Amarnath - A Heaven For Pilgrims:- A Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir, India is the Amarnath cave. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m, about 141 km from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir and reached through Pahalgam. Amarnath is one of the most important pilgrimage in India for the worshippers of Lord Shiva. The Amarnath cave is haven to an enshrined image of ice called the Shivaling formed naturally, which resembles Lord Shiva.
The destination is visited by millions of tourists every year from all across the world in what is famously known as the 'Amarnath Yatra'. The Amarnath cave situated in this town is considered to be a devout location for the pilgrims, most notably Hindus.
The legend says that Lord Shiva had to give in to Goddess Parvati’s demands of knowing the secrets of life and death but he could not risk anyone eavesdropping onto it. So they set on their way to a cave in the mountains- too difficult to be reached by any lesser person than the gods themselves. The secret is so sacred that all the companions also had to left behind. So his ride - Nandi, the bull - was left at Pahalgam, the moon atop his head at Chandanwari, the snake around his neck at Lake Sheshnag, the 5 basic elements of life that he carried at Panchtarini and even his son - Lord Ganesha himself - at Mahaguna top. And now Hindu devotees find themselves enroute this perilous mountainous trek every year.
Every year, the Amarnath yatra route attracts lakhs of pilgrims. During Shravani Mela in July-August (Shravan month in Hindu calendar), the pilgrims generally visit the site. This is the only time in the whole year, when the Amarnath cave is accessible.
‘Pratham Pujan’ which is said to invoke the blessings of Baba Amarnath, marks the annual ‘Amarnath yatra’. It is said that with the lunar cycle, the ‘lingum’ in the holy cave grows and shrinks. Moreover, the ‘lingum’ reaches a maximum around July-August when the ice caps around the cave are melting, since the ice is collected from the water dripping from the top of the cave due to the melting of the ice on top of it. The Amarnath Yatra 2017 has started on 29th June 2017 (Skandshasthi) and will go on till 7th August (Shravan Purnima).
- Best Time To Visit Amarnath
May-September are the best months to visit this place. During summers, the climate is quite considerable as it ranges between 9-34 degrees. This might just be your best bet to enjoy the lush green environs of the location because during winters the temperature drops to a chilly -8 degrees sometimes. Plus, the much awaited Amarnath Yatra happens during the months of Shravana i.e. July-August and we'd recommend you to not miss that.
July-August These are the months when the ice around the routes and the passages melts a little and allows for travel and tourism. Only during these months and therefore, July and August remain the only times of the year when one can visit the shrine of Amarnath and the Cave Temple is accessible. Except for these two months, the whole area around Amarnath is inaccessible.
- How To Reach Amarnath
The nearest airport to Amarnath is the Srinagar airport. Anyway, the journey commences from Pahalgam which is a bus ride of 2 hours from the airport. The nearest railway station to Pahalgam remains the Jammu Tawi Railway Station. You can reach Amarnath by helicopter, on foot, or by pony rides from there.
How to Reach Amarnath by Flight
The Srinagar airport, which serves all major airlines is at a distance of 70-odd km from Pahalgam. You can take the Govt. run bus services or hail private cabs to reach Pahalgam from where you commence the journey to Amarnath. Major helicopter services like Hans ply to and fro Baltal (near Pahalgam) and Amarnath.
Nearest Airport: Srinagar International Airport (SXR) - 72 kms from Amarnath
How to Reach Amarnath by Road
As the Amarnath place is on a very dangerous tract, hence it is not very well connected by road. One can travel to Jammu and then one has to go by road to Srinagar and then to reach Baltal or Pahalgam. Baltal is the shortest trek on the way up to Amarnath, but slightly difficult. Pahalgam trek is longer and relatively safer and more suited for families and elder people. People can also hire ponies and palkies to counter the strenuous terrain. From Baltal, it is a 1-2 day trek (15 km) to reach Amarnath. However, the Pahalgam route is relatively longer and takes around 3-5 days (36-48 km).
