Srinagar: The unprecedented rush of pilgrims to Amarnath this year has contributed to the ice Shivling in the holy mountain cave completely melting away more than 10 days before the end of the yatra.
The Amarnath shrine board confirmed that the ice stalagmite, which was particularly well-formed this year and stood 15 feet high when the yatra began on June 29, had melted away.
The premature melting is being attributed to heat produced inside the cave due to the presence of a record number of pilgrims.
Officials said around 6.15 lakh people have so far completed the annual pilgrimage, the highest in the yatra's history.
High temperatures in Kashmir over the past few weeks also seem to have played a part in the melting of the naturally forming stalagmite inside the cave at a height of 3,880 metres in the Great Himalayan range of west Kashmir.
"Early melting of the lingam is not unusual. In 2007, it had melted by July 2. Last year, it was gone by around July 30. This is a natural phenomenon and it will not dampen the spirit of the devotees," said Preet Pal Singh, additional chief executive officer of the Amarnath shrine board.