Shri Amarnath Ji
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Shri Amarnath Ji
Amarnath - One of the holy trinity, Lord Shiv is a living god. "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 Hindu God"
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 as a matter of chance a pair of pigeons overhead the story and became immortal.
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.
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 degree C.
The nearest aerodrome is Srinagar. Srinagar is a beautiful valley having world famous sights to see, such as Dal Lake, Nagina Lake, Shankaracharya Temple, Mughal Gardens and others exciting sites to visit. It is the most sought after tourist place. It is also known as "Paradise on earth". Srinagar is summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. There are daily flights to Srinagar from Delhi and Jammu. On some week days flights also pickup passengers from Chandigarh and Amritsar.
Trek to Amarnathji Cave
The trek from Pahalgam to Amarnathji cave is on an ancient peregrine route. The 45 - kilometers distance is covered in four days, with night halts at Chandanwari, Sheshnag (Wawjan) and Panchtarni. The distance from Pahalgam to Chandanwari (16 kilometers) is now covered by motor transport. The pilgrims camp here or at Pahalgam on the first night out.
The first day's trek of 13 kilometers from Chandanwari is through spectacular, primeval countryside. The main centre of attraction on this trek is Sheshnag, a mountain lake which derives its name from its seven peaks, resembling the heads of a mythical snake. The journey to Sheshnag follows steep inclines up the right bank of a cascading stream and wild scenery untouched by civilisation. The second night's camp at Wawjan overlooks the deep blue water of Sheshnag Lake, and glaciers beyond it. The lake is also associated with legends of love and revenge, and at the camp these are recounted by campfires, to the stillness of a pine-scented, Himalayan night.
The second day's 12 kilometers trek steadily gains height, winding up across Mahagunas Pass at 4,600 m and then descending to the meadow - lands of Panchtarni, the last camp enroute to the holy cave.
From Panchtarni to Amarnathji is only 6 km, but an early morning's start is recommended for there is a long queue awaiting entrance to the cave. The same day, following darshan, devotees can return to Panchtarni in time for lunch, and continue to Wawjan to spend the fourth night out; or continue further to Zojibal, returning to Pahalgam on the 4th day.
The Holy Cave
Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath Shrine stands at 3,888 meters, 46 kilometers from Pahalgam and 14 kilometers 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 Amarnathji and back in five days. Pahalgam is 96 kilometers from Srinagar.
Amarnathji 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.
The Eternal Shiva
The ancient epics narrate another story. The valley of Kashmir was under water. It was all a big lake. Kashyap Rishi drained the water through a number of rivers and rivulets. In those days Bhrigu Rishi came that way on a visit to The Himalayas. He was the first to have Darshan of this Holy Cave. When people heard of the Lingam, Amarnath for them became Shiva's abode and a Centre of pilgrimage.
Since then Lacs of devotees perform the pilgrimage through tough terrain and achieve eternal happiness. The Trek to Amarnath, in the month of sharavan (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 Stalagmite, which is believed to wax and wane with the Moon's cycle. By its side are fascinating, two more Ice Lingams, that of Maa Parvati and of their son, Ganesha.
Useful Information and Tips
Get a registration done about a month ahead of the date fixed for the commencement of Yatra.
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.
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions".
"The purpose of our lives is to be happy" - Dalai Lama