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 undefinable: he is the great yogi, the guardian of the
absolute. His actions are the themes of the myths in which his nature unfolds.
Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in a cave in
Amarnath. Unknow 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 (the phallic symbol of Shiva).
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, 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 shrine.
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, Amarnath
for them became Shivas 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
practise is to begin journey at Chandanwari, and cover the distance to Amarnath and back
in five days. Pahalgam is 96 km from Srinagar.
The trek from Chandanwari to Amarnath cave is on an ancient peregrine route. The 30-km
distance is covered in two days, with night halts at Sheshnag (Wawjan) and Panchtarni. The
distance from Pahalgam to Chandanwari (16 km) now be covered by vehicular transport, and
the trail runs along the Lidder river. Pilgrims camp at Pahalgam or Chandanwari on the
first night out.
The first days trek of 12 km. from Chandanwari is through spectacular, primeval
countryside, and the main centre of attraction is Sheshnag, a mountain which derives its
name from its seven peaks, resembling the heads of a mythical snake. The journey to
Sheshnag follows steep in lines up the right bank of a cascading stream and wild scenery
untouched by civilisation. The second nights 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 a pine-scented, Himalayan night.
The second days 12 km trek steadly 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 Amarnath is only 6 km. but an early mornings start is
recommended for three is a long queue awaiting entry to the cave. The same day, following
darshan, devotees can 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 incantations, and priests perform
aarti 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 Hindu gods.
Dos and Donts for Yatries to Shri Amarnath Ji
- Please ensure that you are physically and mentally fit to perform the journey as the
Yatra involves trekking at an altitude of 14,000 ft ; do have yourself medically examined
and certified fit for the journey and forward the medical certificate to the registering
authority designated for your area of residence.
- Do carry sufficient heavy woollen sweaters, (Full as well as half sleeved), drawers
woollen trousers, gloves, monkey caps etc. Other items to be carried include wind cheater,
light rain coat, a sleeping bag or blankets or a set of bedding items water-proof shoes
with sufficient ground grip, a small water-proof tent, a torch with sufficient batteries,
a walking stick with proper hand grip. Ladies are advised not go on the journey in Saris,
instead pants or salwar suits with drawers should be used.
- Do carry some eatables like biscuits, candy, milk powder, sugar, assorted dry fruits,
honey and some tinned food with you. Also carry a water bottle, plastic plate, tumbler,
- Ration and fire wood quota has been especially arranged for you at all stations enroute,
- Make sure that the ponywalla, the labourer, the dandywalla is properly registered and
carries a token: you can get these alloted at fixed rates by competent authority at the
base camp, Pahalgam.
- Do ensure that ponies carrying your luggage and eatables etc. remain with you all the
time; if you let them remain behind, you are likely to be unnecessarily inconvenienced.
- Do observe discipline on the trek and keep on moving slowly and steadily. Adhere to the
instructions issued by the Yatra Officer from time to time. The officials of the Police,
Tourism, Health, Food & Supplies and other Departments are there to help you to
perform the journey comfortably.
- Do carry sufficient money to pay your accommodation at Pahalgam and at other stations
enroute to the Holy Cave and for meeting other personal requirements.
- All medical facilities during the Yatra are free. However, do carry your personal
medical kit also.
- Carrying/use of alcohol enroute the yatra is strictly prohibited.
- Do not overstrain on steep gradients.
- Do not relax at points where there are warning notices.
- Do not break traffic discipline or try to overtake others in difficult stretches of the
- Do not pay more than the prices fixed for porters, poines, dandies, rations, firewood,
Note:- Aged, infirm, ailing and insufficiently clothed persons will not be permitted to
proceed beyond Pahalgam. No yatri will be allowed without a registration card.