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Amarnathji Yatra - a journey
"The Himalayan pilgrimages
are the oldest organised travel system, evolved over time by Hindu sages
and embodying the spirit of wander, adventure and spirituality"
One of the holy trinity,
Shiva is a living god. The most ancient and sacred 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.
Shiva is known to have
made his home in the Himalayas. He built no house nor shelter, not for
himself or his bride. He was an ascetic, and yet married; he could be both
for "he was the wild god sporting in the forest or taking his ease on a
Legend has it that Shiva
recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in the Amarnathji cave. Unknown
to them, a pair of mating pigeons 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 pigeons-pair
when they trek the arduous route to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam
(the phallic symbol of Shiva).
The trek to Amarnathji,
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 - stalagmite, 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 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 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
Yet another legend has
it that when Kashap Reshi drained the Kashmir valley of water (it was believed
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,
Amarnathji for them became Shiva's abode and a centre of pilgrimage.
Whatever the legends
and the history of Amarnathji's discovery, it is today a very important
centre of pilgrimage and though the route is as difficult to negotiate
as it is exciting, every year, thousands of devotees come to pay homage
before Shiva in one of his famous Himalayan abodes.
Situated in a narrow gorge
at the farther end of Lidder valley, Amarnathji stands at 3,888 m and is
45 km from Pahalgam and 141 km from Srinagar. Though the original pilgrimage
subscribes that the yatra be undertaken from Srinagar, the more common
practice is to begin the journey from Pahalgam, and cover the distance
to Amarnathji and back in four or five days. Pahalgam is 96 km from Srinagar.
Since the base point for
the pilgrim's trek is picturesque Pahalgam, a large tented township springs
up to accommodate the pilgrims. The conduct of the yatra is a gigantic
task in which the State Government takes the assistance of the security
departments for providing security and helping to keep the route open.
All intermediate halting places have the same kind of facilities as are
provided at Pahalgam, and a Yatra Officer is appointed to conduct the pilgrimage.Start
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