Amarnath Yatra

One of the holy Trinity, Shiva is a living God. the most sacred and the most ancient book of India, the Rig-Veda evokes his presence in its hymns. Vedic myths, rituals and even astronomy testify to his existence from the dawn of time. But Shiva, Destroyer, the mendicant, is indefinable : He is a great yogi. Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in a Cave in Amarnath. Unknown to them a pair of mating doves eavesdropped on this conversation and having learned the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode. Many pilgrims report seeing the doves pair when they trek the ardous route to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam.

Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder valley, Amarnath stands at 3,888 m. It is 363 kms. from Jammu Via Pahalgam and about 414 kms. Via Baltal. It is on the distance of 44.8 km from Pahalgam and 141 km from Srinagar . Though the original pilgrimage subscribes that the yatra be undertaken from Srinagar, the more common practice is to begin journey at Pahalgam, and cover the distance to Amarnath and back in five days. Pahalgam is 96 kms from Srinagar.
 

The  Legend about the  importance of Amarnath Cave is as follows :-

This is The Cave which was chosen by Bhole Shankar  for narrating the secrets of immortality and creation of Universe  to Maa Parvati ji .   The story goes like this  .   Centuries ago Maa Parvati asked Shiv ji  to  let her know why and when  He  started wearing the beads of heads ( Mund Mala)  .   Bhole Shankar replied when ever you are born  I add one more head in my beads .  Maa Parvati said ,"  My Lord, my body is destroyed every time  and I die again and again, but you are Immortal. Please let me know the secret of this ." Bhole Shankar replied that it is due to Amar Katha ."
Maa Parvati insisted that she may be told that secret.  For long Shiva ji continued postponing .   Finally on consistent demand from Maa Parvati He made up his mind to tell the immortal secret . He started  for    lonely  place  where  no living  being  could  listen  it .  He choose Amarnath Cave .  In preparation to that He left His Nandi ( The Bull which He used to ride )  at Pahalgam (Bail gaon) .  At Chandanwari He released Moon from his hairs (Jataon). At the banks of Lake Sheshnag He released the snakes .  He decided to leave his Son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parbat (Mahaganesh Hill ) . At Panjtarni, Shivji  left the Five Elements behind (Earth , Water, Air , Fire and Sky)  which make living being . He is the Lord of these elements.  It is believed that as a symbol of sacrificing the earthly world , Shivji and  Maa Parvati  had Tandav Dance . After leaving behind all these, Bhole Shankar enters the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati Maa . Lord Shiva takes his Samadhi on the Deer Skin and concentrate . To ensure that no living being is able to hear the Immortal Tale , He created Rudra named Kalagni and ordered him  to spread fire to eliminate every living  thing in and around the Holy Cave . After this He started narrating  the secret of immortality to Maa Parvati . But as a matter of chance one egg which was lying beneath the  Deer skin remained protected . It is believed to be non living and more over it was protected by Shiva -Parvati Asan (Bed) .  The pair of pigeons which were born out of this  egg became immortal  having listened the secret  of immortality (Amar Katha). 
Many pilgrims report seeing the pair of pigeons  when they trek the arduous route to pay their obeisance before the Ice-Lingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva).

Discovery of Holy Cave

The story narrated by people about the discovery of this Holy Cave  is of  a Gujjar        ( shepherd) Buta Malik . He is given the credit of discovering this Holy Cave  . Story goes like this , that a saint gave Buta Malik a bag full of Coal. On reaching his home when he opened the bag , to his  utter surprise the bag was full of gold coins . This made him overwhelmed with joy. He  ran to thank the Saint . But,  what he found was that  the  Saint had disappeared . Instead , he found  The Holy Cave and Shiv Lingam there in . He announced the discovery of this  to the Villagers. Then onwards this has become the sacred place of Pilgrimage .
The ancient epics narrate an other  story which  goes like this. The valley of Kashmir was under water .It was a big lake. Kashyap Rishi drained the water through number of rivers and rivulets . In those days Bhrigu Rishi came that way on a visit to The Himalayas. He was the first to have Darshans of this Holy Cave . When people heard of the Lingam, Amarnath for them  became Shiva’s abode and a Centre of pilgrimage . Since then Lacs of devotees perform the pilgrimage through tough terrain and avail eternal happiness.
The trek to Amarnath, in the month of sharavan ( July–August) has the devout flock to this incredible shrine, where the image of Shiva, in the form of a Lingam, is formed naturally of an Ice Stalagmite, which waxes and wanes with the Moon's cycle . By its side are fascinating, two more Ice Lingams, that of  Maa Parvati and of their son, Ganesha .

When To Take Up Yatra

The Amarnath Yatra is organized every year by the J &K Govt. during  the month of sharavan ( July and August); the dates  however , vary every year looking  at the weather  conditions and according to Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) in the month of Sharavan (Vikrama Samwat).

Climate

The climatic conditions are very uncertain . Rain or snowfall may take  place  at any time  or  place during the Yatra . It is to be particularly noted that abrupt changes in temperature might occur . Sunny weather may turn into rain / snow fall in  a short time .  The temperature may fall upto -5 degree C . 

How to Perform Pilgrimage

For performing this Yatra, one is required to get registered . The registration is done by J &K Govt. Tourist Offices, located at Delhi , Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Jammu and Srinagar.

Useful Tips on Yatra

The Yatra is organized by the Jammu & Kashmir Govt., in the month of Sharavan, and commences mainly from Pahalgam on specified dates. In recent years the route from Baltal has also been thrown open for the pilgrims to approach the holy Cave.

Dress : Pilgrims are advised to carry sufficient wollens such as sweaters, drawers, wollen trousers, monkey cap etc. Other items could include wind cheaters, rain coat, sleeping bag or blankets, umbrella, waterproof boots/shoes, walking stick, torch etc. Ladies are advised not to go on the trek in saris, instead pants or Salwar suits with drawers should be used.

Medical Assistance : Medical posts manned by qualified doctors and nursing staff are established enroute to cater to the needs of the pilgrims, free of cost. However, pilgrims are advised to carry along any medicines specifically prescribed for them.

Provisions : Essential rations are available at fair price rates from the specially established Govt. Depots at Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtami, Numerous wayside tea-shops and small restaurants are set up by private parties. However, pilgrims are advised to carry with them biscuits, toffees, tinned food etc. to cater to their immediate needs. Firewood or gas can be obtained at Chandanwari, Sheshnag (Wawajan), Panchtami and near the Cave.

Insurance : In view of the hazardous nature, pilgrims are advised to insure themselves before proceeding on the Yatra.

Registration : Registration of pilgrims are undertaken about a month ahead of the date fixed for commencement of Yatra. The dates are generally notified through press advertisements. No Yatri will be allowed to proceed on the journey without a Registration Card.

             

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