In Hinduism the three most important Gods are Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. Shiva is mentioned in the Rig Veda – one of the earliest religious books of India and continues to be worshipped to the present day. Shiva is depicted as an ascetic clad in a deerskin. He carries a trident and is accompanied by his consort, the female deity Parvati, and his son, the elephant- headed God Ganesha.
According to legend, Shiva was asked by Parvati to tell her the secret of immortality. He resisted for a long while, however her repeated insistence led to his agreeing to reveal the secret to her. They traveled to an isolated location in the Himalayas, where no one could overhear the secret. On the way Shiva left Nandi the Bull, at Pahalgam (Bail gaon). He released the moon from his hair at Chandanwari. At Sheshnag peak, he released his snakes and Ganesh was left behind at Mahagunas Hill (Mahaganesh Hill). At Panchtarni, Shiva left behind the five elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky) and accompanied by Parvati entered the cave. Here he meditated seated on his deer skin. To ensure that no living creature heard the secret he created a fire to destroy all life around him and then began to disclose the secret of immortality to Parvati. However a pigeon’s egg hidden beneath Shiva’s deerskin remined unharmed by the fire. A pair of pigeons, who overheard the secret of immortality, were born from this egg and even today pilgrims who visit the holy cave can see a pair of pigeons nesting here. Since the secret of immortality (Amar Katha) was revealed within this cave, it came to be known as Amarnath.
The climate along the route to the Amarnath Cave is very cold. Though days may be sunny, rain or snowfall may occur at any time. The night temperature can drop to -5 Degrees Celcius.
- Every traveler has to be registered with the government before starting the Amarnath Yatra
- Only physically fit pilgrims should attempt the Amarnath Yatra.
- Acclimatize yourself for a day at the base camp before beginning the trek. The altitude can cause breathing problems while traveling.
- All pilgrims should carry adequate warm clothing.
- Pilgrims should carry nourishing food such as dry fruits, chocolates etc., to consume on the trip
- Comfortable walking shoes, a walking stick, torch, raincoat, windcheater and medical kit are essential supplies on the Amarnath Yatra
- Carry enough money to pay for any additional needs.
- Pay heed to warning signs about falling rocks or avalanches. Only travel with an experienced guide, and with a group of pilgrims.
All yatris must be registered with the Jammu and Kashmir Government and are issued a registration-cum-identity slip, which they should carry with them at all times.
The holy shrine of Amarnath is situated 145 km from Srinagar, the capital of the North Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. Located at an altitude of 3888 m above sea level, the Amarnath Cave is considered holy by Hindus. Every year a giant stalagmite or pillar of ice in the shape of a phallus, forms within this cave. This ice pillar is worshipped as a lingam – a symbol of Shiva – and thousands of pilgrims travel across the mountains to pray at the holy Amarnath cave shrine, in July and August every year.
Amarnath Yatra Route
Around 150,000 pilgrims undertake the Amarnath Yatra every year. A priest carrying the Chari Mubarak or holy scepter of Shiva, leads the yatris up to the cave. There are 2 routes to the holy Amarnath Cave. The routes are as follows:
- Route 1: Srinagar – Pahalgam – Chandanwari – Pissu Top – Sheshnag – Panchtarni – Amarnath
- Route 2: Srinagar – Sonamarg – Baltal – Domail – Barari – Amarnath
An epitome of Kashmir’s beauty, Pahalgam is a tourist place that not only soothes your eyes with its picturesque settings but also proffers mental peace with its serenity. Seated on the banks of River Lidder at an elevation of 2200 m, Pahalgam is one of the most famous attractions of Kashmir that is open to visitors. The place boasts being a place for inspiration where you can contemplate for hours and days; it truly is a haven for those seeking solace in the lap of Mother Nature. A major attraction apart from the natural beauty in Pahalgam is the Hindu pilgrimage of Amarath Yatra The journey begins from Chandanwari, which is situated some 16 km from this must-see place in Kashmir. The Amarnath Yatra takes place in July and August every year. Apart from Chandanwari, Pahalgam comprises Aru Valley Betaab valley and Baisaran that are adorned with lush meadows and loft mountains. A pony rides to these places to see are also recommended. Sheikhpora is another must-see travel destination in Pahalgam. A small hill village situated on the Apple Valley Road, Sheikhpora is renowned for its pristine natural settings and breathtaking views.
It also makes for an ideal picnic spot, if you are on a family tour. For those looking for more beyond the relaxing and rejuvenating vibes in Pahalgam, this travel place renders the opportunity to enjoy the whitewater river rafting in Lidder River. A lesser-known, yet a destination with great tourism potential near Pahalgam is Kolahoi Glacier. Reckoned to be the main source of Lidder River and its water being the tributary of River Jhelum, Kolahoi Glacier is seen as a potential camping destination for anyone seeking some adventure. A great recreational activity that can keep you hooked is fishing in Pahalgam. Yes, Lidder River, apart from offering some exhilarating rapids to savour one of the best rafting experiences in India, also render visitors a chance to enjoy trout fishing in Pahalgam. Trekking is another adventure activity that can be enjoyed in volumes in this tourist destination in Kashmir. There are many short and long trekking trails gifting visitors with spectacular vistas and an experience to remember for a lifetime.
Set at an altitude of 2743 m, Baltal suffices as a halt destination just about perfectly for all the religious Amarnath Cave pilgrims. At a distance of 14 kms from Amarnath, this place serves as the base camp for devotees with adequate arrangements of pitch tents to spend the night.
Apart from this, Baltal is also renowned for its absolutely picturesque environment. It is in close proximity to renowned towns like Srinagar, Pahalgam and Sonamarg
The valley serves as the camping ground for the Amarnath pilgrims. It is only a day’s journey away from the Amarnath caves. Tents are set up here for an enjoyable stay of the pilgrims and are also very affordable. The pilgrims going to visit Shri Amarnathji cave take a halt at Baltal base camp and then climb to the cave. Helicopter services are also available, which drop the yatris till Panjtarni.
Earlier known as Hagan Valley or Hagoon, Betaab Valley got its present name after the blockbuster Bollywood movie ‘Betaab’ was shot there in 1983. A combination of picturesque surroundings, the valley falls on the way to Amarnath Temple Yatra and is one of the three angelic valleys of Pahalgam; the other two being Aru and Chandanwadi.
Encircled by mountains featuring deodar and pine forests, Betaab Valley is a perfect gateway to enjoy the heavenly pleasure of Mother Nature. The sights of colouring beds of flowers amid the lush walnut and willow vistas make the entire panorama quite stunning casting a spell of magic on this land of eternal beauty. The experience is even more heightened by the musical whispers of several birds. Being a precious jewel of Jammu and Kashmir tourism, Betaab Valley is among a handful of Pahalgam tourist places to visit that should not be missed. Situated at a walking distance from the main center of Pahalgam, the valley is also an excellent camping site for trekkers and explorers.