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 Amarnath Yatra 









Amarnath cave is a famous shrine in Hinduism located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is dedicated to Shiva. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft),[1] about 141 km (88 mi) from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir and reached through Pahalgam town. The shrine forms an important part of Hinduism,[2] and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism.[3] The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave itself is covered with snow most time of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. An annual pilgrimage is made to the Amarnath cave by lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of Hindu devotees on challenging mountainous terrain to see an ice stalagmite formed inside the cave.

History

The Amarnath cave has been a place of worship since times immemorial. There are references to one Aryaraja (32BCE-17CE) who used to worship a lingam formed of ice in Kashmir. The book Rajatarangini refers to Amareshwara or Amarnath. It is believed that Queen Suryamathi in the 11th century AD gifted trishuls, banalingas and other sacred emblems to this temple. Rajavalipataka, begun by Prjayabhatta has detailed references to the pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave. Other than this, there are further references to this pilgrimage in many other ancient texts.

Discovery of Holy Cave

It is believed that after the Middle Ages, this cave was forgotten by people and it was once again discovered by a shepherd in the 15th century. However, there are many stories about the discovery of this cave. One story states that once a Gujjar (Shepherd) named Buta Malik was given a bag full of coal by a holy man. When he reached home, he found that the bag contained not coal, but gold coins. Overjoyed, he ran back to the place where he had met the Holy man. However the holy man had disappeared and Buta Malik instead discovered the cave and the Lingam.

Yatra

The temple is a popular yatra destination for some Hindus. In 2011 it received about 634,000 persons, the highest recorded number for the site. The number was 622,000 in 2012. Pilgrims visit the holy site during the 45-day season around the festival of Shravani Mela in July‚ÄďAugust, coinciding with the Hindu holy month of Shraavana.

The beginning of the annual pilgrimage, called Amarnath Yatra is marked by 'pratham pujan' to invoke the blessings of Shri Amarnathji.

Route

Devotees travel on foot, either from Srinagar or from Pahalgam. The latter journey takes approximately 5 days. The State Road Transport Corporation and Private Transport Operators provide the regular services from Jammu to Pahalgam and Baltal. Also privately hired taxis are available from Jammu.

The shorter northern route is just about 16 km long, but has a very steep gradient and is quite difficult to climb. It starts from Baltal and passes through Domial, Barari, and Sangam to reach the cave. The northern route is along the Amarnath valley and all along the route one can see the river Amaravathy (It is more like a tributary of Chenab) which originates from Amarnath Glacier.

It is believed that Lord Shiva left Nandi, The Bull, at Pahalgam (Bail Gaon). At Chandanwari, he released the Moon from his hair (Jataon). On the banks of Lake Sheshnag, he released his snakes. At Mahagunas Parvat (Mahaganesh Mountain), he left his son Lord Ganesha. At Panjtarni, Lord Shiva left behind the five elements - Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky. As a symbol of sacrificing the earthly world, Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Dance. Then, finally, Lord Shiva entered the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati.

Facilities

En route to the cave, various non-profit organizations set up food supply and resting tents called pandals which are available for free to the pilgrims. Near the shrine, hundreds of tents which are erected by locals can be hired for a night's stay. Helicopter services from base camp to Panjtarni (6 km from the cave) are also available from various private operators.

Security

Every year, thousands of central police and state police personnel are deployed to provide security to pilgrims from potential terror threats. The forces position at various halts and also in the perimeter of the shrine.

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