Amarnath Yatra Tourism Information
Amarnath cave, the sacred abode of Lord Shiva is one of the most important Hindu pilgrim centres in the county. The holy cave perched at an altitude of 3962 metres is 2 feet long, 55 feet broad and 50 feet deep. It enshrines a unique ice Shivalingam, which is created naturally by water dripping through the limestone roof of the cave. The cave shrine can shine can be visited from the first week of July to mid September. The State government makes elaborate arrangements for the pilgrims and are well supported by volunteers. ‘Chhari Mubarak’, the symbolic emblem of Lord Shiva, is carred on foot by devotees from Srinagar to the Amarnath Cave in various stages. The traditional route from Pahalgam to Amarnath via Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarni is endowed with breathtaking vistas. One can also visit Amarnath form Sonamarg side. The trek to the sacred site is just 16km. starting form Baltal.
Inside the 40 m (130 ft) high Amarnath cave, Lord Shiva gets formed due to freezing of water drops that fall from the roof of the cave on to the floor and grows up vertically from the cave floor. It is considered to be a Shiva Linga by devout Hindus. He waxes during May to August, as snow melts in the Himalayas above the cave and the resultant water seeps into the rocks that form the cave and gradually wanes thereafter. As per the religious beliefs, it has been claimed that the lingam grows and shrinks with the phases of the moon reaching its height during the summer festival, although there is no scientific evidence for this belief. According to a Hindu legend, this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort, Parvati. Two other ice formations represent Parvati and Shiva's son, Ganesha.
The Amarnath cave has been a place of worship since times immemorial. There are references to the legendary king Aryaraja (ascribed fictional dates 32BCE-17CE) who used to worship a lingam formed of ice in Kashmir. The book Rajatarangini (Book VII v.183) refers to Amareshwara or Amarnath. It is believed that Queen Suryamathi in the 11th century AD gifted trishuls, banalingas and other sacred emblems to this temple. Rajavalipataka, begun by Prjayabhatta has detailed references to the pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave. Other than this, there are further references to this pilgrimage in many other ancient texts.
Discovery of Holy Cave
Amarnath cave is believed that after the Middle Ages, this cave was forgotten by people and it was once again discovered by a shepherd in the 15th century. However, there are many stories about the discovery of this cave. One story states that once a Gujjar (Shepherd) named Buta Malik was given a bag full of coal by a holy man. When he reached home, he found that the bag contained not coal, but gold coins. Overjoyed, he ran back to the place where he had met the Holy man. However the holy man had disappeared and Buta Malik instead discovered the cave and the Lingam. The temple is a popular yatra destination for some Hindus. In 2011 it received about 634,000 persons, the highest recorded number for the site. The number was 622,000 in 2012. Pilgrims visit the holy site during the 45-day season around the festival of Shravani Mela in July–August, coinciding with the Hindu holy month of Shraavana. The beginning of the annual pilgrimage, called Amarnath Yatra is marked by 'pratham pujan' to invoke the blessings of Shri Amarnathji.
Devotees travel on foot, either from Srinagar or from Pahalgam. The latter journey takes approximately 5 days. The State Road Transport Corporation and Private Transport Operators provide the regular services from Jammu to Pahalgam and Baltal. Also privately hired taxis are available from Jammu & kashmir.
The shorter northern route is just about 16 km long, but has a very steep gradient and is quite difficult to climb. It starts from Baltal and passes through Domial, Barari, and Sangam to reach the cave. The northern route is along the Amarnath valley and all along the route one can see the river Amaravathy (It is more like a tributary of Chenab) which originates from Amarnath Glacier.
It is believed that Lord Shiva left Nandi, The Bull, at Pahalgam (Bail Gaon). At Chandanwari, he released the Moon from his hair (Jataon). On the banks of Lake Sheshnag, he released his snakes. At Mahagunas Parvat (Mahaganesh Mountain), he left his son Lord Ganesha. At Panjtarni, Lord Shiva left behind the five elements - Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky. As a symbol of sacrificing the earthly world, Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Dance. Then, finally, Lord Shiva entered the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati.
En route to the cave, various non-profit organizations set up food supply and resting tents called pandals which are available for free to the pilgrims. Near the shrine, hundreds of tents which are erected by locals can be hired for a night's stay. Helicopter services from base camp to Panjtarni (6 km from the cave) are also available from various private operators.
Every year, thousands of central police and state police personnel are deployed to provide security to pilgrims from potential terror threats. The forces position at various halts and also in the perimeter of the shrine.
Officially, the Yatra is organised by the State Government in collaboration with the Shree Amarnath Yatra trust. The Government agencies provide necessary facilities all along the route during the Yatra period, which includes provision of ponies, supply of power, telecommunication facilities, firewood and setting up of fair price shops.