Undeterred by the recent terror attack, more than 4,000 pilgrims left for the Amarnath cave shrine from Jammu on Friday, officials said.
The numbers have been steadily going up since July 10, when seven Amarnath pilgrims, including six women, were killed and 19 injured in a terror attack in Anantnag district.
On the day of the terror attack, 2,430 pilgrims left Jammu for the high altitude cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.
This went up to 3,289 pilgrims the next day, 3,500 on July 12 and 3,791 on July 13. Friday's number went up to 4,105.
Escorted by the Central Reserve Police Force and police, the batch consisting of 3,111 men, 892 women and 102 sadhus and sadhvis, left in a convoy of 191 vehicles for Baltal and Pahalgam base camps on Friday morning, officials said.
The yatris housed at Bhagwati Nagar base camp in Jammu vowed to undertake the journey to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva at the shrine without caring for the terror threats.
Their enthusiasm evident in the loud chants of 'Bam Bam Bhole'.
"My family told me return back to home after terror attack on pilgrims. But I told them I will return home only after performing darhsan at Amarnath whether alive or dead. I don't care about the threat. Lord Shiva will take care of that," said Kumar Raja from Chennai.
Chander Mohan from Madhya Pradesh echoed his sentiment.
"We will perform pilgrimage and only after that will return home. These threats and attacks cannot deter us," he said.
A total of 46,630 pilgrims have left Jammu for Amarnath in 15 batches since the 40-day-long yatra began from Jammu on June 28.
Since the beginning of the pilgrimage this year, 1,77,134 yatris have paid obeisance at the cave shrine.
The government has mobilised a heavy security blanket of over 35,000 to 40,000 troops including the police, the Army, the BSF and the CRPF.
This year's yatra will be eight days shorter than last year's and will conclude on Shravan Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) on August 7.
IMAGE: Sadhus waiting in a queue to register themselves for the annual pilgrimage to Amarnath cave shrine at a base camp in Jammu. Photograph: PTI Photo