Delve into the eternal knowledge of life and death with the Amarnath Yatra. Although commanding an arduous trek, the holy sojourn is one of the highly revered pilgrimages in India. The ultimate destination of the spiritual expedition is Amarnath Cave which is flocked by the ardent devotees of Lord Shiva. Marveling at the naturally formed ice lingam of the almighty after undertaking the challenging journey is a blissful retreat. Add to it, awe-inspiring vistas en route that take the weariness away. The sojourn is a superb amalgamation of the culture, ethos, religious fervor, secularism and can only be experienced in person.
History of Amarnath Ji Yatra
The history of the Amarnath Ji Yatra is as fascinating as the voyage itself. Helping you feel the presence of the divine at each and every stop you halt, the religious Yatra never fails to prove the unquestionable divinity of Lord Shiva. Many mythical stories are interwoven in and around the holy cave. Out of the many, one that is most popular states that Lord Shiva once disclosed the eternal truth of life and death to Goddess Parvati in this sacred cave only.
However, to let only Goddess Parvati know the secret and to maintain privacy, Lord Shiva left many of his belongings en route. There are two routes to Amarnath Yatra. Out of the two, one starts from Pahalgam which is the place where Lord left his Nandi (bull) behind. Then comes Chandanwari, where Shiva dropped the idea of carrying the half-moon which he always bears on his head ahead. Next on the line is Pissu Top where God killed a devil.
His son and snake (Sheshnaag) accompanied him till Mahagunas top and Sheshnaag Lake respectively and hence the name. Before entering the cave, Shiva left his five elements at Panchatrani. Finally, comes the cave where the secret of immortality was disclosed. Located 13,000 feet above the sea level, this cave is believed to be as old as time. The Shiva Lingam in the cave becomes almost 14 feet tall on a full-moon day. However, it starts to descend with the phases of the moon.
Despite making all the efforts to maintain privacy, a pair of pigeon overheard the secret whereas Goddess Parvati fell asleep. Devotees can still see these pigeons in the cave. The sacred place remained hidden for many years. It was in 1850 that one day a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik saw the Amarnath cave and the Shiva Lingam within while grazing his cattle. Since then, it became one of the most famous pilgrim destinations in India.
Facilities of Amatnath Yatra
Although, planning Amarnath Yatra is really difficult. But, with the passage of time, pilgrims can avail various facilities en route to Amarnath Cave. Out of the many, a handful of services are mentioned below:
A trek to Shri Amarnath Ji shrine is not just a pilgrimage. Rather, it is a medley of various experiences. Surpassing the many, camping on the ice under the stars is truly exceptional. From Srinagar till Pahalgam, you will find various budget and luxury hotels for a comfortable stay. Afterward, you can easily rent tents at Sheshnaag Lake, Panchtarni and ultimately at Gufa, if you are traveling by Pahalgam route. On the other hand, there are no tents available on the Baltal route since it completes the Yatra only within a day. However, you can still avail the facility of pre-fabricated huts at Baltal itself.
- Cloak Room
Devotees can avail cloakroom facility at Nunwan (Pahalgam), Balatal and the holy cave. A nominal fee has to be paid as charges for 24 hours or part thereof.
- Pithus, Ponies and Palkis
For the ease of the visitors coming to Amarnath, facilities of Pithus, Ponies and Palkis are also offered. While Pithus carry the luggage and children, Ponies can be used by ones unable to undertake the trek. Palki service is for the senior citizens and overweight devotees. The rates of Pithus, Ponies and Palkis are fixed and are available on the official website of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.
- Amarnath yatra Helicopter Services
Amarnath Yatra by helicopter is a boon for many. Available from both Pahalgam as well as Baltal route, the heli service in Amarnath allows devotees to fly to the holy cave easily. Booking for the helicopter service to the Amarnath cave can be done online and rates are fixed for the same.
Nowadays, the Amarnath Yatra lasts for up to 45 days. It usually starts in June and ends on Raksha Bandhan in August. However, the best time to plan Amarnath Yatra is during the initial days so as to witness the ice lingam before it starts to melt. This year, the Amarnath Yatra 2021 will start on 1st July and end on 22nd August.
How to Reach Amarnath:
To reach Amarnath by air, one must deboard at Srinagar International Airport. If you wish to travel by train, the nearest railway station is at Jammu. For devotees who are coming here by road, they can drive their vehicle up to Pahalgam. Bask in the bliss as you are ready to pay homage to Baba Barfani awaiting his devotees at Amarnath.