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One of India's toughest but most popular pilgrimages, the Amarnath Yatra, got underway on Monday. Pilgrims must battle inclement weather, which makes the track slippery and dangerous, as well as altitude as high as 13,000 feet. The reward is reaching the Himalayan shrine that houses a stalagmite naturally made of snow, considered to be an ice lingam of Lord Shiva.
Located in Jammu and Kashmir, there are two routes to the shrine -- 16 kilometers from Baltal in Ganderbal and the traditional 45 kilometers Pahalgam track in Anantnag district, approximately 3-4 hours drive from Srinagar.
All pilgrims must preregister for the yatra and also submit a compulsory health certificate. However, according to news reports, one person has sadly already died of a heart attack from the high altitude.
This year, the duration of the yatra has been shortened. It will conclude on August 2, which coincides with the Raksha Bandhan festival.
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