Amarnath cave is one of the holiest places for the followers of Hinduism and especially the devotees of Lord Shiva. The cave shrine is located in Jammu and Kashmir at an altitude of 12,756 ft. The cave can be reached through the town Pahalgam which is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave is immersed in snow most of the year except for a very short period during summer.
PC: Nitin Badhwar
Many people come for the annual pilgrimage. It is indeed a challenge to trek through the mountainous terrain and get a darshan of the Shiva lingam made of ice which is formed inside the cave. The ice lingam is formed due to the freezing of water which drops from the roof on to the floor and grows up vertically from the floor.
According to a legend, Lord Shiva is said to have explained the secret of life and eternity to his consort Parvathi in this cave. According to religious beliefs, the lingam grows and shrinks as per the phases of the moon and reaches its height during summer.
The Discovery Of The Cave
A common belief here is that after the Middle Ages, the cave was forgotten by the people, before it was discovered by a shepherd sometime during the 15th century again. Another tale which is heard is that the valley of Kashmir was submerged under water and was drained out through a series of rivers and rivulets by Kashyapa Muni.
Bhrigu Muni who was visiting the Himalayas happened to pass by this place and the sage was the first to get the Darshan of Lord Amarnath, and very soon by the spread of word people began to come here in large numbers and it became the abode of Amarnath.
Reaching The Cave
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Most people trek up to the cave either from Srinagar or Pahalgam. The trek from the latter takes approximately about five days to complete. The trek via Pahalgam is one amongst the traditional routes to reach the cave, which takes you through places such as Chandanwari, Pissu Top, Shesh Nag and Panchtarni.
The second route is via Baltal which is shorter, but you will have to undertake a steep trek of 14 km. This route is less taken. There are also helicopter services which transport pilgrims to Panchtarni, after which they have to proceed by foot to the shrine. One can also hire ponies and palkies on this route.
How To Reach
PC: Niharika Krishna
By Train: Jammu is the nearest major railway station. The railway station is well connected to all the major towns and cities across the state and also to various other parts of the country.
By Road: The place offers good connectivity by roads from Jammu and Srinagar. One can hire local taxis on round trip basis or on daily tour basis from both the places to Amarnath.
PC: Nitin Badhwar
1. One needs to register in advance with the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board, that provides insurance facilities for the pilgrims. The registration is open on the official website of the board.
2. One must obtain a compulsory health certificate from the concerned medical authorities declaring you are healthy and fit to undertake the pilgrimage.
3. The Amarnath Yatra is scheduled to begin on June 29th, 2017 and will come to an end on August 7th, 2017.