Amarnath cave is a Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The shrine forms an important part of Hinduism, and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims.
The Holy Cave:
The Holy Cave is situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath Shrine stands at 3,888 m, 46 Km from Pahalgam and 14 Kms from Baltal. Though the original pilgrimages subscribes that the yatra (journey) be undertaken from Srinagar, the more common practice is to begin journey at Chandanwari, and cover the distance to Amarnath and back in five days. Pahalgam is 96 Kms from Srinagar.
Amarnath is considered to be one of the major Hindu Dhams. The holy cave is the abode of Lord Shiva. The guardian of the absolute, Lord Shiva, the destroyer, is enshrined in the form of an ice-lingam in this cave. This lingam is formed naturally, which is believed to wax and wane with the moon.
Discovery of Holy Cave:
Although the existence of the Holy Cave has been mentioned in the Puranas, the popular story narrated by people about the re-discovery of this Holy Cave is of a shepherd Buta Malik. Story goes like this: 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 overwhelmed him with joy. He ran to thank the Saint. But the Saint had disappeared. Instead, he found The Holy Cave and the Ice Shiv Lingam there in. He announced this discovery to the Villagers. Then onwards this became a sacred place of Pilgrimage.
Legend Behind The Holy Shrine:
Behind the discovery of the Holy Shrine lies an interesting story. Centuries ago Maa Parvati asked Shivji to let her know why and when he started wearing the beads of heads (Mund Mala), to which Bhole Shankar replied, “whenever you are born I add more heads to my bead”. Parvati said, “I die again and again, but you are Immortal. Please tell me the reason behind this”. "Bhole Shankar replied that for this you will have to listen to the Amar Katha"
Shiv agreed to narrate the detailed story to Maa Parvati. He started for a lonely place where no living being could listen to the immortal secret and ultimately chose Amarnath Cave. In the hush-hush, he left his Nandi (the Bull which He used to ride) at Pahalgam. At Chandanwari, he released Moon (Chand) from his hair (Jataon). At the banks of Lake Sheshnag, he released the snakes. He decided to leave his Son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat. At Panjtarni, Shivji left the Five Elements behind (Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky) which give birth to life and of which he is the Lord. After leaving behind all these, Bhole Shankar entered the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati Maa and took his Samadhi.
To ensure that no living being is able to hear the Immortal Tale, he created 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 she sleeps in between as the story was very long and she was tired of the journey. Meanwhile, two white pigeons were listening to the story and were making cooing sound which made Shiva feel that Mata Parvati is still listening to the story and he continued telling it. In this way, both the Pigeons heard the story of being immortal.
After ending the story, when Lord Shiva saw that Parvati was sleeping, He wondered who was making the cooing sounds when he was narrating the story. He then discovered the two pigeons and became angry and tried to kill them but the pigeons said that if you will kill us then the legend of this story shall exist no more. Then Lord Shiva left them alive and blessed that they will reside at this place as a symbol of Lord Shiv and Goddess Parvati.
Many pilgrims report seeing the pair of pigeons at the Holy Shrine even today and are amazed as to how these birds survive in such a cold and high altitude area.
Prepare for the Yatra by achieving a high level of Physical Fitness. You are advised to start at atleast a month prior to the Yatra at least a 4-5km Morning/Evening walk. For Improving the oxygen efficiency of your body, you should start doing deep breathing exercises and Yoga, particularly Pranayam.
Your journey shall involve trekking across high mountains, facing strong cold winds. You must carry (i) adequate woolen clothing; (ii) a small umbrella (preferably one which is tied with an elastic band around your head and supported by a strap around the chin); (iii) windcheater; (iv) raincoat; (v) waterproof trekking shoes; (vi) torch; (vii) walking stick; (viii) cap (preferably a monkey cap); (ix) gloves; (x) jacket; (xi) woolen socks; (xii) trousers (preferably a waterproof pair). These items are essential as the climate is highly unpredictable and changes abruptly from sunny weather to rain and snow. The temperature can sometimes abruptly fall to 5 degrees Celcius or lower.
For Ladies: saree is not a suitable dress for the Yatra. Salwar Kameez, pant-shirt or a track suit will be better. Ladies who are more than 6 week pregnant shall not be allowed to undertake the pilgrimage.
Keeping in view the tough nature of the trek, children below 13 year in age and elderly persons above the age of 75 years shall not be permitted to undertake the pilgrimage.
It would be better if the porter / horses / ponies carrying your luggage travel just in front or behind you, as you may suddenly need something from your baggage.
During the Yatra from Pahalgam/Baltal onwards, you should keep spare clothes/ eatables in a suitable water proof bag to ensure against their getting wet.
Carry a water bottle, dry fruits, roasted grams/channa, toffees/gur (jiggery), chocolates, etc for use during the journey.
Carry some cold cream/Vaseline/sunscreen to protect your hands /face against sunburn etc.
You should not trek alone. Always travel in a group and ensure that all those comprising the group, walking in front of you or in the rear, always remain in your sight, to ensure against your being separated from them.
To enable prompt action being taken in case of any emergency, you should keep in your pocket a note containing the name/addresses/mobile telephone number of a member of your group with whom you are travelling. You must also carry your Yatra Permit and any other identity card.
On your return journey, you must leave the Base Camp along with all members of your group. In case any member of your group is missing you must seek immediate assistance of the Police and also have an announcement made on the Public Address System at the Yatra Camp.
You should provide all possible help to your fellow Yatris, travelling with you, and perform the pilgrimage with a pious mind.
You must strictly follow the instructions issued by the Yatra administration, from time to time.
Earth, water, air, fire and sky are integral parts of Lord Shiva. The Base camp and the entire Yatra routes are the abode of Shri Amarnathji. Throughout your pilgrimage you must respect the environment and do nothing to pollute it.
All waste materials must be placed in the nearest dustbin. All organic wastes must be put in the dustbin which is green coloured.
Lavatories/ urinals, installed in the camps and other places enroute the Holy Cave, should be used.
Don’t stop at places which are marked by warning notices.
Don’t use slippers because there are steep rises and falls on the route to the Holy Cave. Only wear trekking shoes with laces.
Don’t attempt any short cuts on the route as doing so would be dangerous.
Do not do anything during your entire forward/return journey which could cause pollution or disturb the environment of the Yatra area. Use of plastics is strictly banned in the State and is punishable under law.
City : Baltal Amarnath Trek
Dist. : Anantnag
State : Jammu and Kashmir
Country : India
PIN : 192230
How To Reach:
Srinagar, the nearest aerodrome, has world famous sights to see, such as Dal Lake, Nagin Lake, Shankaracharya Temple and Mughal gardens like Shalimar, Nishat and Cheshma-shahi. Known as "Paradise on earth" and being the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir, the city is well connected by air and road. There are daily flights to Srinagar from Delhi and Jammu. On certain weekdays flights also pick up passengers from Chandigarh and Leh.
Jammu is the nearest Railway Station. Jammu is the winter Capital of Jammu & Kashmir. Also known as "CITY OF TEMPLES", one may visit old temples such as Raghunath Temple, Mahadev Mandir and other temples. Railway station is very well connected and there are lots of express trains to various towns in India.
Jammu and Srinagar are also connected through road. Buses and Taxies are available for this part of the journey. These can be hired on daily as well as on full tour basis.
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