Amarnath Yatra

Pilgrimage to Paradise

Amarnath Yatra
Pilgrims on ponies on the way to the holy Himalayan shrine of Amarnath. (c) Getty Images

June to August is time for the annual Amarnath Yatra — one of the most sacred and popular pilgrimages to the holy snow-clad cave shrine of Lord Shiva in the beautiful northern Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Of all Hindu pilgrimages, Amarnath — situated at an altitude of 3,880 meters in the southern Kashmir Himalayas — is considered one of the holiest.

A visit or 'darshan' to the Holy Cave is generally open from mid June-early July (Ashad Purnima) to early August (Sharvan Purnima).

The pilgrimage starts in June-July and draws thousands of pilgrims to the naturally-formed ice Shiva Lingam at the holy cave shrine. The 'yatra' or pilgrimage concludes in August, around the Raksha Bandhan festival.

Ensuring A Smooth Yatra

No pilgrim is allowed to proceed for the yatra without proper registration. A medical certification is a must before registering as a pilgrim. (See Details). While most of the Pahalgam road is open to vehicular traffic, the last 24 km to the holy cave have to be traveled on foot. Adequate measures are taken to make this tortuous trek easier. Arrangements are made for proper supply of drinking water to the pilgrims enroute the holy cave. Power development department authorities ensure uninterrupted power supply from Sarbal to the holy cave, particularly during nights, and the departments of health, food and supplies, and cooperatives keep adequate stock of medicines, oxygen, food grains, firewood and other essentials for the convenience of the pilgrims.

The Charm of the Himalayas

In the Hindu mythology, there is a strong connection between the sublime Himalayan summits and Lord Shiva. Kalidasa, the greatest of the Sanskrit poets described the Himalayas as "the laughter of Shiva." Lord Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita, "Of the mountains, I am the Himalayas." And Swami Vivekananda wittily said that India has so many gods and goddesses because it's so close to the Himalayas — the abode of the gods.

An Icy Idol

The cave shrine of Amarnath can be accessed only during these rainy months of July and August, when inside the cave, a pure white ice-mound is formed, and water trickles down in a slow mysterious rhythm from the top of the cave on top of it. It piles up to take the shape of a 'lingam', the phallus symbol representing Lord Shiva, which begins to rise undiscernibly to acquire a full shape on the full moon night. It is believed that water from the Ramkund Lake situated above the cave, falls drop by drop on the holy Shiva Lingam.

Legend Has It

Legend has it that here on a Shravan day, Lord Shiva narrated 'Amar Katha' — the secrets of the cosmos — to his consort Goddess Parvati, the beautiful daughter of the Himalayas. As Parvati fell asleep during the discourse, two pigeons heard Lord Shiva's story and attained immortality. Since then the holy place came to be known as Amarnath, and every year on the full moon day of Shravan, a pair of pigeons is seen inside the cave.

Truly a Pilgrim’s Paradise

The Amarnath Yatra, they say, leaves a profound impact of spiritual exaltation on the minds of the pilgrims, who stride through an exceedingly enchanting and enthralling route "upward" to meet the shining glory and greatness of God.

Swami Vivekananda recounting his Amarnath experience said, "I have never been to anything so beautiful, so inspiring."

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Das, Subhamoy. "Amarnath Yatra." ThoughtCo, Jan. 14, 2016, Das, Subhamoy. (2016, January 14). Amarnath Yatra. Retrieved from Das, Subhamoy. "Amarnath Yatra." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 21, 2017).