If I were to paint the beauty of region around Amarnath Cave, I would certainly run out of words – Lofty peaks, snow covered glaciers, clear blue sky, cold gurgling streams, fresh breeze and green velvety landscape. The Holy cave is situated few kms away from Pahalgam in a secretive place of silence and harmony.
Amarnath cave finds its mention in Rajtarangini, an ancient scripture. In one of the scriptures it is mentioned that King Aryaraja (32 BCE) used to worship Lord shiva in this very cave.
According to Legend, in this very cave upon asked by Maa Parvati the secret of immortality, Lord Shiva shared his secret here. During the course of journey to the cave, he left Nandi at Pahalgam. He then released the moon from his hairs at Chandanwari. He released his snakes at Sheshnag. He left his son at Mahaganesh Top. He left behind the five elements which make a living being (earth, fire, water, air, sky). He then entered the cave along with Maa Parvati and took Samadhi on deer skin. In order to keep it secret he lit up fire all around cave and burnt everything down but couldn’t destroy an egg which was placed under deer skin. A pair of pigeon came out of that egg, which can be spotted in cave even now. Even I was lucky to spot one of those pigeon.
I along with 3 other friends Aditya, Sheetal and Anup decided to pay a visit to the Holy Cave in the month of July. Hence we made arrangements accordingly. But the first shock came when I came to know that my ticket to Jammu has not got confirmed. I boarded the train nevertheless and took a place in luggage van of the train. Till Ambala I was forced to travel in the luggage van. In Ambala we were thrown out of luggage van. I then decided to travel rest of my journey in sleeper class beside the door.
I reached Jammu the other day, where I met 2 other friends, Sheetal and Anup. We booked a taxi to Srinagar. Aditya met us in Srinagar. Once in Srinagar we were welcomed by curfew. We found difficulty in getting to Baltal base camp, but after sometime we found a jeep who was willing to take us to Baltal.
There are two ways to reach the cave. One is via Baltal which is shorter but has steep climb. Other route is Pahalgam, which is lengthy but less treacherous.
Sunset at Baltal was very scenic. There was a huge line of cars of pilgrims waiting to enter into the Base camp. After 2 hours of tortoise crawl inside the car we decided to walk on our foot for 2 km. Once inside the camp area we felt as if we were inside a crowded city centre. There were thousands of tents and thousands of people all walking towards those. There were hundreds of Langars for the pilgrims. Hats off to those who plan Langars in such places. We got ourselves a tent after dinner and retired for the day.
Next morning we got up early at 3 and prepared ourselves for the trek to the cave. With first light of the day we realized the beauty of place we were in. Baltal camp looked like a mesmeric beauty. Air was rich in fragrance. All my ears could hear was sweet sound of flowing stream of water. We spent our night beside that flowing water.
By 5 am we had hit the road to top. Like us there were thousands others waiting to climb to the top. There was a huge line of people on foot, in horses and in Palkis, all gearing to reach top.
Baltal route is very scenic in its own sense. High peaks, crafty terrains, glaciers, few trees here and there, rocks. I felt glad that still there are few places where nature exists in its raw form.
We reached Sangam top at around 11 am, where we met pilgrims coming from Pahalgam route. It felt as if two waves are going to merge. Chants of “Bum Bum Bhole…Om Namah Shivay..” was mystifying the whole space.
The first glimpse of the valley of Amarnath Caves felt my heart with a sense of achievement. ‘Wow’ my heart said and my camera couldn’t stop clicking the photos of the place. I felt as if I was part of history. Slowly we made our way towards the cave and by around 3 pm we finished our visit to the cave.
Once inside the cave, I felt a rush of excitement inside my head and my heart. My whole body wanted to jump in joy upon seeing the enigmatic and magical shiv lingam. It was right there in front of my eyes, the cave and the lingam for which people desire all their lives. I was right inside the cave where Lord Shiva had shared his secret of immortality with Maa Parvati. I could imagine my Lord sitting there on deer skin and sharing his secret. My eyes were scanning the topography of the cave. It was mysterious in its own ways. I spotted one of the pair of pigeon who had heard the secret of immortality from the mouth of Lord Shiva. I felt complete from within.
While Lord shiva was on right side of cave, Maa Parvati and Lord Ganesha was on left hand side of cave. I felt their presence with my own eyes. I stayed inside the cave for almost 5 minutes and asked myself “What if all this is true?”
We came out of the cave and had our lunch in one of the Langars. It was one of the sweetest curries I have ever had.
By this time we realized that we have lost track of one of our friends on the way. He took a horse ride to the top and we couldn’t meet each other. It added to our panic but we applied our mind and informed Army for announcement.
Hats off to Indian Army, we found our friend Anup in evening. This Yatra is made possible due to vigilant Army persons. It is their dedication to the job that we were able to finish this yatra.
We got ourselves a tent for the night and slept early as we had a long day tomorrow. We slept beside this melting river and on top of glaciers.
Next day we got up early again and hit the road to Pahalgam by 5 am. It is supposed to be 32 km walk by foot. Pilgrims generally come by this route; we decided to go by this route.
The first halt on this route was Panchtarni. Here Lord Shiva got rid of five elements. Panchtarni is a lovely place where glaciers were melting and forming rivers. Water was so fresh and clear in its outlook that we felt a new energy.
Our next halt was Poshpatri. By now we were totally walking on glaciers. Landscape all around was full of life. All my eyes could spot was limitless stretch of white snow and blue sky. Contrast was worth appreciation and it got its appreciation from every pilgrim. At Poshpatri I was amazed to see the size of Langar. It looked like a food court arrangement of a mall where people would pay to taste the flavor. Here it was all free. I thanked god and mankind for this arrangement. I realized that still mankind has some sense of compassion for others. We still care for others.
We continued our journey from here to next halt which was Mahaganesh Top. It is the highest point in whole journey. Journey from here was rather flatter and we were running short of time and hence we decided to run. Within no time we were at Sheshnag Lake.
Sheshnag Lake is really a divine Lake. Its green water gave me a fearless look of calmness. Glaciers all around the lake were continuously adding water to its reservoir, still there was no movement on its surface. We sat there for some time and watched the serenity of the lake. Camp at Sheshnag is a big establishment. As we reached Sheshnag camp we saw many people reaching the camp from other side.
We four were the only ones going down via this route, rest everyone were climbing up from this side.
We increased our speed from this point and reached our next halt Pissu Top within no time. I sacrificed some of the photographic spots too.
We reaches Chandanwari base camp at 8 pm. So within a day we had walked almost 35 km on foot and walked continuously for almost 13 hours. But at the end of it all it felt as if we had achieved something. We felt great that we had completed a journey which was worth walking. Journey to Amarnath is truly once in a lifetime experience.
I would suggest everyone to undertake this journey once in their lifetime and if possible try doing it on foot. Our feet were dead as we had almost walked 50 km in 2 days but still given a chance we would like to go back the next day.
That night we spent in the base camp of Pahalgam. Base camp of Pahalgam looked like a society in itself. Tents at reasonable price were available there. Many devotees had organized Langars in huge numbers. Next morning we got up late and started our journey back to Jammu.
Amarnath was one of the most incredible journey I have undertaken so far.
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