"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, Lord 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.
Lord Shiva is known to have made his adobe in the Himalayas. He built no house nor shelter, not for himself or his consort, Goddess Parvati . He was an ascetic, and yet married; He could be both for "He is the God sporting in the forest or taking his ease on a cloud."
Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder valley, Shri Amarnathji Cave Shrine 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 Shri Amarnathji and back in four or five days. Pahalgam is 96 km from Srinagar.
In recent times the Baltal route via Sonamarg has also become very popular because of its short distance track (although very steep) to the Holy Cave of Shri Amarnathji.
The base points for the pilgrim's trek are picturesque Pahalgam and Sonamarg, a large tented township springs up to accommodate the pilgrims at both these locations. The conduct of the yatra is a gigantic task in which the Jammu & Kashmir 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 Baltal. These days Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) conducts and coordinates all the pilgrimage related activities.
The Yatra is organised in the month of Shravan and commences from Pahalgam & Baltal on specified dates.
Useful Tips on the Yatra
Dress: Pilgrims are advised to carry sufficient wollens such as sweaters, drawers, wollen trousers, monkey cap etc. Other items could include wind cheaters, rain coat, sleeping bag or blankets, umbrella, waterproof boots/shoes, walking stick, torch etc. Ladies are advised not to go on the trek in saris, instead Salwar suits should be used.
Medical Assistance: Medical posts manned by qualified doctors and nursing staff are established enroute to cater to the needs of the pilgrims, free of cost. However, pilgrims are advised to carry along any medicines specifically prescribed for them.
Provisions: Essential rations are available at fair price rates from the specially established Govt. Depots at Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtami, Numerous wayside tea-shops and small restaurants are set up by private parties. However, pilgrims are advised to carry with them biscuits, tinned food etc. to cater to their immediate needs. Firewood or gas can be obtained at Chandanwari, Sheshnag , Panchtarni and near the Cave.
Insurance: In view of the hazardous nature, pilgrims are advised to insure themselves before proceeding on the Yatra. In recent years SASB has been providing Accident Insurance cover to the Registered Yatris (Pilgrims).
Accommodation: Good tented accommodation with allied facilities are set-up during the Yatra period. These are provided on the basis of payment of rates fixed by the authorities manning the Yatra.
Registration: Registration of pilgrims are undertaken usually a month ahead of the date fixed for commencement of Yatra. The dates are generally notified through press advertisements. As per rules no Yatri is allowed to proceed on the journey without a Registration Card/ Permit. The process of Registeration for Yatris (Pilgrims) of Shri Amarnathji Yatra 2016 is expected to commence from March, 2016, simultaneously for both the Baltal and Chandanwari routes, through designated Bank Branches all over the country.
You must also ensure that you are physically fit for the journey, and have yourself medically examined. Remember that you have to cross Mahagunus pass which is at an altitude of 14,000 feet above sea level. It is now essential for the applicant Yatri to submit Compulsory Health Certificate while seeking registration for this year’s Shri Amarnathji Yatra.
You may kindly ensure that ponies carrying your luggage and eatables remain with you at all times. Also ensure that the Ponywalla, labourer or Dandiwalla is properly registered and carries a token. You can get these alloted at fixed rates at the base camps.