May 2009
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Lord Amarnath Yatra: The holy pilgrimage

Climate: Average Max temp 16°C, Min Temperature -4°C.
Best time to visit: July to August.
Height: Amarnath is located at a height of 3888 metre above sea level.

The trek to the Amarnath caves during the months of June – August every year is one of the most holy pilgrimages for Hindus. However, it is an ardous trek, passing through mountains, through ice and involving physical hardship. However, a large number of tourists (in the hundreds of thousands) visit the caves during the auspicious period.
The Cave entrance is a very visible hole on the side of the mountain. Inside, it has the Shivalinga formed naturally of an ice stalagmite. Unbelievably, it waxes and wanes along with the phases of the moon. By its side are two more ice lingams, of Parvati and Ganesha. On the full moon day the linga is about 6 ft high.
As per mythology, Lord Shiva is one of the holy trinity, a living god. Lord Shiva was explaining the secret of creation to his consort, Parvati. Unknown to them, a pair of doves eavesdropped on this conversation and having learnt the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode. Many pilgrims report seeing the pigeons-pair when they trek the arduous route to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam.
According to an ancient tale, there was once Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik who was given a sack of coal by a Sadhu. Upon reaching home he discovered that the sack, in fact, contained gold. Overjoyed and overcome. Buta Malik rushed back to look for the sadhu and thank him, but on the spot of their meeting discovered a cave, and eventually this became a place of pilgrimage for all believers. To date, a percentage of the donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendants of Malik, and the remaining to the trust which manages the shrine. The cave was re-discovered in 1850, although details of the pilgrimage has been documented in historical tales for many years, with the belief being that the knowledge of the cave has been known for 5,000 years now.

Amarnath on

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Amarnath on

There is no place to stay at the Amarnath caves, and hence return from the caves is a must.
Tips for a safe trip:
* Be in good physical condition as the yatra is very long and rigorous. You will need to be fit to endure the journey.
* You should carry needful warm clothings and wind shield with proper shoes. The weather can be very dangerous during the trip. 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.
* Carry water with you along with dry fruits and baked grams during journey.
* Do pack your common medicines such as Glucose, Disprin etc. for an instant relief in case of any emergency.
* Keep vaseline or cold cream with you to have protection against cold winds.
* The item one must carry in abundance is sunscreen cream. The merciless sun can burn the exposed parts in minutes.
* Drugs are prohibited during your journey.
* Do not take short cuts and stop at such places which have warning notices as it may be dangerous for your life even. The terrain can be fairly dangerous, so be careful.

How to reach:

Air: The capital of Jammu & Kashmir, Srinagar has the nearest airport. Srinagar is located 45 km from Amarnath. Srinagar is well connected by flight to other cities of India.

Rail: The summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, Jammu city is the nearest railway station. There is considerable distance between Jammu and Amarnath caves (300 km) and the road jounrney takes many hours.

Road: Amarnath is accessible from Pahalgam or Baltal, and both these locations are well connected by road from Srinagar.

Helicopter: The Amarnath caves are now well connected by helicopter from Baltal and Srinagar. (Refer this site for a package)

One of the routes:
From Pahalgaam, the taxi drops you at Chandanwari, and then the trek to Lord Amarnath Caves starts from Chandanwari. On a normal trek, the first day’s stoppage is at Sheshnag, second day stop is Panchtarni, and on the third day you go from Panchtarni to the holy cave and come back and stay in the night at Panchtarni. The return is just like the forward trek, first return to Sheshnag and then Chandanwari.

External sites / blogs:
1. Trekking to Amarnath Yatra (link)

Scenic beauty nearby was wonderful. Devdar trees, waterfalls, snow color river, flowers of different kinds, environment of Amarnath Yatra and zeal of Kashmir started taking on us. Here on we started admiring beauty of Kashmir and why all call it as heaven on the earth.

2. Spiritual travel post on Amarnath yatra (link)

No matter how fit you are, this is one demanding hike. The religious faith and zeal are what keep most of the people going. There are huge community kitchens set up at regular distances to feed the people. Some tents are also provided to offer shelter from the elements as you break for the night. The climb is difficult but it is not uncommon to see entire families making the journey together. You will have grand parents, parents and children all climbing up the slippery and treacherous slopes together. Falling, recovering, and supporting each another with physical help and encouraging words.

3. Some beautiful photos (link)

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