Amarnath Yatra is one of the most difficult and yet it is one of the most famous temples in India. Amarnath cave is at an altitude of 3888 meters (12760 feet) in the Himalayan mountain range known as the Chandanwari Hills. This sacred place receives more than 4 lakh pilgrims in a 45-day visiting period during the month of Shravan and the Shravani Mela.
Shiv lingam is formed when the water drips from the roof gets accumulated and start to freeze on the floor. According to Hindu religious belief, the size of Shiva lingam at Amarnath Cave increases and decreases with the different phases of the moon. Along with Shiva lingam, two more ice formations exist in the cave that are believed to be of Maa Parvati and their son Ganesha.The Amarnath Cave has a special significance in the Hindu religion. As per legend, Lord Shiva had chosen this cave to describe the secrets of immortality and formation of the universe to Maa Parvati.
The temple is reported to be about 5,000 years old and was mentioned in ancient Hindu texts. The exact manner of discovery of the cave is not known. The Amarnath Yatra, according to Hindu belief, begins on Ashadha Purnima (day of the Full Moon in the Hindu Month of Ashadha) and ends on Shravana Purnima (day of the full moon in the Hindu month of Shravana).
Devotees visit Amarnath Cave close to the festival of Shravani Mela that is held between July-August.
How to reach Amarnath Temple
From Pahalgam – A traditional route
To reach Amarnath Cave, one has to reach Pahalgam either from Jammu (315 Km) or from Srinagar (96km). Take a bus or taxi from Jammu to reach Pahalgam or reach Srinagar by air and from there take a car, bus or taxi. From Pahalgam, devotees have to reach Chandanwari (16 km)and this distance can also be covered by using road transport. Pilgrims can either camp at Pahalgam or Chandanwari.
From Chandanwari, pilgrims climb the height to reach Pissu Top that is believed to be formed by the dead bodies of Rakshas who were killed by Lord Shiva.
To reach at Sheshnag, pilgrims follow a steep incline. The entire route has untouched wild scenery with cascading stream on one side. The place got its name from the Seven Peaks. The shape of the peaks resemble that of the head of the mythical snake.
From Sheshnag one has to cover the steep height of 4.6 km to reach Panchtarni. This is the last camp to the Holy Amarnath Cave. Cold winds might lead to cracks on skin. Also at such an altitude one feels short of oxygen.
From Panchtarni, the Amarnath Cave is located at a distance of just 6 km. As there is no place to stay, so pilgrims have to start their journey early in the morning so that you can come back to the base camp on time. The entire route is very beautiful.
From Baltal – A new route
There is another route to Amarnath cave from Baltal that is located at 14 km from the Amarnath caves. The distance of Baltal from Jammu is 400 km that can be covered by taxi or bus. From there, pilgrims can either take ponies or travel by foot to cover the route from Baltal to Amarnath. Though this route is much narrower and steeper than from Pahalgam, it can be completed in one day with Baltal as base camp. If you want to complete the journey in one day then you can hire a helicopter from Pahalgam to Panchtarni.
All in all, Amarnath Yatra is an experience in itself and one must visit this holy place at least once during his or her lifetime.