Amarnath yatra is a destination to Baba Barfani a Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir, India. 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 Amarnath Cave on challenging mountainous terrain to see an Ice Shivling formed with water droplets.
History of Cave Discovery:
It is said this cave was long forgotten in the middle ancient time, and then it was discovered by a Gujjar (shepherd) Buta Malik in the 15th century. The story says that a saint gave Buta Malik a bag full of Coal. On reaching his home when he opened the bag, to his utter surprise the bag was full of Gold Coins. This made him overwhelmed with joy. He ran to thank the Saint. But, what he found was that the Saint had disappeared. Instead, he found the Holy Cave and Shiv Lingam there in. He announced the discovery of this to the Villagers. Then onwards this has become the sacred place of Pilgrimage.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself; it’s about discovering who god created you to be”
From the time terror attacks, blast and uncertainty of Amaranth Yatra are in news, I felt like sharing my experience of visit to divine cave of Amaranth. I am born and brought up in a family where we celebrate some festival every other day on the name of some god and Shiva and his family are our main deities. So, obviously I grew up with stories of them and this cave, there was always a wish to visit it. Someone rightly said if you have a wish you get your way to it, and we got the opportunity to visit this cave in the year 2015.
There are two ways to go to amaranth one which goes from Baltal and the other one starts from Pahalgam. Helicopter services are available from both the location to the base camp of Pachatarni. We choose the route of Baltal as being the shorter one. Kashmir is really beautiful, you be in whichever corner of it, the nature paradise is welcoming you. We somehow managed to reach Baltal base camp on time, its near to Leh area and the campsite is surrounded by alluring beauty of Mountains.
We have booked the helicopter service from Baltal to Panchtarni , the first chopper experience of life – worth to remember. View of valley from top was like – Heaven on earth, forest, rivers, mountains of different colors, stones, pebbles, snow and everything which nature has truly – “Vitality and Beauty are gifts of Nature”. We reached the base camp(Panchtarni) within 25 mins. When we think there is nothing more bueatiful left to see , the nature stumbles us with its bueaty – water falls, golden and white shadow of mountains. We took rest there and decide to start the journey early morning.
The distance from Panchtarni to the cave is around 7 kms, the first few kms are easy stony roads and then further it gets narrow and steep. There are moments were we see helicopter flying across the valley and we walking at height above it, clouds floating beneath us. The main base camp point after this is Sangam Point – this route is called Sangam Point as the two routes of Baltal and Phalagam meets here. The climb from here to cave is really difficult and snowy, your energy drains easily in snow and with sun the ice melts so it gets slippery. You need to hold your grip and follow some 10-20 steps at a time rule.
From Sangam Point the cave appears near just 2 kilometer. Lots of Stalls and Bhandaras are available here. Oxygen level decreases here slightly so be careful or carry oxygen cylinder if you have breathing problem. Amazing unity among diversity can be seen in this yatra, people from all caste were present Muslim, Sikh, Hindus and all were helping each other for the divine Darshan of Shivling – someone rightly said “Mountains are the cathedrals where religion is practice”. We reached the cave around 11.30 am and after climbing nearly 150 steps we were in front of “Baba Amarnath – Lord Shiva – Ling of Ice” – the ambience and energy of people make you fall in exile with god as if the ling is saying to you – “On the glorious splendor of your majesty and on your wondrous work I meditate”. By its side are fascinating, two more Ice Lingams, that of Maa Parvati and of their son, Ganesha .All the story heard about the cave seems to be true as there were no living creature or animals in the entire route except Pigeons in the cave. Truly an amazing miracle of Mother Nature – as if the nature says “Submit to god and you will have peace” –“God cannot be understood by logical reasoning but by submission “
The view of Sangam point from top of the cave was mesmerizing – rivers diverging and forming a Sangam – “Morning mists skulked over the river.” Everything from Sangam to Cave is Ice – there is no base beneath it – this path is formed only in the month of June to October, rest of the year it’s not reachable. The descend is generally easy but here it was more dangerous across the valley bcoz of slippery ice and rain. The weather in mountains is really unpredictable – as if god is testing your strength. We reached the base camp at around 3.30 and we took the last chopper to Baltal. Over all a divine spiritual experience of meeting god in exile of nature – a must to visit for trek lovers – you see different shades and color of Mountain, real beauty – as if this is what heaven is.
