AMARNATH YATRA, A JOURNEY OF ADVENTURE AND SELF REFLECTION
Who doesn’t know about Amarnath Yatra? Amarna th Temple is situated at an elevation of 3,888 meters approximately, which is also about 29 kilometers from Pahalgam. It is known and worshipped for Shiva Lingam, and it is considered one of the most holy and pious symbols by Hindus all across the globe. Every year devotees visit it in large numbers from June to August as that is also the season time and weather is relatively calm and favourable. The famous Amarnath Yatra begins at Chandanwari. It is also known as or considered to be one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas, or the holiest shrines in Hinduism. This place has a huge number of myths and beliefs. And one of the most important one is that Lord Shiva explained the meaning of life and eternity to his consort & wife, Goddess Parvati. According to legends, Bhrigu Muni, a famous sage in Hinduism, was the first person to have discovered this holy site. At that time, the entire Kashmir Valley was submerged under water, and Kashyap Muni, another powerful sage, drained the waters with his divine powers. As the waters cleared, Bhrigu Muni was the first person to have the site of the Shiva Lingam. How interesting is it! Definitely worthy enough. and these days not just devotees take it as pilgrimage but huge numbers of people come here for adventure and exploration too. And yes, not to mention it up to you which path you want to take because there is certain mode of convenience such as by helicopter, as well. And another one is the long difficult trek. So depending on your time constraints, you can choose what you are more feasible with. This yatra, a high altitude himalayan trek, is a journey from one of the most picturesque hill resorts in Kashmir. Also, we are sure you must be knowns that Every pilgrim needs to register himself/herself for yatra through the registration process, which includes a medical examination through a government hospital and then registering in a branch of J&K Bank or other banks which the Shrine Board decides to work with. So before you start planning your trip, make sure that it usually takes 3 days to reach the holy cave. Vehicles are available from Pahalgam to Chandanwari. From chandanwari, one can continue the journey on foot, or a pony. Distance from Chandanwari to Holy cave is around 34 kms which has many steep slopes in between. The route reaches the highest altitude of around 15000 feet at Mahagunas Top. Toughest parts of this route are Chandanwari to pissu top, Sheshnag camp to Mahagunas Top. Second route is from Baltal base camp. Baltal is a temporary settlement near another famous hill resort, Sonamarg. Distance from Baltal to Holy Cave is around 15 KMs. So it's a pro tip of being fit, as there will be a lot of altitude, and the steepness can cause acute mountain sickness too. so you also need to carry diamox to prevent it. Inside the cave, there are four to five ice formations resembling figures of various gods. According to the tradition, the largest one is worshipped as Amarnath or Shiva, one on the left side of the lingam is an ice formation worshipped as Ganesha, and on the right is an ice formation worshipped as Parvati. Make sure to explore this place at least once in a lifetime and learn and experience the new things.
Best time to explore and experience Amarnath Yatra:
Summers are considered as the best time to explore and visit Amarnath caves. During the day time the temperatures are between 10 degrees to 25 degrees, which is very pleasant. Night can be relatively cooler as the temperature drops by. June till august is considered as the best time. Amarnath Yatra begins on 28th June and end on 22nd August 2021. It is a great time to visit Amarnath Cave, which usually remains covered in snow. Activities like trekking can be enjoyed for darshan of the Shiv Lingam. As it's at altitude, so even during summers you might need to cover yourself with fleece. As the weather in the mountains are very unpredictable.
From July to September, it is the monsoon season. So even a light shower makes a huge drop in the temperatures. And weather can take a drastic change into cold and chilled air. Make sure if you plan at this time then carry your raincoats and woollens with you. You will witness the lush green meadows and beauties all around. From far snow capped mountains to the green terrains and sheep grazing the field. What a soothing sight to experience, doesn’t it sound perfect for spending some time in the lap of nature? And the average temperature in August in Amarnath fluctuates between 10°C and 25°C.
From October till April, it is winter season. Its not just any mere winter but truly bone chilling. And there are heavy snowfalls all the time, turning the place to be a white wonderland. And because of the heavy snowfalls there is blockage of all the routes leading to the Amarnath Shrine. That is why it becomes impossible to go on an Amarnath Yatra during these months. Bu yes, if you are an adventure junkie you can get involved in winter sports activities such as skiing and snowboarding. The mountains are covered in snow and fog, which is a sight to behold. And when you plan, so make sure to carry woolen clothes, jackets, caps, gloves.
