One of the holy trinity, Shiva is a living
God. The most sacred and most ancient book
of India, the Rig-Veda evokes his presence
in its hymns. Vedic myths, ritual and even
astronomy testify to his existence from
the dawn of time. But Shiva, the destroyer,
the mendicant, is un-definable. He is the
great yogi, the guardian of the absolute.
His actions are the temes of the myths in
which his nature unfolds.
Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati
of creation in a cave in Amarnath. Unkown
to them, a pair of mating doves eavesdropped
on this conversation and having learned
the secret, are reborn again and again,
and have made the cave their eternal abode.
Many pilgrims report seeing the devespair
when they tred the ardous route to pay obeisance
before the ice-lingum (the Phallic symbol
The trek to Amarnath, in the month of Shravan
(July-August) has the devout flock to this
incredible shrine, where the image of Shiva,
in the form of a lingam, is formed naturally
of an ice-stalamite, and which waxes and
wanes with the Moon. By its side are, fascinatingly,
two more ice-lingams, that of Parvati, and
of their son, Ganesha.
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.
Yet another legend has it that when Kashyap
Reshi drained the Kashmir Valley of water
(it was belied to have been a vast lake),
the cave and the lingam were discovered
by Bregish Reshi who was travelling the
Himalayas. When people heard of the lingam,
Amarnath for them became Shiva's abode and
a centre of pilgrimage.
Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther
end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath stands at
3,888 m. and is 46 Km. From Pahalgam and
141 Km. from Srinagar. Though the original
pilgrimages subscribes that the yatra 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 Km. Srinagar.
The trek from Chandanwari to Amarnath Cave
is only on an ancient peregnne route. The
30 Km. distance is covered in two days,
with night halts at Sheshnagh (Wawjan) and
Panchtarni. The distance from Pahalgam to
Chandanwari (16 Km.) now be covered by vehicular
transport, and the tail runs along the Lidder
river. Pilgrims camp at Pahalgam or Chandanwari
on the first night out.
The first day's trek of 12 Km. from Chandanwari
is through spectacular, a mountain which
derives its name from its seven peaks, resembling
the heads of a mythical snake. The journey
to Shesnag follows steep inlines up the
right bank of a cascading stream and wild
scenary untouched by civilisation. The second
night's camp at Wawjan overlooks the deep
blue waters of Sheshnag lake, and glaciers
beyond it. There are legends of love and
revenge too associated with Sheshnag and
at the camp these are recounted by campfires,
to the stillness of pine-scented, Himalayan
The second day's 12 Km. trek steadly gains
height, wining up across Mahagunas Pass
at 4,600m and then descending to the meadow-lands
of Panchtarni, the last camp enroute to
the Holy Cave.
From Panchtari to Amarnath is only 6 Km.
but an early morning's start is recommended
for there is a long queue awaiting entry
to the cave. The same day, following darshan,
devotees entry to the cave. The same day,
following darshan, devotees and return to
Panchtarni in time for lunch, and continue
to Sheshnag to spend the third night out.
They can also spend the night at Panchtarni
itself returning to Chandanwari/Pahalgam
like the onward journey. Entrance to the
cave is regulated and darshan a hasty affair
for there are many others waiting outside
to pay humage before the awesome Shivalinga.
The devotees sing bhajans, chant incatations,
and priests perform arti and puja, invoking
the blessings of Shiva, the divine, the
pure, the absolute. For those who journey
with faith, it is a rewarding experience,
this simple visitation to a cave-shrine,
the home of the Himalayan mendicant who
is both destroyer and healer, the greatest
of the Hindus gods.
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 . Sunny weather
may turn into rain / snow fall in a short
time . The temperature may fall upto -5
- Air: The nearest Airport
is away in Badgam Distt. This Airport
is connected with major cities of India.
- Rail: The nearest Rail
Head is at Jammu which is 300 Kms away
and from there National Highway NH1A connects
the Kashmir valley with country.
- Road: Every sort of
transport to suit every budget from Buses
to Taxis ply on the NH1A Highway. It takes
around 10 to 12 hours to cross this mountaineous
road which crosses some beautiful spots
and the famous Jawahar Tunnel linking
Kashmir Valley with country.