Sonmarg: As the Amarnath Yatra is in progress in Jammu and Kashmir, religious harmony was seen in the valley where Amarnath Yatris were welcomed by local Muslims on their way to the shrine.
From the men who put up temporary shops offering fruits and vegetables to those running the pony rides and palanquin service and arranging shelters and tents for pilgrims, all are Muslims.
As per the officials, more than 35,000 local Muslims are associated with different arrangements and services of the pilgrimage from the traditional bases camps of Nunwan in Pahalgam and Baltal in Sonmarg.
Among these, around 20,000 are estimated to be service providers that include pony owners from Anantnag, Kulgam and Kishtwar districts, palanquin operators, authorised vendors and shopkeepers, hoteliers and many more.
They eagerly wait for the Amaranth Yatra as it boosts their business as well as provides them with a chance to bond with their Hindu brothers.
Speaking to ANI, one of the pony owners, Firdous said, “This year as ‘Amarnath Yatra’ is taking place, we are very happy. We start from Baltal and move to Domial and finally leave the pilgrims near the cave.”
“There are around 5,000 to 6,000 ponywallahs involved in this activity excluding the Palakiwalas and Pithuwalas,” he added.
Expressing happiness with the start of Amarnath Yatra, another pony owner, Mohammad Amin said, “We serve the pilgrims very well and take them carefully to the cave. It is a matter of joy that the yatra has started as it also helps us to earn our livelihood.”
As the yatra takes place during the ushering of monsoon season so raincoats and warm clothing are always in demand among the pilgrims.
The makeshift shops opened along the route by Muslims provide a wide range of warm clothing which are available at affordable rates.
The tents pitched on small flat surfaces in mountains are another popular business among the locals. For pilgrims who like to retire for a while and recuperate, these tents give them a good space to stretch and rest before they resume the trek to Amarnath.
Talking about the arrangements done by both the authorities as well as the local service providers, a pilgrim Vibhal said, “There are all kinds of facilities here, be it in form of Poniwalas or Palkiwalas. No matter which age group you belong to, everyone is well taken care of. The Army is also supporting a lot and the stay arrangements have been done in such a manner that it seems as if we are in our own house.”
“The Poniwalas and Palkiwalas are playing the main role and they are the ones who carefully take us to pay our obeisance to Lord Shiva,” she added.
Another pilgrim Anil Kumar said, “Everything is very good and Poniwalas and Palkiwalas are really providing a lot of support. With God’s grace, they are also earning their livelihood through this yatra.”
Covered by snow almost all year round, the Amarnath cave contains an ice stalagmite that is considered a physical manifestation of Lord Shiva.
According to legend, Lord Shiva decided to tell Parvati the secret to his immortality in this cave, which was later discovered by a shepherd named Buta Malik in 1850.
The pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine is not only the most sacred among Hindu devotees but also stands as a symbol of peaceful co-existence among different faiths.
Every year, Muslims eagerly wait for its start and throughout the Yatra, they stay on their toes to serve the Hindu devotees.