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10 JUL

Holy AmarnathYatra

INTRODUCTION

As per Hinduism, the processes of God are three fold – Creation, Preservation and Destruction. The first two are attributed by Brahma and Vishnu and the the last one is attributed by Lord Shiva – the destroyer whose primary role was to purge all the obstacles and unwanted from the world cycle.  The Transcendent God called Shiva is the timeless God of the universe and he alone exists as an existence itself, even before the creation of our world and can be understood as the ultimate transcendence and the supreme being.  Amarnath Caves are located in Pahalgam in Jammu & Kashmir at a height of 3888 mts and considered as the most revered pilgrim destinations of the Hindus. Despite not being a Jyotirling, lakhs of Hindu pilgrim brave the unfriendly mountain terrain, harsh climate and not to mention personal safety & security to have a glimpse of the icy Shiv Ling which is open to the public for a short duration from June end till August end every year. The Shivling is Swayambhu (self created) by when the water drips from the cave’s roof and starts to freeze as it touches the ground and consecutive accumulation results in formation of the Shiv Ling. One can also find two other such formations which are designated as Maa Parvati and Lord Ganesh.

THE LEGEND OF AMARNATH

As per the legend, Lord Shiva chose Amarnath, an isolated and inhabited location, to render the secret Amar Katha to goddess Parvati who wanted to be immortal just like Lord Shiva.  As they wanted absolute isolation with no one around, he left all his belongings stating with Nandi at Pahalgam, Moon at Moon at Chandanwari, Snakes at Lake Sheshnag, son Ganesh at Mahgunas Parvat and his five elements at Panjatarni.

Once inside the cave, Lord Shiva started the rendition by getting into Samadhi or the meditative state. Further, to ensure that no one is around to hear the Amar Katha, he created a rudra named Kalagni and ordered him to set fire around the cave so that everything living around that place could be destroyed. He then started narrating the story of immortality to Maa Parvati. But in spite of all these efforts, one egg remained protected under the deer skin on which the Lord was sitting. But it was considered as non-living. A pair of pigeons was born out of that egg and supposedly became immortal. Pilgrims can still see the pigeon pair while going towards the Amarnath Cave.

DISCOVERY OF THE CAVE

It is believed that a Muslim shepherd by the name Buta Malik discovered the cave when he chanced upon a saint at a cave while grazing his sheep. There he met a saint who gave me him a bag full of coal which turned into gold when he reached home. The saint was none other than the Mahadev himself and from then on hoards of pilgrims visit the cave where one can find icy shiv ling signifying the lord himself.

HOW TO REACH

Traditional Route : Srinagar / Jammu – Pahalgam – Chandanwari –  Pissu Top – Sheshnag – Panchtarani – Sangam – Amarnath Caves (minimum 3 days) 

This is the most popular route as it passes thru all the significant places associated with the mythical tale of Amarnath. One can reach Chandanwari by vehicles and later need to embark on a challenging trek of 21 kms to reach Amarnath Caves. Enroute destinations include Pissu Top, believed to be formed out of the dead rakshasas slayed by Lord Shiva followed by Shesh Nag  with its picturesque set up with a flowing stream with hovering seven peaks that resemble the head of Sheshnag. From Sheshnag one needs to proceed to Panchatarni which is the last base to Holy Amarnath Caves. Be prepared to face the cold winds and lack of oxygen from here onwards. From Panchtarni, the Amarnath Cave is located at a distance of just 6 km. As there is no place to stay, so pilgrims have to start their journey early in the morning so that you can come back to the base camp on time. The entire route is very beautiful and out of the world.

New Route : Srinagar / Jammu – Sonmarg – Baltal – Amarnath Caves (minimum 1 day) 

This new route via Baltal is much steeper and challenging but is gaining a lot of popularity because of the ease of completing the yatra in just one day if done by helicopter. Else two days are quite sufficient if done on foot.

One can drive down to Baltal, located about 15 kms from Sonmarg and then trek for 14 kms to Amarnath. Alternatively one can take the helicopter to Panchtarni and then do the final leg of 5 kms to the holy Amarnath Caves  


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