The Himalayan pilgrimages are the oldest organised travel system, evolved over time by Hindu sages and embodying the spirit of wander, adventure and spirituality".
The trek to the Amarnath-ji cave in the month of Shravan Purnima (July - August) sees devout Hindu pilgrims from all over India flock to undertake the Yatra, or pilgrimage, to this incredible shrine. Here, the phallic symbol of Shiva, in the form of a lingam, is formed naturally - the ice-stalagmite waxes and wanes depending on the moon. By its side are two more ice-lingams, that of Shiva's wife Parvati, and of their son, Ganesha.
At the base point for the pilgrim's trek in picturesque Pahalgam, a large tented township springs up to accommodate the pilgrims and the many foreign tourists who also make the fairly easy, 30 km trek. The starting point of the Yatra is Chandanwari (2895m), just 16kms from Pahalgam, which can be reached by road. From Chandanwari onwards, the track becomes much steeper, and is accessible only on foot or by pony. About 11kms from Chandanwari is the stunning mountain lake of Sheshnag (3574m), an ideal spot to rest. The last natural stopping point before the cave is Panchtarni, 13kms on from Sheshnag. The Amarnath cave is a further 6 kms from here.
An interesting experience as well as a good opportunity to take a relatively accessible, short trek into the beautiful Kashmir Himalaya, joining the Yatra is sure to be one of life's most unforgettable experiences. For more information on Yatra dates and arranging treks and camping, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
According to an ancient tale, there was once a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik who was given a sack of coal by a sadhu. Upon reaching home he discovered that the sack, in fact, contained gold. Overjoyed and overcome, Buta Malik rushed back to look for the sadhu and thank him, but he was gone. On the spot of their meeting place at Amarnath he found instead a cave, and it is this cave that has become a sacred pilgrimage sight for believers of many different faiths. To date, a percentage of the donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendants of Malik, and the rest to the trust which manages the shrine.
One of the holy trinity, Shiva is a living god. The most ancient and sacred book of India, the Rig Veda, evokes his presence in its hymns. Vedic myths, rituals and even astronomy testify to his existence from the dawn of time.
Shiva is known to have made his home in the Himalayas, but he built no house or shelter, not for himself or his bride.
The history of the Amarnath-ji Yatra lies in legend. Shiva is said to have recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in the Amarnath-ji cave, and this has since become the sight of major annual pilgrimage. However, unknown to Shiva and Parvati, a pair of mating pigeons eavesdropped on this conversation and having learned the secret, are reborn again and again, making the cave their eternal abode. Many pilgrims report seeing the pair of pigeons when they trek the arduous route to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam, the phallic symbol of Shiva.