Places to visit in Amarnath Yatra:
Of Course, Kashmir Valley is huge and Amarnath is in the same valley. So you definitely have the ample of opportunities to explore other places too. And these other places near amaranth can be visited according to the weather conditions such as:
1. Amarnath Cave
2. Botanical Garden Kokernag
3. Martand Sun Temple
4. Aishmuqam Shrine
5. Mattan temple
6. Kheer Bhawani Asthappan
7. Surya Temple at Martand
8. Baltal Valley
9. Sheshnag lake
10. Zoji La pass
Local food to try and experience in Amaranth:
As Amarnath lies in Kashmir Valley itself so you need to experience the delicacy of Kashmir too. Everyone should not only visit Kashmir but also try Kashmir Food once in their lifetime. Kashmir cuisine is varied and flavoursome. Not only will you get the golden opportunity to feel the influence of Mughals and Arabs in the dishes but many of the dishes have a signature aspect too. And especially when you are a non vegetarian, Kashmiri cuisine is a paradise. But, yes they have some good vegetarian food too. Here are some of the which you must try your hands on:
Rogan Josh, one of the best signature dish from Kashmir. It is an aromatic lamb curry made with the fusion of various spices, yogurt, and fried brown onions. And especially if you are non vegetarian you have to experience the deletable and authentic taste which you can’t find anywhere else in the world.
Modur Pulao, is not just a regular one which you might get confused with. It is prepared in the goodness of milk, saffron, ghee, and cinnamon. The fragrance itself is so alluring and tempting. The saffron is the prime ingredient as it is grown in Kashmir itself. The bright golden imparted by saffron to rice is so visually tempting.
Dum Aloo, it's a treat for all the vegetarians out there. It is prepared through the baby potatoes. Which are cooked in yogurt, ginger paste, fennel, and hot spices. Just the aroma of this simple dish is very fragrant and you can accompany it with roti or a plain naan.
Gosh tabs, a traditional delicacy originated as the dish for kings of the Mughal era. It is made on royal occasions in the Kashmir household. It is basically minced mutton balls cooked in a yogurt gravy and authentic fragrant spices.
Lyader Tschaman, here is another treat for vegetarians. Kashmiri cottage cheese cooked in rich creamy gravy. The cottage cheese in Kashmir is yellow in color and so is the gravy. You will find this dish in almost every household. A traditional delicacy even non-vegetarians won’t be able to hog on to.
Accessible way to reach Amarnath:
Yatra from Baltal to Amarnath Cave:
It is the most popular and shortest route to reach the cave. The region of Baltal is 14 km from the Cave and allows people to only walk. Ponies are not allowed. However, one can be carried on 'Dandies'. The trek via Baltal usually takes 1-2 days to complete. This route is advised to be taken by the people who are young, healthy and looking for some adventure amidst the religious trip.
Yatra from Pahalgam to Amarnath Cave:
This is the most preferable route and is around 47 km from the main Amarnath Cave Site. The first step of Yatra starts at Chandanwari which is 16 km from the Pahalgam base camp and is at 9,500 feet. Then there is Pissu top, which is 3 km away and located at 11,000 ft, Sheshnag - 9 km from Pissu top at 11,730 ft, followed by the Panjtarni-12 km ahead and located at 12,000 feet. Pilgrims who cannot walk this far can opt for Helicopter services easily available for it.
You can opt for trains from Delhi, Mumbai and other major cities. But also, there are no direct trains to Amarnath .The nearest stations are Udhampur and Jammu located at a distance of 219 km and 255 km respectively from Pahalgam and Baltal from where pilgrims trek to the Amarnath caves. Your train journey will take about 34 hours to reach. You can take a cab for future journeys. So you need to plan your itinerary accordingly.
You can take a direct flight to Srinagar. It is the nearest airport situated at a distance of 94 km from Pahalgam and 59 km from Baltal. After reaching the airport, you can take a cab or a bus.
Also, here is the map for you all. It would help you to plan your trip and itinerary accordingly.