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Name of The Destination
Jammu & Kashmir, North India [GMT+5:30 ]

Location
At a height of 3,888 m at the farther end of Lidder Valley

Amarnath Yatra

Best time to visit (High & peak months):
Open only during the month of sharavan (July and August); the dates however, vary every year as per the weather conditions and according to Purnima (full moon day) in the month of Sharavan.

Experiences
Height of devotion and pristine natural beauty

No. of days required for the yatra
Varies as per the mode of travel and the trek route taken from 1 (by helicopter) to 4-5 (trekking all the way)

Essentials to be carried along
Sleeping bags, Sun blocks, moisturizer, heavy woolens, gloves, monkey cap, rain gear, water proof shoes, walking stick , dry fruits, some sour and sweet eatable, torch and  personal medical kit

Climate 
Very unpredictable. Sunny weather may turn into rain / snow fall in no time. The temperature may fall upto -5 degree C.

Calling code of the area 
No network in the valley

Pre-requisites 
Pilgrims must have a sound health and must get a registration card. The registration is done by J &K Govt. Tourist Offices, located at Delhi , Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Jammu and Srinagar.


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Amarnath Yatra

Ashoka HolidaysThis is one of the most onerous but very thrilling and exciting pilgrimages in India that is popular with the Shiva devotees. Perched at a height of 3,888 m at the farther end of Lidder Valley in the beautiful state of Jammu and Kashmir, there is a cave (150 ft high and 90 ft long) that Lord Shiva chose to divulge the secret of immortality to his inquisitive consort Goddess Parvati. A secret, that was not to be heard by anyone else but for the goddess.

The yatra is well regulated. There are army posts at regular intervals. The army personnel keep a check so that the travelers do not stray. For accommodation there are tents on the way, like at Baltal, Sheshnag (Wawjan), Panchtarni and at the cave itself that can be obtained on payment of nominal charges. They have mattresses, quilts, pillows and Kerosene lanterns. A tent accommodates around 10-12 persons. There are a handful of makeshift toilets on one side. Numerous langars (free kitchen services) are established all along to provide free food to all the devotees. Sufficiently equipped medical camps are also set up to help the needy. 

The Legend

Legend has it that once Parvati asked lord Shiva as to why he wears a mundmala (garland of heads) round his neck. Shiva replied that, these heads symbolize her death and reincarnation and every time she died he added a new head to his garland. On this when Parvati inquired the reason for her reincarnations and the immortality of Shiva, the lord decided to narrate the amar katha (tale of immortality) to her.

As the tale was not to be heard by anyone else, Bholenath left his vahan (vehicle) Nandi bull at Pahalgam, his moon at Chandanwari, his serpent at Sheshnag, his son Lord Ganesh at Mahugunas, and the five elements namely earth, water, fire, air & sky (of which the human body is comprised of) at Panchtarni. He ordered the fire god to destroy everything in and around the cave so that even a trace of life was not left there. While the story was still incomplete, goddess Parvati unfortunately dozed off and missed the secret of immortality. It was, however, heard by a pair of pigeons who escaped fury of fire as they were inside an egg shell that hid beneath the tiger hide on which Lord Shiva himself was sitting. Consequently, they became immortal and can be spotted even to this day inside the cave.

Discovery of Cave

For the mortals like us, the cave was discovered by a shepherd called Buta Malik. Once when Buta Malik was grazing his sheep a sage gave a bag full of coal at this place. On reaching home, to his surprise, he found the bag was full of gold. Overwhelmed Buta Malik rushed back to the cave to express his gratitude to the sage, but was awestruck to find only an ice lingam inside the cave. From that day onwards began a tradition of going on pilgrimage to this holy site. The descendents of Buta Malik are even today given a definite share from the offerings to Lord Amarnath.
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Getting there 

AirRailRoad
The nearest airport is at Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. There are regular flights to and from Delhi, Mumbai and Jammu. Widely known as the ‘Paradise on Earth’, Srinagar itself is a very popular tourist destination.
The nearest rail head is at Jammu, the winter capital of India. It is well connected to all major cities of the country.The trek to the cave begins either from Chandanwari or Baltal. Both these are well connected by road. Chandanwari is 16 km from Pahalgam, which in turn is 96 km from Srinagar and 315 km from Jammu. The distance between Baltal and Srinagar via Sonmarg is 115 km.

 
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Approach to the cave 

 Devotees can reach the holy cave either by trekking or on ponies or in helicopters.

1. Helicopter service : Helicopter services are available from Srinagar and also from Baltal. The flying time from Srinagar to Baltal is around 45 minutes and from Baltal to the Holy Cave is around 10 minutes. Flights start at 6.30 a.m. and continue through the day subject to weather conditions. The reporting time is 1 hr prior to the time of departure. The helicopters drop the pilgrims near the cave. They just have to climb a few stairs to the cave for the glimpse of the pious lingam.


2. Trekking : The cave can be approached from two sides – either from Baltal or from Chandanwari.

Chandanwari -Pissu Top (3 km)-Seshnag (9 km)-Panchtarni (12 km)-Amarnath Cave (6 km)

This is a longer route but is considered more sacred as it is through this route that Chhari Mubarak, the holy mace of Lord Shiva, reaches the cave shrine. Night-stay facilities are only available at Pahalgam, Seshnag, Panchtarni and the holy cave (though most yatris on this route return to Panchtarni on the day of the darshan itself).

Baltal-Domail (2 km)-Burari Marg (5 km)-Sangam Ghati (4 km)-Amarnath Cave (3 km)

This route is shorter but then it is steeper and is more prone to landslides. Accommodation tents are available only at  Baltal and the cave. So, the entire stretch has to be covered in a single day.

Going to the cave from the side of Chandanwari and returning back to Baltal is a good idea as one can easily climb down to Baltal in 4-5 hours (subject to weather conditions).

Pony and Dandies (palki) Service : Ponies or dandies can be hired from any of the night halt camp areas on the way. Many people prefer to trek for some distance and then hire a pony when they get tired. Ponies and dandies usually take the same route as of the trekkers for most part of the journey.


 
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