Thousands of devotees trek through the rugged mountains in South Kashmir, India, in the summer months to reach Shri Amarnathji Shrine and pay obeisance to Hindu God Lord Shiva, the guardian of the absolute and the destroyer. They make a special effort, sometimes during a 45 days walk, to see the famous holy ice stalagmite there, that millions visit throughout the year.
According to the popular narrated stories, the Shri Amarnathji Shrine cave was discovered by a shepherd while searching for a saint who gave him a bag of coal that later transformed into gold coins. In this holy place, the image of Lord Shiva in the form of Lingam – a rounded, elliptical image set on a circular base – is formed naturally of ice stalagmite, which is believed to wax and wane with the moon’s cycle. This is unique in India, hence the crowd that comes and visit it all year long.
But the most demanding time for devotees is during the trek (yatra), that commenced this year on 2nd July, the auspicious day as per the Hindu calendar. It started from the base camp Pahalgam, a hill station in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, and Baltal, a meadow surrounded by Sonamarg – which is a flower laden meadow in between the imposing Himalayan range – and shall conclude on 18th August, 2016. Facilities are provided during the course of the trek: good tented accommodation, medical assistance and essential rations at fair prices…
Carrying equipments, offerings for so many days is a challenge. Pilgrims travel either by the Baltal route (a 14-km trek) or Pahalgam (42-km). Many choose to cover the entire distance on foot, which can prove too much of an effort and some people even died of heart attack or lack of acclimatisation on the way. Many devotees adopt various other modes of transport (by helicopter, pony, palanquin…) to travel during the trek.
Despite the many reports on terrorism in Kashmir, pilgrims undertake the journey to the mountains every year. The devotees perform the pilgrimage through tough terrain to seek blessings and achieve eternal happiness.
Around 20,000 security men have been deployed on the routes of Pahalgam and Baltal. The Army installations have carried out combing operations in nearby forests, according to the Indian daily, The Hindu. More than 12,000 pilgrims started the trek for the Amarnath cave shrine on the first day of the pilgrimage in the Kashmir Valley on Saturday, even as over 20,000 Muslim workers, including 7,000 pony owners, joined them to offer services as workers, pony and horse drivers and palanquin-bearers.
The route of the pilgrimage is through mountains and rivers of Kashmir, a famous tourist destination for Indians as well as foreigners, that provide with scenic beauty of valleys and lakes of Srinagar, Sonamarg, and Pahalgam. Sonamarg is also the take off station for the drive to Ladakh, which is known for its ancient Buddhism, high mountain passes and spectacular lakes and monasteries. A more touristic and relaxing route to discover after this highly demanding and spiritual trek.
Jaipur , Rajasthan
Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir
Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir