Soumya Prakash Pradhan

Online booking of helicopter service for this year's Amarnath Yatra began on Sunday. Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) has started the facility for both Baltal and Pahalgam yatra routes for this year's 52-day long Shri Amarnath Yatra starting on June 29.   

A statement by SASB said on Sunday that the annual pilgrimage of Amarnath is starting on June 29 and will conclude on August 19 on the day of Raksha Bandhan coinciding with Shravan Purnima festival.

Officials said that for the north Kashmir Baltal route, helicopter service is being provided on Neelgrath- Panjtarni-Neelgrath, and for Pahalgam route, it will be available on Pahalgam-Panjtarni-Pahalgam route.  

However, officials added that online booking of the helicopter service can be availed by visiting the official website JKSASB.nic.in

"Offline tickets or priority will not be available, hence the booking will be on a first come first serve basis and will be provided directly to the devotees," an official said, adding that one way fare from Pahalgam to Panjtarni has been fixed at Rs 4,900; two-way fare at Rs 9,800; one way fare from Neelgrath to Panjtarni has been fixed at Rs 3,250 and both way fare at Rs 6,500.

Pilgrims undertaking the yatra must have a health certificate while booking the helicopter tickets.

Journey from Panjtarni helipad to the holy cave and back takes time, so the available slots for the pilgrims will be visible with a gap of at least 5 to 6 hours between the trips. 

"The traveller must carry original photo identity card and a health certificate during the journey while the pilgrims must reach the respective helipads at least 30 minutes before the booked time slot. 

"Charter booking is only allowed for travel between Srinagar and Neelgrath with priority seats on the connecting service running between Neelgrath and Panjtarni," a statement noted. 

"The preparations for the pilgrimage are in full swing. The advance registration for pilgrims has already started from April 15. This year, 125 langars have been permitted to be installed up to the holy cave," an official said. 

J&K Lt. Governor, Manoj Sinha, on May 16, during his visit to Katra, urged devotees to become messengers and spread the message of Lord Shiva. 

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