Silence to be observed only in front of Amarnath Shivling: NGT clarifies

New Delhi, Dec 14 Clarifying that it has "neither intended not declared" the entire area falling under Amarnath shrine as a silent zone, the NGT on Thursday said that people shall only maintain silence while "standing in front of the Amarnath Ji Maha Shivling", a natural formation in the cave.

The bench headed by National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also clarified that these "restrictions" shall not apply at the time of the daily aarti.

The Tribunal said that the directions were required to maintain "the sanctity and pristine condition of the
holy cave".

The bench further asserted that directions were also to ensure that adverse effects of "noise, heat and vibrations do not have adverse impact" on the Maha Shivling, so that pilgrims coming at the later part of limited period of the pilgrimage may get proper darshan of the Shivling.

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.

"The only restriction the Tribunal had placed and which is now reiterated to provide complete clarity is that the devotee/pilgrim or anybody while standing in front of the Amarnath Ji Maha Shivling - a natural formation in the cave -- shall maintain silence at that place," the bench clarified. 

"This restriction is not applicable to any other part including the main stairs leading to the Holy cave," the order said.

The order said that on the last stairs - approximately 30 steps leading to the holy cave, it should be ensured that no person/pilgrim/devotee carries any material as is already the practise of the shrine Board.

"We make it clear that on the stairs which are below these stairs, we place no restriction of any kind," the bench said. 

The order clarified that "one way queue" of visitors or pilgrims will be maintained at the Shrine. 

"This direction in our considered view is required to maintain the sanctity and pristine condition of the holy cave,"

"(and) ensure that there are no adverse impacts of noise, heat, vibrations etc. upon the Amarnath Ji Maha Shivling, so that the pilgrims coming in the later part of the limited period available to the pilgrimage are also able to have the Darshan of the Amarnath Ji Maha Shivling," the tribunal directed. 

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

It however on Thursday clarified "what the Tribunal had actually ordered" in order to avoid any ambiguity or misconception or misconstruing of its order.

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

The dates for pilgrimage in 2018 are 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.