Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, The Amarnath Caves located some 141 km from Srinagar, 46 Km from Pahalgam and 14 Kms from Baltal and at an altitude of 3,888m is one most revered pilgrim destinations for the Hindus. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Amarnath caves despite not being one of the 12 Jyotirlings attracts millions of pilgrims every year, many of whom brave the harsh conditions for the sole belief that a darshan of the glorious 130 ft Shivling will lead one to moksha or immortality.
Said to be formed as a result of water drops that fell from the roof of the cave on to the floor, froze and grew up vertically, one can find references made to the Shiv linga in the ancient Hindu texts of Mahabharata and Puranas as well as in the book Rajatarangini -where mention has been made to Amareshwara or Amarnath.
THE STORY OF AMARNATH YATRA & ASSOCIATED LEGENDS
It is said that to appease Goddess Parvati demand to know the secret of immortality Lord Shiva chose Amarnath caves (given its treacherous terrain and location) as the place to pass on the secret knowledge. Since the rendition of Amar Katha had to be done in absolute isolation , he left all his belongings starting with Nandi at Pahalgam, Moon at Chandanwari, Snakes at Lake Sheshnag, son Ganesh at Mahgunas Parvat and lastly his five elements comprising earth, fire, water, sky and air at Panchtarni. As an extra mean of precaution, the Lord also created a rudra named Kalagni and ordered him to set fire around the cave so that everything living around that place could be destroyed. Yet, despite all these precautions , one egg remained protected under the deer skin and a pair of pigeons was born out of that egg and supposedly became immortal. It is said that pilgrims can still see the pigeon pair on their way towards the Amarnath Cave.
However, the most popular story is associated with the ‘Shiv Linga’ which is said to grow and shrink as per the lunar cycle. The ‘Shiv Linga’ reaches its maximum height during the months of July-August -one of the the best time to make the Amarnath yatra, only to shrink thereafter. A puja called the ‘Pratham Pujan’ which is said to invoke the blessings of Baba Amarnath is done to mark the beginning of the Yatra.
HOW TO REACH
The traditional way is to trek all the way from Pahalgam to Amarnath, covering Chandanwari, Pissu Top, Sheshnag , Panchtarani on the way, However, helicopter service is now also provided for the Amarnath Yatra and one can take the chopper from either Pahalgam or Baltal near Sonmarg to Panchtarni and do the rest of 5 kms stretch on foot.
All pilgrims must carry with them, a note with name and address and telephone number with the scheduled time of yatra for emergency purpose. Also required is an identity card and the yatra permit.
To know more about the Amarnath Yatra, please check the below articles:
Day 01 : Arrive @ Srinagar - Srinagar to Sonmarg
Arrival at Srinagar Airport & drive to Sonmarg which literally mean “meadows of gold”. Arrive & check in at Hotel.
Explore the breathtaking Himalayan Glaciers including the famous Thajwas Glacier. overnight stay at Sonmarg.
Day 02 : Sonmarg - Baltal - Panchtarni - Holy Cave - Panchtarni - Baltal - Sonmarg
Morning after an early breakfast, proceed to Neel Grath (around 80kms one way) or Baltal to board the helicopter to reach Panchtarini. From here the holy caves of Amarnath is around 6 kms and can be done either by foot, ponies or palkis. After a fruitful darshan, return back to Panchtarini to board the helicopter back to Baltal / Neel Grath.
Day 03: Sonamarg to Srinagar
After Breakfast, check out from the hotel and proceed to Srinagar. On arrival check into the hotel. Rest of the day at leisure for own activities (we can provide optional sightseeing services at an additional cost).
Day 4 : Srinagar Departure
After breakfast, check out from the hotel & transfer to Srinagar Airport for onward flight.