Journey to Amarnath Cave for darshanis considered to be the most holy pilgrimage for Hindus in Kashmir valley. Amarnath pilgrimage is organised annually in Kashmir during the months of May and June. Amarnath cave is located on the Amarnath Mountain at a distance of around 145 km east of Srinagar. The cave is visited by the Hindu devotees to pay homage to the Ice Shiv lingam that is formed automatically during the winters. The ice lingam is shaped like the deity of Shiva. Lord Shiva is considered as one of the major gods of Hindu religion. People from all parts of India travel to Kashmir and undergo all kinds of troubles of the journey to pay homage to their great lord. However, Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) has become equally popular among the tourists and the local population who also visit the cave frequently.
The ice lingam changes size according to the seasons and according to the moon. On a full moon night, the lingam is as high as 6 feet. It is believed that Lord Shiva first appeared in the cave on the full moon day and thus every year on this day in July and August is held a festival in the cave temple.
The cave in itself is about 150 feet high and 90 feet long. In the cave four to five ice lingams are formed that resemble figures of different gods, the biggest being regarded as the figure of Lord Shiva. The other lingams formed include the figures of Ganesh, Parvati and Bhairva. Amarnath cave finds a mention in the Hindu scriptures as well. There is an interesting legend associated with the cave. The cave is believed to be found by a Gujjar, named Butta Malik, a Muslim. It is said that a saint had given him a bag of coal, which turned into gold as soon as he reached home. Jubilant, he went to thank the saint, but could not find him. Instead he found the cave there.
Amarnath Cave is open for the pilgrims during the months of July and August, and during the rest of the year, the area remains inaccessible due to snow. Each year around 25000 pilgrims visit the holy cave during the period. However, the two months witness frequent rainfall, so the pilgrims face difficulties and also the risk is high as the road is not well maintained and thus prone to slips.
Amarnath Yatra usually begins in June till August and during that time many areas like Sonamarg and Pahalgam are over-crowded with devotees. Amarnath is a must visit place for nature lovers as well. However the climatic conditions are uncertain and the route is not well developed. It is therefore recommended to strongly follow the travel advisory before adding for the place. Sufficient warm clothes should be carried. Medical assistance and ration is available en route.
Alternatively you can book a helicopter to the cave, which will save you all the time and energy of the journey.
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