“Take a quite walk with mother nature it will nurture your mind body and soul”
Significance of Cave:
As per the ancestor stories it is believed this Cave was chosen by Bhole Shankar for narrating the secrets of immortality and creation of Universe to Maa Parvati. The story says Maa Parvati asked Shivji to let her know why and when he started wearing the beads of heads (Mund Mala). Maa Parvati said,” My Lord, my body is destroyed every time and I die again and again, but you are Immortal. Please let me know the secret of this. For long Shivaji continued postponing. Finally on consistent demand from Maa Parvati he made up his mind to tell the immortal secret. He started for lonely place where no living being could listen it and he choose Amarnath Cave . Every place of Amarnath Yatra has its own stories. It is believed that Shiva first left behind Nandi (Bull), his vehicle at Pahalgam, hence the name (Bail-Gaon). It is therefore believed that one must walk from Pahalgam onwards as the lord started his yatra here. At Chandanwadi he left the moon behind (Shiva caries the moon in his hair). Once again, this place takes its name from this legend. At Sheshnag Shiva left behind the snakes. He left his son Ganesh at the place which is now called as Mahagunas parbat or Ganesh Top. And at Panchtarani, he left behind the five elements – air, water, fire, sky and earth of which all life is made of. After leaving behind all these, Shivji enters the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati Maa. Lord Shiva takes his Samadhi on the Deer Skin and concentrate. To ensure that no living being is able to hear the Immortal Tale, he created Rudra named Kalagni and ordered him to spread fire to eliminate every living thing in and around the Holy Cave. After this he started narrating the secret of immortality to Maa Parvati. But as a matter of chance one egg which was lying beneath the Deer skin remained protected. It is believed to be nonliving and more over it was protected by Shiva -Parvati Asan (Bed). The pair of pigeons which were born out of this egg became immortal having listened the secret of immortality (Amar Katha).
“When God steps in Miracle happens”
Best time to visit: July–August (month of shravan)
Temperature: 2-18°C (At night it even drops down in negative)
How to reach:
- Nearest railway station is Katra – from there travel to Phalgham or Baltal via
Srinagar , vehicles on rent are easily available online or at local tour operators.
- Nearest airport is Srinagar from there travel to Phalgham or Baltal via Srinagar, vehicles on rent are easily available online or at local tour operators.
- Helicopter for Neelgrath (Baltal)-Panjtarni-Neelgrath (Baltal) Sector(Pawan Hans Limited, Global Vectra Helicorp Limited – One-way ticket fare on this sector was Rs.2,000/- per person approximately)
- Helicopter for Pahalgam-Panjtarni-Pahalgam Sector(Himalayan Heli Services Private Limited – One-way ticket fare on this sector was Rs.4,300/- per person approximately)
Things to carry: Complete spare set of clothes and towel/napkin etc, Water bottle (at least 1.5 liters) and Dry fruits, Torch with extra batteries compulsory , Proper footwear is essential for this activity – E.g.: Action trekker shoes , Electoral/ Glucon-d energizers and personal medication (if any), A sweater/warm wear , Rain coat ,Chocolates, Saunth Goli .
Things to avoid: Heavy Luggage, Fancy clothes, floaters, fashion shoes and sandals.
Information: Please note foods are available at Bhandaras near campsite and cave. Palkhi and Ponies are also available for those who cannot walk through the trek. Medication and speakers are also available at base camp site.
Caution: This trek is long and tedious not recommended for small children and pregnant ladies. No network in phones in the yatra route.
“Faith in god is the prescription for troubled souls”
“Journey to god starts with one small step at a time, He doesn’t expects you to run the mile – but he promise to give you strength to go to the distance”.