How to Reach Amarnath by Train
There are no direct trains to Amarnath. The nearest station is Jammu, at a distance of 178 kms from Amarnath. From Jammu, one can hire cabs to reach either Baltal or Pahalgam. From Baltal, it is a 1-2 day trek (15 km) to reach Amarnath. However, the Pahalgam route is relatively longer and takes around 3-5 days (36-48 km).
Commuting Within Amarnath
The Amarnath cave is the most important attraction in this city. There are two ways of reaching there, one is by taking a helicopter from Srinagar and landing at Panjtarni, which is 2 kms away from the cave or by traveling by car upto Baltal from which it is a 13.5 kms journey, traversable only by foot up to the cave. Apart from these, the most popular way is to trek from Pahalgam which takes 3-5 days. The helicopter packages range upto Rs. 50,000 inclusive of stay at Srinagar and also railway station drop services.
- How To Start Your Yatra
From Srinagar or Pahalgam, the devotees begin their yatra on foot and take one of the two possible routes. The shorter but more steep trek via Baltal, Domial, Barari and Sangam is 14 km long and allows people to take a round trip in 1-2 days. However, on this route due to safety reasons, ponies are not allowed. One has to either walk or be carried on ‘Dandies’ (carried on a seat atop shoulders of other people). As steep slope is said to cause serious health problems among un-acclimatized visitors, this Amarnath Yatra route is considered more favorable for returning back from the shrine than on the way up. Young, healthy and people looking for adventure amidst the religious trip happen to take this trek.
Generally, the devotees prefer the longer Amarnath yatra route via Pahalgam. Depending upon the devotion of the pilgrim, the length of the trek varies from 36 to 48 km. The trek usually takes 3-5 days one way. Compared to the Baltal trek and slopes gradually, the Amarnath route is much wider. However, for almost whole of the route one will also find it crowded by ponies. It is advisable for aged, sick or people with past history of illnesses to take this yatra route.
However, the best possible facilities are allowed by both the routes in the conditions. The efforts of Indian Army, Central Government and State Government Police Forces for both security and facilities have made it possible. Apart from government provided facilities, various non-profit organizations and private companies also place stalls along the way. The Shri Amarnath Yatra trust which provides for services like telecommunication, power supply, firewood etc carries out the overall organization of the yatra. The mobile phones are of no use in the area and it would be wise to leave them behind. Online Helicopter bookings can be made in advance.
The efforts of the concerned agencies (both government and private) make the trek much more easier than what it used to be a few years ago with the lack of any facilities at all. However, despite all the medical support, fair price shops and power utilities, the Amarnath Yatra Route is one of the harshest pilgrim routes in India and takes a toll of many lives every year. A compulsory health check-up is carried out for all pilgrims allowing only healthy people to go through, to minimize the losses. Despite this, the extreme weather, natural disasters and road accidents are frequent. What ever the situation may be, it does not stop the faithful followers of Lord Shiva from taking this dangerous journey every year with joy.
The Amarnath yatra however, is not just a spiritual tour. The nearby places are equally tempting tourist attractions to even the most non-religious among us. By Amir Khusro, Kashmir was once termed as the ‘Paradise on earth’. Some of the must visit places that you can undertake in one trip include the likes of Srinagar, Gulmarg and Sonamarg.
Top Places To Visit
1) Amarnath Cave
Located in Jammu and Kashmir, the Amarnath Cave is a Hindu Shrine and is visited by lakhs of people every year. It is located at an altitude of 3,888 m. One of the most famous Hindu Shrines is the Amarnath. Lakhs and Thousands of devotees make a pilgrimage to the cave during summers, while it is open, as they cross challenging mountain terrains to reach to the ice stalagmite formed inside the cave.
