Amarnath is a historic cave and holy Hindu shrine located in the Jammu and Kashmir region. It is one of the 18 shakti peethas that attracts lakhs of pilgrims every year during Shravani Mela in July-August (Shravan month in Hindu calendar - the only time in the whole year when the Amarnath cave is accessible). The cave lies at an altitude of 3,888 m about 141 km from Srinagar. The Amarnath shrine cannot be visited in other months of the year as the temperature drops down to as low as -7 degree Celsius. The highly sacred Amarnath Yatra in Kashmir that was scheduled to begin on Jun 23 (Skanda Shasti) will now commence on July 21 due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is scheduled to end on Aug 3. This year's annual Amarnath Yatra to the Himalayan cave shrine would be of 15 days. The 'Pratham Puja' for the Yatra was held in Jammu on June 5.
Discovery of Amarnath Cave
There are countless legends that are associated with the discovery of Amarnath cave. One of the popular legends associated is that Amarnath was discovered by Bhrigu Muni and he was the first to do the cave’s darshan, while others believe that it was the Gadaria community who first came to know about its presence. Another famous story is about Lord Shiva who chose this place to disclose his secret of immortality to Goddess Parvati.
How to reach Amarnath Yatra
There are two routes from where you can start the Amarnath Yatra but before that let’s see how to reach Amarnath Yatra base. One can reach Amarnath by air, train or road. The nearest airport is Sheikh ul-Alam International Airport also known as Srinagar Airport which is located 90 km away from Pahalgam. From there you can hire a cab that will take you directly to Pahalgam.
For train enthusiasts the nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi (JAT) that is located 254 km away from Pahalgam. There are no direct trains to Amarnath. You can take a train till Jammu. From the station you can hire a taxi to reach Pahalgam or Baltal directly. Check the list of trains that run from New Delhi to Jammu.
There are two routes to the shrine, one is known as the Pahalgam route and the other one is the shorter Baltal trek. The latter is about 14 km away from the base camp. The shorter trek via Baltal allows people to take a round trip in 1-2 days. Ponies are not allowed on this route due to safety reasons. One can either walk or can be carried on 'Dandies' (carried on a seat atop the shoulders of other people). Usually, this route is taken by the devotees while returning back from the shrine. Due to the coronavirus pandemic only the shorter Baltal route is operational for the Amarnath Yatra 2020. The longer route via Pahalgam is usually preferred by most of the devotees. It is much wider than the Baltal trek. The Pahalgam route takes around 3-5 days to complete the one-way trek. Aged, sick and people with a past history of illness are advised to take the Pahalgam yatra route.
Amarnath Yatra 2020 rules
The overall organization of the yatra is carried out by Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) that provides services like telecommunication, power supply, firewood etc. Due to the ongoing global health crisis certain rules for Amarnath Yatra 2020 have been modified. Except for the Sadhus, only pilgrims below 55 years of age would be permitted to undertake the yatra this year. It is compulsory for all the pilgrims to have a valid COVID-19 negative certificate. Thermal screening of the pilgrims would take place before entering the J&K border.
Devotees (except sadhus) who are willing to undertake the yatra need to register themselves online. The shrine board have also decided to do the live telecast of the aarti performed at the cave shrine for the entire duration of 15 days for the worshippers across the country. For the latest updates on Amarnath Yatra 2020 do visit the website Shri Amarnathji shrine board.
Deployment of Helicopters
Pilgrims can also opt for helicopter services from Baltal base camp in Ganderbal district to directly reach the cave shrine. Due to the non-availability of local labourers and difficulty in maintaining the track from the base camp to the shrine devotees can perform the yatra using the helicopter service. The Amarnath Yatra is not just a spiritual tour. The nearby places are equally breathtaking and serene. If you are planning to go for the Amarnath Yatra then don’t forget to visit the land of unimaginable beauty Srinagar, Gulmarg and Sonamarg.
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