More than 2,000 Hindu pilgrims heading towards a cave shrine in India's predominantly Muslim Jammu and Kashmir state amid heightened security. The Amarnath shrine, dedicated to the god Shiva, is located at a height of 3,888m in the Himalayas. More than 150,000 people registered for the 46-day pilgrimage.
Amarnath pilgrims have been the target of militant attacks since 1990, with 53 killed and 167 injured, according to India's federal home ministry. An estimated 40,000 security personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage season, the domestic media reported.
Thousands trek every year through tough terrain to the cave to worship a naturally formed, phallus-shaped ice stalagmite believed to be a representation of the god Shiva. The pilgrimage is conducted for a short period between the time the snow clears and before the summer heat melts the ice stalagmite.
Indian forces have scaled up anti-militancy operations in the region. India-administered Kashmir has seen a deadly secessionist movement since the 1980s. India claims that Pakistan aids and abets Kashmiri militants, a charge Pakistan denies.