Amarnath Yatra (Jammu and Kashmir)

Situated some 16000 ft high from Sea level in Himalayas is the Holy Cave of Amarnath sprawling some 60 feet of length, 25-30 feet of width and 15 ft. of height, is the natural formation of awe inspiring Ice Linga of Maha Deva. The general feeling that the Ice formation which would commence from Amavasya the Moon fall day of a month, grows by days till Pournami the full Moon day and completely gets dissolved there after but eye witnesses challenged this that the Linga totally disappears. The cave becomes inaccessible during extreme winters but total extinction is stated not to ever occur.

The land routes to the Holy Cave are either through Baltal or Chandanwadi. Through Baltal the way from Shrinagar to Baltal covering 115 km within 3-4 days viz Sonamarg and from Baltal trekking of about 14 km involving about 12-14 hours. The alternate route is from Srinagar to Pahalgam of about 96 km on the banks of Lidder River covered by road transport. Normally Yatris who intend trekking from Pahalgam could stay overnight at Jammu/Srinagar. From Pahalgam by trekking or mini bus available upto Chandanwadi, or horse back or human carriers called ‘pittus’etc, the route is of some 16 km.There has to be an overnight halt. At Chandanwadi is a Shakti Peetha being one the 51 body parts or ornaments of where Sati Devi’s self-immolated body at Daksha Yagna; as Maha Deva got furious at the incident created Veerabhadra who was asked to destroy Daksha Yagna and soon followed to the Place and picked up the body of Sati Devi performing Shiva Tandava in frenzy and Vishnu sensing trouble of Maha Pralaya commisioned Sudarshana Chakra to slice off the body of Devi to small parts that numbered over fifty one; the throat of Devi was thrown off at Chandanwadi and is now famed at the Maha Maya Shaki Mandir and the Bhairava Swarupa of Maha Deva is famed as Trisandheshwara at that Mandir. The further route to Amarnatha Linga is as follows: Pissu Top where Bholenath Shiva Mandir is visible and the legend states that Maha Deva killed so many Rakshasas as had formed a mountain with their bodies!-Sesha Naag is the next overnight stop over as this Mountain has seven Peaks resembling seven hoods of the Maha Sarpa Sesha Naag the Sacred bed of Maha Vishnu and the distance of the trekking involved is 12 km from Chandanwadi through Pissu Top to Seshanag; the flowers at Seshanag are of typical nature as the resemble serpents! The picturesque view on way to Seshanag with blue water flowing on the slopes of the Mountain tops is indeed so exhilerating as life time memories; even as the dusk of the day approaches camp fires invite the pilgrims as there is no electricity as moonshine envelops them through till the next day break. From Seshanag to Maghaguna Pass there would be steep climb of 14000 feet down to Panchatarani of about 12000 ft. descent to inviting green pastures but the dizziness of the mountain tops would normally affect even normally healthy persons due to vagaries of climate, lack of oxygen, skin cracks, stomach upsets, nausia, dizziness and as such one has to carry the required medicines and preventives. Panchatarani would be the next night halt before Maha Bhairavanath as Five Most Sacred Flows emerging from His Jatajoota or the coarse head hair clusters descend from the Holy Cave. The final trekking of some five km after a restful night is up towards the Holy Cave itself at the early morning purifying snaana / bathing at the Sangam of Panchatarani and Amaravati and commence the ascent of some 6 km till the steps of the Cave Mouth for the Life Achieving Darshan of Maha Bhairava Amarnath Ice Linga! On way one would have visioned two minor Lingas of Mother Parvati and Ganesha Bhagavan before one joins the Queue of Pilgrims. Incidentally, there are helicopter sorties available from Srinagar/ Baltal taking flat 5mts minus of course the waiting time of hours subject however the variations of clear skies!These sorties are normally available till noon time from early day- breaks. Normally no overnight stay is advised at Amarnath proper for fear of sudden change to ice cold rains and facilities to yatris overnight are few and far between, although ample free and tasty food is available from several munificent agencies!

There is a vivid and detailed description of Amarnath Yatra in the Bhrigu Samhita of Skanda Purana covering the Surya Kshetra of Anatanag Mountain up the ascent enroute to the views of Sarala Narayana Khilya Tirtha, Mamaka Linga and Gananaadha Kshetra, River Lambodari signifying the magnificence of Ganeshwara, Bhrigu Maharshi Tirtha, Nila Ganga Sthaana Ashrama, Pesha Mountain, Sesha Naga Parvata, Vayu Daitya Vibrajana Tirtha, Sushka Sarovara or the Dried up Pond once dominated by Raakshasas but since abandoned following humkara of Maha Deva to let pass the Yatris, River Pancha Tarangini emerging from Maha Deva’s Holy Feet, Damarika Shila Garbha Griha, Amara Ganga where Yatris perform holy bath where after finally climaxing the darshan of the mammoth and awe -inspiring Amarnatha Linga! The alternative approach to Amarnath is also available by Baltal up the Linga, where helicopter services are available too. Skanda Purana further describes the legend of some of the Damaruka Ganas turning into pigeons which are stated to fly aloft the Holy Cave, still visible to fortunate yatris blessed with the darshan of the Amarnath Linga. Disturbing the concentration of Maha Deva in performing his morning meditation, the Damaruka Ganas practising the damaru instruments were cursed to turn into pigeons but on getting merciful asked the concerned Ganas to discharge the duty of showering blessings to those fortunate yatris entering into the huge cave! Indeed those yatris who secure the Amarnatha Linga darshana would certainly have their sins dissolved attain Shiva Sayujya. Besides the Maha Linga, visitors are also blessed by the Idols of Devi Parvati and Maha Ganapati Deva. Inside the cave, one truly feels ecstatic and peacefully tranquil!

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at