pilgrimages are the oldest organised travel system,
evolved over time by Hindu sages and embodying the spirit
of wander, adventure and spirituality"
Shiva, in the form
lingam, is formed naturally
of an ice - stalagmite
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, ritual and even astronomy testify to his
existence from the dawn of time.
is known to have made his home in the Himalayas. He built no
house nor shelter, not for himself or his bride. He was an
ascetic, and yet married; he could be both for "he was the
wild god sporting in the forest or taking his ease on a
has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation
in the Amarnathji cave. Unknown to them, a pair of mating
pigeons eavesdropped on this conversation and having learned
the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave
their eternal abode. Many pilgrims report seeing the
pigeons-pair when they trek the arduous route to pay obeisance
before the ice-lingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva).
Yatra arrangements at Pahalgam
trek to Amarnathji, in the month of Shravan (July - August)
has the devout flock to this incredible shrine, where the
image of Shiva, in the form of a lingam, is formed naturally
of an ice - stalagmite, and which waxes and wanes with the
moon. By its side are, fascinatingly, two more ice - lingams,
that of Parvati and of their son, Ganesha.
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 on the spot of their meeting
discovered a cave, and eventually this became a place of
pilgrimage for all believers. To date, a percentage of the
donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendants of
Malik, and the remaining to the trust which manages the
another legend has it that when Kashap Reshi drained the
Kashmir valley of water (it was believed to have been a vast
lake), the cave and the lingam were discovered by Bregish
Reshi who was travelling the Himalayas. When people heard of
the lingam, Amarnathji for them became Shiva's abode and a
centre of pilgrimage.
Whatever the legends and the history of Amarnathji's
discovery, it is today a very important centre of pilgrimage
and though the route is as difficult to negotiate as it is
exciting, every year, thousands of devotees come to pay homage
before Shiva in one of his famous Himalayan abodes.
Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder
valley, Amarnathji stands at 3,888 m and is 45 km from
Pahalgam and 141 km from Srinagar. Though the original
pilgrimage subscribes that the yatra be undertaken from
Srinagar, the more common practice is to begin the journey
from Pahalgam, and cover the distance to Amarnathji and back
in four or five days. Pahalgam is 96 km from Srinagar.
the base point for the pilgrim's trek is picturesque Pahalgam,
a large tented township springs up to accommodate the
pilgrims. The conduct of the yatra is a gigantic task in which
the State Government takes the assistance of the security
departments for providing security and helping to keep the
route open. All intermediate halting places have the same kind
of facilities as are provided at Pahalgam, and a
is appointed to conduct the pilgrimage.