Amarnath Temple

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Amarnath cave (Hindi: अमरनाथ गुफा) is a Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft), about 141 km (88 mi) from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The shrine is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. Thousands of Hindu devotees make an annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave on challenging mountainous terrain to see an ice stalagmite formed inside the cave.

Inside the 40 m (130 ft) high Amarnath cave, the stalagmite (Shiva Linga) is formed. The Cave waxes during May to August, as snow melts in the Himalayas above the cave and the resultant water seeps into the rocks that form the cave and gradually wanes thereafter. As per the religious beliefs, it has been claimed that the Shiva Linga grows and shrinks with the phases of the moon reaching its height during the summer festival.

According to a Hindu legend, this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort, Parvati. Two other ice formations represent Parvati and Shiva’s son, Ganesha.

Yatra

The temple is a popular yatra destination for Hindus. Pilgrims visit the holy site during the 45-day season around the festival of Shravani Mela in July–August, 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.

In olden days the route was via Rawalpindi (Pakistan) but now a direct train is there connecting rest of India to Jammu, the winter capital of the State. The best part of journey is between Guru Purnima and Shravan Purnima. The Government makes all arrangements for the comfort of the pilgrims for undertaking the ritualistic journey for visiting the shrine on Shravan Purnama. But the highly unpredictable weather of the mountains should be more obliging before Guru Purnima as rains would not start. There is a bus service from Jammu to Pahalgam (7,500 ft.). At Pahalgam the pilgrims arrange for coolies or ponies to carry gear of food and clothes etc. Everybody remains busy making arrangements for the Yatra. The golden glow of, the sun falls on the turbulent river at Pahalgam. Pahalgam in Kashmiri means the land of shepherds.

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 & Kashmir.

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 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 Parvathi.

Facilities

En route 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.

Best time to visit

The main time when the explorers can visit this blessed altar is amid the month of Sharavan (July and August). The dates might fluctuate contingent upon the climate conditions and as indicated by Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) in the month of Sharavan (Vikrama Samwat).

How to Reach

Located in the lap of the Himalayas, Amaranth is a bit arduous to reach. The nature of the terrain makes it impossible to construct roads and rails in the snow-toped areas around the cave. However, the roads takes you to the nearest possible point from where either you can walk or take pony-rides to the main temple. Pilgrims can reach Amarnath in the following ways.

Airport
Nearest airport is the Sheikh UL Alam International Airport at Budgam district.This Airport is connected with major cities of India. Helicopter Services are also available from Baltal and Srinagar.

Railways
The nearest Rail Head is at Jammu which is 300 Kms away and from there National Highway NH1A connects the Kashmir valley with country.

Road
Buses and Private Taxis are available from Jammy to Pahalgam and Baltal. The holy cave is located 14 km from Baltal town and 45 km from Pahalgam. Further travel through the rugged Himalayan terrain is either done on-foot or through pony-rides.