Coronavirus pandemic cancels holy Hindu pilgrimage for the first time since 19th century discovery

India has cancelled a historic Hindu pilgrimage to a holy cave in the snow-capped mountains in Kashmir for the first time amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Organisers of the Amarnath Yatra, where devotees walk 46 km to the cave across glaciers and waterlogged trails, said a “very sharp” spike in coronavirus cases had forced the cancellation.

“The health concerns are so serious that the strain on the health system, along with the diversion in resources to the Yatra, will be immense,” said a statement issued on Tuesday.

The mountain cave contains an ice stalagmite that is considered a physical manifestation of Hindu god Lord Shiva. It is the first time the pilgrimage has been cancelled since the cave was discovered by a farmer in the 19th century.

India overall has recorded 11,92,915 infections with 28,732 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.