Monday, July 2, 2007

Icy stalagmite in Indian Kashmir melts away

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A naturally formed icy stalagmite in a mountain cave in Indian Kashmir, which attracts hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year, has completely melted away, an official said on Monday.

"Yes, there will be some disappointment for the pilgrims as the main Lingam (icy stalagmite) has completely melted," said Arun Kumar, a top official of the Amarnath Shrine Board, which manages the pilgrimage.

Hindus worship the stalagmite as an incarnation of the Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration. The pilgrimage lasts for two months.

Officials say at least 400,000 devotees are expected to make the 16-kilometer (10-mile) trek to the Amarnath shrine, in a mountain cave 4,115 meters (13,500 feet) above sea level.

Experts say the size of the stalagmite has varied in previous years.

"One of the main reasons for its melting is the conduction of body heat of the huge crowds at the formation," said Shakeel Ahmed, who heads Geology and Geophysics Department at the University of Kashmir.

Helicopters depositing pilgrims close to the shrine and generators powering light bulbs around the shrine are other reasons for the melting, he said.

The pilgrimage was officially scheduled to begin Saturday but heavy rains forced authorities to delay it for a day.

Source : pravda

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