Amarnath cave is in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India situated at an altitude of 3,888 meters. This temple is one of the holiest temples. This cave is 40 meters high and covered with the snow most of the time. In summer it is open for a short period for pilgrims. The devotees in lakhs visit this place to have a glimpse of Shiva Linga.
The Bhrigu Rishi was the first to discover holy cave of Amarnath. After that this sacred cave became one of the famous Tirthas. As per the Hindu legend, Lord Shiva chose this cave to disclose the secret of eternity “Amar Katha” to Maa Parvati. Shiva ensured that no other living being could hear this immortal tale. For this, he left behind his bull, moon, snakes and even five elements viz. Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Sky. Still, a pair of pigeons overheard the secret of immortality and became immortal.
The Shiva Linga in Amarnath temple is a stalagmite, which is formed naturally by freezing of water drops falling from the cave roof. The water drops freeze and grows vertically upon the cave floor and take the shape of Linga. There are other two ice lingams of Maa Parvati and Lord Ganesha.
Amarnath cave is 46 kilometers from Pahalgam, and 14 kilometers from Baltal.Srinagar is the nearest aerodrome and Jammu is the nearest railway station.The regular bus services are available by the STC and private tour operators from Jammu to Pahalgam and Baltal. The private taxis are also available from Jammu. The trek to Amarnath begins every year in the month of Shravan, i.e., July-August.
The State Government organize yatra in collaboration with the Shree Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB). The festival of Shravani Mela is celebrated at this time. Lacs of devotees trek through tough terrain. The weather is highly unpredictable in the mountains. The pilgrims travel on foot either from Pahalgam or Srinagar. The pilgrims mostly start the journey at Chandanwari base camps, 16 kilometers from Pahalgam. Pilgrims take night halt at Sheshnag Lake and Panchtarni camps.
It takes five days approximately to complete yatra and return. The northern route is shorter with 16 kilometers of the journey, but there is difficulty of climbing steep gradient. It passes along the Amarnath valley and Amaravati River through places like Baltal, Domial, Barari, and Sangam to reach the Amarnath cave.
Route1: Jammu- Pahalgam- Chandanwari- Pissu Top - Sheshnag - Panchtarni - Holy Cave
Route2: Jammu - Baltal - Domail - Barari - Holy Cave
During Amarnath Yatra, the Government makes the arrangements for the supply of ponies, power, telecommunication,fire-wood, fair price shops, etc. In the route of Amarnath yatra various resting tents are set up by charitable institutions for the night stay and supply food free of costs. The pilgrims can hire tents near the cave also. The coolies and ponies are available to pilgrims to carry food and clothes for the yatra.There is also Helicopter service from base camp to Panchtarni.
Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) manages the puja and other developmental activities of Amarnath Shrine. This board is responsible for managing the Amarnath Yatra and provision of facilities and guidelines to pilgrims. The board has undertaken the construction of accommodation, sanitary system, improving means of communication and providing medical relief to the pilgrims.
Jammu & Kashmir where Amarnath Temple is located is famous for sightseeing. The nearest aerodrome Srinagar is known as the “Paradise on Earth” for the places like Dal Lake, Shankaracharya Temple, Nagin Lake, and Mughal gardens like Shalimar, Nishat, and Cheshma-Shahi. Similarly, Jammu is known as “City of Temples.” for Raghunath Temple, Mahadev Mandir etc.
Shopping during Amarnath Yatra in Pahalgam, Jammu and Kashmir are all about woollens, carpets, gabbas, shawls and dress materials of Kashmiri embroidery Kaftans, wood carvings, Rugs, Kashmiri handicrafts and objects of papier mache(Kashmiri craft).
During the time of Amarnath Yatra, the central and state police deploy thousands of personnel for the security at various halts of the route to give protection to the pilgrims from the terrorist attacks. There are recorded deaths of pilgrims for different reasons like high elevation, adverse climate, arduous climbs and most alarming terrorist attacks.