One of the holy
Trinity, Shiva is a living God. the most sacred and the most
ancient book of India, the Rigveda evokes his presence in its
hymns. Vedic myths, rituals and
astronomy testify to his existence from the dawn of time. But
Shiva, Destroyer, the mendicant, is undefinable : He is a
great yogi. Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the
secret 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 doves pair when they trek the ardous route to pay
obeisance before the ice-lingam. According to an ancient tale,
there was once a 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 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 descendents of Malik, and the
remaining to trust which manages the shrine.
Ye another legend has it that when Kashyap Rishi drined the
Kashmir valley of water the cave and lingam were discovered by
Bregeish Rishi who was travelling the Himalays. When people
heard of lingam Amarnath for the became Shiva's abode and a
centre of pilgrimage.
Sights to Visit
Chandanwari is 16 km from Pahalgam and is the starting
point of the Amarnath yatra. The road from Pahalgam to
Chandanwari is along the Lidder lake. Chandanwari, a small
picturesque valley about 6,500 feet above sea level. The climb
to Pissu Top is steep. Here is where you meet the rest of the
pilgrims, all moving toward one destination. The mountain
appears quite out of the blue and it is an incredible sight.
One is usually on the pony during this initial climb.
Thereafter, the trek is on fairly level ground and only very
slightly steep. What is actually dangerous about the trek is
the movement of people both ways (the track is barely enough
to accommodate people in single file). It is advisable for the
trekkers to walk on the inner track, towards the
mountain-face. It becomes a lot trickier when it begins to
rain, and the ground takes little time to turn into slush.
Good shoes are a prerequisite here. Army jawans are everywhere
and will give you a hand or even take you all the way should
you need help. There is an infectious kind of kinship that
forms between all the yatris and everyone tries to help. It is
a delight to drink from the ice cold springs and waterfalls
along the way.
Sheshnag is 13 km from Chandanwari and about 11,330
feet above sea level. This is a trek through primeval
countryside and once you
reach a given height, the sight of the Sheshnag Lake from the
top is spectacular. The water from the lake flows into a steep
ravine where it gushes down in torrents to form a river
snaking through the valley in the distance. Sheshnag is also
the name of the mountain where the cave lies. It derives its
name from its seven peaks that resemble the head of the
mythical snake, Sheshnag.
The campsite overlooks the deep blue waters of the lake and
the glaciers beyond it. In the evening, the mist comes in, so
thick, that visibility is reduced to five feet. At Sheshnag,
you have tents, bedding and food for the yatris provided at
affordable rates. Several free langars (kitchens) are set up
to provide hot fresh food for the yatris by voluntary groups
to perform seva or service to the pilgrims. You will find
langars all along the route as well as in Pahalgam and
Chandanwari. Tents may be hired for costs ranging from Rs 200
upwards, depending on the number of people in a tent. Tents
can accommodate up to 15 people and the bedding is more than
sufficient. The army sets up camps along each campsite to
facilitate the yatri. Free medical camps that provide aid are
also found at several places along the way.
The next day, you trek 12 km. The trek steadily gains height
winding up across the Mahagunas Pass at 4,600 metres. The
track then descends to the meadow-lands of Panchtarni, the
last camp en route to the holy cave. Here too, like in
Sheshnag, there are facilities for tents, bedding and langars.
The army has special helicopters only for the yatra. STD
booths are also available at every camp site, though these
generally do not function. The distance from Panchtarni to
Amarnath is 6 km, but start early in the morning, to get ahead
in the queue to the cave.
How to Reach ?
Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder
valley, Amarnath stands at 3888 mtrs and 46 Kms from Pahalgam
and 141 Kms from Srinagar. Though the original
subscribe that Yatra be undertaken from Srinagar , the more
common practice is to begin journey from Chandanwari and cover
the distance to Amarnath and back in 5 days. Pahalgam is 96
Kms from Srinagar. the trek from Chandanwari to Cave is on an
ancient peregerine route. pilgrims camp at Pahalgam or
Chandanwari on the first night out.