The shrine, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is almost 5000 years old. It holds an important place in Hindu Mythology. Inside it is an ice stalagmite which resembles Lord Shiva and waxes during the months of May to August. The water seeps into the rocks and soon wanes after that. It is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva explained his consort Goddess Parvati about the secrets of life and eternity.
There are two other ice formations which represent Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva's son Lord Ganesh. People visit here during the Shravani Mela which is a 45 day season in July-August. It takes five days for the devotees to reach the destination on foot from either Srinagar or Pahalgam.
How to Reach Amarnath Cave
The State Transport and the Private Operators provide bus services from Jammu to Pahalgam and Baltlal. These are the two places from where you start the Amarnath Yatra.
The Linga is 40 m high and is formed due to the freezing water which falls from the roof of the cave. It grows vertically from the floor to the rooftop. As per believes, the Linga grows and shrinks according to different phases of the moon to its height during the summer festival.
The beginning of the Amarnath Yatra starts with 'Pratham Pujan' to invoke the blessings of Lord Shiva. The best and the pleasant part of the yatra is between Guru Purnima and Shravan Purnima. The devotees reach the base camp from where the actual yatra starts. NGOs set up pandals which are the resting camps for the pilgrims. There is a continuous supply of food in these pandals.
The Two Routes
The Northern route is 16 km long and is shorter. It is steep hence, difficult to climb. It starts from Baltal. The longer, easier and more traditional one passes through Srinagar.
2) Amarnath Yatra
Amarnath cave is a Hindu shrine situated in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The cave is reached through Pahalgam town. It is placed at an altitude of 3,888m, about 141 km from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The shrine has an important part to play in Hinduism and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism.
The cave is embraced by snowy mountains. Most of the year, the cave itself is covered with snow. It is open for pilgrims except for a short period of time in summer. To see an ice pole formed inside the cave, an annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave is paid by thousands of Hindu devotees on a rugged, mountainous terrain. The ice stalagmite is molded due to the freezing of water drops that fall from the roof of the cave onto the floor and rises up vertically from the cave floor, inside the 130 ft high Amarnath cave. It is considered to be a Shiva Linga by Hindus.
The Cave waxes during May to August, as snow melts in the Himalayas above the cave and the resulting water, seeps into the rocks that form the cave and progressively fades thereafter. It has been claimed that during the summer festival, the lingam grows and shrinks with the phases of the moon reaching its height as per the religious beliefs. According to a Hindu mythology, lord Shiva enlightened the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort, Parvati in this cave. Worshiping the ice stalagmite Lingam is the main purpose of the annual pilgrimage to the cave.
Approximately 36 kms
How to Reach Amarnath Yatra
Srinagar is the capital of Jammu & Kashmir and well connected to the rest of the country by air. Jammu is well connected by railways to the rest of the country and the yatra can be started from here as well with various operators.
Trek from Batal to pahalgam
Disciples travel on foot, either from Srinagar or from Pahalgam. The latter journey takes approximately 5 days. The trek is very sharp slope and is quite difficult to climb. It starts from Baltal and passes through Domial, Barari, and Sangam to reach the cave.
Trek from Chandanwari to Pahalgam
Total trek distance of 30 kilometers. The ardous trek is undertaken by devotees in thousands each year. Pregnant ladies and children are advised to not undertake this trek.
Children below 13 years of age and adults above 75 years of age are not allowed, and pregnant women are also not advised to taken this journey. Considering this trek is one of the most challenging tasks, a health certificate has to provided by each individual.
Lord Shiva seeks shelter in Amarnath, his devotees seek shelter in Baltal. The halt destination for hordes of pilgrims every year. You can visit this place, situated 14 km away from Amarnath.
Laid on the banks of the Lidder River, is another gorgeous town Pahalgam. This valley town is well known for its beautiful environs, lush green natural beauty, vast valleys, towering mountains and an appropriate climate.
This town will certainly be that 'one break you have always wanted from a hectic life'. Yes, we assure you that it is that refreshing. Give it a try. 177 kms from the town of Baltal.