhampur district, he said.The first batch will reach twin base camps of Baltal and Pahalgam for their onward journey to the cave shrine by this evening. Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath shrine stands at 3,888 metres, 46 km from Pahalgam and 14 km from Baltal.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is reaching Srinagar today afternoon for two days visit to Jammu & Kashmir to review security situation in the Valley, with specific focus on Amaranth Yatra. Elaborate security arrangements have been made for 59 day Yatra with Special NDRF, SDRF and Mountain & Avalanche Rescue Teams already in place to meet any emergencies. Union Home Secretary L.C. Goyal during his just concluded two day visit to the state reviewed whole gamut of security arrangements and necessary facilities for smooth and peaceful conduct of the Yatra.During today’s high level meeting being attended by Governor N N Vohra, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and top brass of administration, army, BSF, CRPF, police, CID and intelligence agencies, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will review the arrangements made for smooth conduct of Amarnath yatra . He will also review internal security, situation at LoC, International Border and other related matters. Rajnath Singh is scheduled to join first batch of devotees to pay obeisance at the 12, 756 feet high Amaranath Cave shrine in South Kashmir Himalayas, for darshan of ice stalagmite Shiv Lingam. Over two lakh pilgrims have secured advance registration till Monday and over 22 thousand will avail helicopter service from Baltal and Pahalgam routes to reach Panjtarni.