The first day's trek of 12 Kms from Chandanwari is through
spectacular primeval country side and the main centre of
attraction is Sheshnag a mountain which derves its name from
seven peaks resembling the head of mythical snake. A cascading
stream accompanies you with wild scenery untouched by modern civilzation. The second night camp at Wavjan overlooks the
deep blue waters of Sheshnag lake and glaciers beyond it. The
tales of love and revenge associated
with Sheshnag are recounted by campfires to the stillnes of
pine scented Himalyan night.
The second day 12 km trek steadily gains height winding across
Mahagunas Pass at 4600 mtrs and then descendeing to the meadow
land of Panchtarni the last camp enroute to Amarnath Cave.
From Panchtarni to Amarnath the distance is 6kms and an early
morning start is recommended for there is long queue awaitning
entry at the cave. The same day devotees after darshans can
return to Panchtarni in time for lunch and continue upto
Sheshnag for night halt.
The second approach to Amarnath is from Sonamarg via Baltal
alt. 3000 mtrs. . Sonamarg is situated on Srinagar-Leh road
north east from Srinagar. About 15 kms ahead lies Baltal which
is charming little valley lying in the foothills of Zojila
Pass. The holy cave is just a days journey from here. At
domail 2 kms from Baltal free langar(community Kitchen)
facility is available. The trek from here is very steep and
therefore needs great caution and care. Some teastalls are
available at Brarimarg and Sangam top. Several snow bridges on
the fast flwing streams are to be crossed
and during rains the road becomes slippery. At sangam top the
road meets Pahalgam route. At Baltal Ponies/Dandies/Pack
ponies /porters are available on Govt. approved rates.
The nearest Airport is away in Badgam Distt. This Airport is
connected with major cities of India. The nearest Rail Head is
at Jammu which is 300 Kms away and from there National Highway
NH1A connects the Kashmir valley with country.Every sort of
transport to suit every budget from Buses to Taxis ply on this
Highway. It Takes around 10 to 12 hours to cross this
mountaineous road which crosses some beautiful spots andthe
famous Jawahar Tunnel linking Kashmir Valley with country.
Do's and Don'ts for Pilgrims (Yatries)
1. Please ensure that you are physically and mentally fit to
perform the journey as the Yatra involves trekking at an
altitude of 14000ft. Get yourself medically examined and
certified fit for the journey and forward the certificate to
the registerin authority designated for your area of
2. Do carry sufficient heavy wollens including sweaters,
wollen thermal body warmers, trousers, monkey caps, muffelers
and any other cold fighting apparels. Other items needed to be
carried are wind cheaters,raincoats, sleeping bags,
blankets,water proof shoes with sufficient grips,small water
proof tents, torch with sufficient batteries and walking
sticks. Ladies are advised to avoid sarees. Instead body
hussging clothing like salwar Kamiz, pants etc are advised.
3. Carry dry eatable stocks with you viz. biscuits,
sugar,candies, chocolates, milk powder, assorted dry
fruits,pickles, honey,lemons and tinned foods and other items
suiting your palates. Water bottle, spoons,tumblers,saucers
and plates may also be carried.
4. Ration and firewood quota is also made available enroute
and can be purchased.
5. Registered ponywalla,porter,dandyman may only be hired.
They are available for prefixed tarrifs.
6. Ponies carrying luggage and eatables should remain with you
all the time. At no point of time should you get out of touch
with them. This is to avoid inconvinience.
7. Move slowly and steadily as this is a ardous pilgrimage and
maintain discipline. Instructions of Yatra officer should be
adhered to.Various officials are deployed by the Govt. for
8. Carry sufficient money to pay for your accomodation at
Pahalgam and meeting your other requirements.
9. All medical facilities during yatra are free. It is
advisable to carry your own personal medical kit and First aid
10. Alcohol is strictly prohibited.
11. Don't overstarin on steep gradients.
12. Don't realx at places where warning signes are fixed.
13. Don't break traffic discipline.
14. Do not pay more to any of the hired services for which the
prices are fixed.
15. Yatries without registration card, Aged,infirm, ailing and
ill clad persons will not be allowed to proceed beyond
Pahalgam and Baltal.