The Amarnath trek is perhaps one of the most arduous and tiring treks which you could ever experience. The whole trek offers a boundless culminating experience to the devotees for which they wait all year around.
Every year, literally, lakhs of people go on this yatra with their own individual reasons like finding the meaning of life, taking blessings of Lord Shiva, or perhaps even for liberation or Mukti -it has a very significant value in our culture.
Organized by Shri Amarnath Shrine Board in collaboration with the J & K government, this is a journey which is full of difficult and daunting natural terrains. It is a voyage of a lifetime for the devotees who need to go through an elaborate procedure before they can begin their journey.
The Amarnath Yatra has two starting points-it either starts from Srinagar or from Pahalgam. The devotees need to walk on foot at least for 5 days. The Yatris can also take a bus or either a taxi.
For the ease of the pilgrims, the government along with the langar committees maintain elaborate arrangements like setting up tents and food stalls.
This journey might be arduous but the rolling meadows and the most stunning vistas of nature offered by the vast Himalayas take off all the stress. The natural ice formation-the Shiva linga, found in the Amarnath Cave is the prime spot of devotion connected with millions through faith and belief. Each year, perhaps miraculously, some snow melts and seeps into the cave taking shape of the lingam. According to Hindu beliefs, there are two other formations apart from Lord Shiva’s they are that of his wife Parvati and son Ganesha.
If the legend is to be believed then it was Lord Shiva who revealed the secret of the universe-the ‘Amar Katha’ to Maa Parvati. It is said Maa Parvati had asked why Shiva was free from the cycle of birth and death while she had to take birth again and again. Shiva told her it’s a secret that can’t be revealed to everyone. Maa Parvati insisted on listening to the Amar Katha and it was only after a considerable amount of convincing that Lord Shiva agreed to narrate it to her.
However, he wanted to make sure that no one else hears it except his consort Parvati. To let in on the secret to her, he started by finding a secret place where no one could hear them. His search led him to the Amarnath cave. On the way, he left all his belongings. Nandi was left at Pahalgam, the moon at Chandanwari, all his snakes at the banks of Lake Sheshnag. And his son Ganesha at the Mahaguna Parvat.
Shiva And Parvati entered the holy cave. But, to make sure no one was around, Mahadev created a Rudra named Kalagni and told him to set fire to everything around the cave. To ensure no living being could hear the Katha. However, it is said an egg survive out of which a pair of pigeons was born.
Apart from Parvati, that pair of pigeon too listened to the story and legend says they became immortal. People claim the pair can still be seen during the yatras.
According to another popular legend, a shepherd named Buta Malik lived in the area during the early 15th century. It is said he was given a bag full of coal by a holy man. When he reached home, he found the bag full of gold coins instead. Overjoyed, he went back looking for the saint. But he couldn’t find him there; instead, he found a cave at that spot and that cave was the Amarnath cave.
If the legend is to be believed then Bhrigu Muni had discovered this place. It is also believed that the valley of Kashmir was submerged under water. Kashyap Muni successfully drained it via rivers and rivulets. Another local story says it was the gadaria community who was the first one to discover this holy cave.
Seeing a possibility of negative impact to the environment, this year in 2019, Shri Amarnath Board has specifically decided to install toilets, baths and dustbins along the route. Special precautions have been made to ensure the yatra is eco-friendly. Thus, the board is taking strict measures for proper garbage collection, disposal and better sanitation work. There would be 2,850 toilets, 516 baths, 150 bottle catchers and around 50 bio bins which would be colour coded for collecting biodegradable & non-biodegradable waste separately.
Food and stay is arranged for the pilgrims throughout the route by the government authorities. Many non-profit organizations also set up food supply for the pilgrims. Resting tents and pandals are available for free for the pilgrims. Thousands of security personnel are also deployed for the safety of the pilgrims.
Every year, a scourge of pilgrims visit Amarnath. If the figures are to be believed, in 2012, approximately 6,22,000 yatris participated in this journey. It is important that the yatris be physically fit for the hectic and physically straining climb.