AMARNATH A ‘SILENT ZONE’, NO CHANTING OR BELLS THERE: NGT

NEW DELHI The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday declared the Amarnath holy place a “silent zone”, and barred the toll of bells or chanting of mantras in the areas surrounding the prominent cave holy place to preserve its eco-sensitivity.

The Amarnath temple, located in the Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir, is visited by lakhs of devotees during the pilgrimage season in the monsoon. The decision came following the tribunal’s earlier hearing, when it suggested that the holy place be declared a silent zone to prevent avalanches and noise pollution.

The board, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, also directed officials to remove the iron rods and grilles installed inside the Amarnath cave, so that pilgrims can get a better view of the shrine. “All the parts of stairs and surroundings of the holy cave shall be declared a silent zone. No chanting of mantras inside the cave and surrounding areas shall be allowed,” the bench directed, adding that pilgrims shall be allowed inside the cave in a single file.

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The bench asked the authorities concerned to ensure that mobile phones and food offerings like coconuts are not allowed inside the holy cave. “No committee or authority can sit on the implementation of these directions,” it declared. The tribunal, which on November 15 had appointed a committee to look at environment protection during the annual Amarnath temple Yatra, asked the jurisdiction to ensure that the directions come into effect before January 18, the next date of hearing.

This year, the annual pilgrimage to Amarnath holy place saw over 2.6 lakh travelers over 40 days between June 29 to August 7. Over 200 stairs lead to the cave from the base campsites. Devotees take two traditional routes of 14 km and 45 km to reach the holy place, situated at 3,888 meters above sea level.

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