The sacred site of Amarnath is regarded as one of India's holiest places. This Hindu shrine in Jammu and Kashmir is quite the draw for believers. It is located at an elevation of 3888 meters. Not everyone has the opportunity to witness and encounter the frozen stalagmite that is revered as Shiva, the Hindu God. As the yatra, or occasion to travel to the temple, has begun, the temple is once again in the news. So, here is a comprehensive guide on being ready and equipped for the once in a lifetime adventure.
About The Place
The ice stalagmite in Amarnath Shrine or Caves is famous and revered. It's a Shiva Lingam, according to the locals. For the purposes of worship, the lingam serves as a symbol of the Lord. It has a deeper significance since it refers to a Lord who has transcended all categories, particularly gender. A trek is required to reach the temple because of the location's high elevation. The walk is made more hazardous by the large number of people as well as the throng.
The place is also quite distant from nearest towns; hence, people usually have good meals before setting for a trek. It is 144 Kms away from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. Anywhere from 2 to 6 Lakh devotees show up annually to get blessings from the Lingam.
Several legends are connected to the place’s discovery and significance as well. Such a legend is the first time discovery of the temple by Sage Bhrigu. It is believed; a long time ago the valley of Kashmir was submerged underwater. Sage Kashyapa drained it through a series of rivers. Therefore, after the draining of the water, Sage Bhrigu was the first person to have darshan of Lord Shiva at Amarnath. It is also believed to be one of the places of the Shaktipeethas, especially the throat.
Some places leading up to the cave also have legends attached to them. For example, Pahalgam is where Shiva left Nandi, his vahana. At Chandanwari, he left the moon from his hair. There are more such places along due ultimately sacrificing everything, Shiva and Parvati enter the Amarnath Caves together and later the Lingam is formed as the ultimate symbol for the generation and regeneration of microcosmos and macrocosmos.
Best Routes to Journey Amarnath
There are mainly two routes which can help you reach your location. One is through Pahalgam and the second one is from Sonmarg-Baltal. You can choose which route you are willing to traverse on.
? Pahalgam to Amarnath Caves
Although a longer route, it is much preferred by the devotees. The reason is quite simple, it is a much easier trek compared to the other route. The distance equates to 46 Kms which is a lot, but to help you complete the 3-5 days long trek, locals have pony service and the government’s helicopter service is available as well. Any option can be chosen for the people who are facing difficulties during the trip. Most advised for older people.
Jammu-Pahalgam-Chandanwari-Pissu Top-Sheshnag-Panchtarini-Amarnath Caves
? Baltal to Amarnath Caves
A measly 14 Kms distance, this route seems the most inviting due to its short distance. But, don’t be fooled. The trek is steeper than the other one also very poor in its pathway. Therefore, it’s not for the faint of heart. The trek is quite challenging and adventurous and also demands a lot of physical strength out of the trekker. You can though, get your trek completed in a day or two. Helicopter is the only option available here.
Whichever route you decide to traverse on, you have to realize even in these extreme conditions all the facilities for safe travel and journey are available. From camps every some distance for food and water to police and such security services.
Dates & Registration for the Yatra
The previously 56-day annual pilgrimage now reduced to a low 38-day pilgrimage due Corona virus Pandemic is expected to commence by 27th June and end by 11th August 2022. The Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board organizes everything regarding the yatra.
The registration is done online as well as a month prior to the set date of the yatra. People usually start researching on time to fill out the form and details for attending the yatra on time and not missing it. A registration card or permit is to be carried by the visitor or they will be permitted from the journey.
Weather in Amarnath
Even though you might think it is only a straight-forward cold situation, it is not. The weather fluctuates quite frequently and can show signs of rain, snow, or even heat. Ranging from 9 to 34 degree Celsius, an advice will be to pack up adequate woollen, wear, extra clothes, raincoats, etc.
Things to Do & Explore on the Yatra
1. River Rafting
At such an elevation, or the way to, you are bound to experience the most adventurous rafting in your lifetime. It is quite difficult to find good rafting spots, but nothing beats this. The rafting is available for a distance of 2.5 Km, 5 Km also for the extreme souls an 8 Km long rafting session. Pahalgam offers these rafting activities which are open to the public during the excursion time.
A golf course located 7250 ft above sea level, is to look forward to. The Lidder Valley in Pahalgam has the 18-hole golf course which is to experience for you. The sceneries are incredible with lush green grass of the golf course.
Places to Visit during Amarnath Yatra
The base camp for the Amarnath Yatra, it offers a lot. You can indulge in adventure sports like rafting or camping, go for a good potting experience golfing. Himalayan mountains and dense pine trees encapsulate the place to bring out the majestic views to life. Some notable places here are Betab Valley, Sheshnag Lake, Baisaran Hills, and enjoy a calm day at Lidder Amusement Park.
The summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir deserves some recognition as an important place to visit. Srinagar is most famous for its places to explore and nuts, foods. Places such as Shalimar Bagh, Nigeen Lake, Pari Mahal, Shalimar Garden, Lal Chowk, and more. Shikara or houseboat rides are also quite famous on the Dal Lake.
Extreme sports are offered at this place. Quite far from Pahalgam, unique and almost unreal vistas can be seen spreading far from where your eyes can glide. Some sports offered are hot air ballooning, paragliding, trekking, and skiing.
Things to Carry
• Sturdy shoes
• Sticks for trekking
• Waterproof coat, shoes, and umbrella
• Warm clothing including woollen hats and gloves
• Sunscreen and moisturizer
• Power-bank and torch with extra batteries
• First-aid kit with general medications
• Anti-Mosquito Creams and Sprays
• Ready-to-eat snacks
More Tips to Help You
• Have a physical examination before the walk to make sure you are in good health.
• Get registered one month before the Yatra's scheduled start date.
• At least a month before the walk, start a fitness regimen.
• Stay in a group and avoid hiking alone.
• Move softly and steadily while maintaining discipline.
• Avoid taking any shortcuts because they might take you somewhere unexpected.
• Remember to bring along the necessary Covid supplies, such as masks, plastic gloves, shields, sanitizer, and other disinfectants.
• When preparing for the trek, study the Amarnath Yatra Handbook in its entirety.
The yatra demands the utmost respect as one of the best pilgrimages you can commence in India, therefore, have a peace of mind with this once in a lifetime yatra with family and friends to experience nothing but spiritual and magnificent bliss.