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Pilgrimage Destination-Shri Amar Nath Yatra
   By V. K. Nakhasi

Every year pilgrimage to Holy Cave Shrine of Shri Amar Nath in South Kashmir (Jammu & Kashmir) area takes place. Pilgrims from various corners of the country even outside country do take opportunity to visit the Shri Amar Nath Shrine to pay their obeisance. Generally the pilgrimage to the Holy Cave begins during June, which lasts up to the day of Raksha Bandan which falls on Shravna Purnima and on this very Holy occasion the pilgrimage actually concludes.

Shri Amarnathji  Ice Lingam.
Shri Amarnath - The Cave Shrine of Lord Shiva.

Holy Cave of Shri Amar Nath actually stands situated at the top of the hill in South Kashmir area. The Cave is at the height of 13500 feet from the sea surface level. The path leading to the Cave is a high & tough terrain. One generally feels not only tiresome but cumbersome also to reach the Holy Cave. During earlier time, the path leading to the Holy Cave used to be quiet tough, as a result of which, the people would face various types of hardships in reaching the Cave. But today the situation is quiet contrary; there is every transportation facility available up to Chandanwadi which is a place wherefrom the pilgrims start their pilgrimage to reach the Cave. Chandanwadi (Kashmir) is a village which actually falls on the outskirts of Pehalgam (Kashmir) & is about 12 Kms away from township of Pehalgam. Pehalgam town happens to be the base camp of pilgrims. The yatries are required to get themselves registered quiet in advance as the schedule for pilgrimage also gets announced in advance which enables the pilgrims to follow necessary registration rules. In Jammu, the initial base camp happens to be at a place known as “Bhagwati Nagar”, which is quiet near to the Temple City of Jammu (Jammu & Kashmir). The Government makes all arrangements in advance. Earlier, especially before the eruption of militancy in Kashmir, the yatries used to come to Srinagar or Anantnag straightway for undertaking pilgrimage up to the Cave. But for the last about more than two decades, the yatries need to take pilgrimage from the initial base camp at Bhagwati Nagar, Jammu after proper registration. Since last one decade spurt in number of tourists have been witnessed which prompted the need for registration of tourist which has been prerequisite and since then pilgrims are being received in this registration centre at Jammu.

  Chandanwari the base camp for Shri Amarnath Yatra  
Chandanwari - the base camp for Shri Amarnath Yatra

At present, Shri Amar Nath Shrine Board (SASB) stands constituted and the arrangements are being formulated and supervised by the Shrine Board itself. The Governor of Jammu & Kashmir State happens to be the Chairman of the SASB. The Board draws up comprehensive plans relating to the yatra before the commencement of the yatra. These plans include complete schedule of the yatra, identification of halting places for pilgrims, places for lungers where pilgrims can take rest and can have lunch/dinner/breakfast etc free of cost during yatra. People from outside as well as from inside State do install free lungers and serve Yatries by providing them food, snacks, tea etc. Yatries do not face any problem on account of such facilities as the same are adequately made available to them en-route. The similar arrangements become visible at another alternate route known as “Baltal”, Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir), wherefrom 40% pilgrims take chance of visiting the holy cave. But this very route which is passing through the path of the hillock leading to the Cave and also happens to be little bit tougher than the normal route which is via Pehalgam. The only advantage of adopting “Baltal” route is that Yatries are able to undertake Yatra only in one complete day i.e. 12 hours while the route leading via Pehalgam-Chandiwadi, Kashmir (Jammu & Kashmir) takes at least three to four day to reach the Holy cave for Darshan. The SASB do not lag behind in making proper arrangements for the pilgrims who wish to undertake the yatra through “Baltal” route. At present, the Board has also kept the provision for choppers which remain available for Yatries at both the base camps i.e. at “Pehalgam” & “Baltal”, and this facility is extended only up to Panjtarni helipad, (Kashmir) and Yatries are supposed to move on foot or can hire ponies from Panjtarni to undertake further journey of about 4/5 Kms up to the Cave.

Baltal  the base camp for Shri Amarnath Yatra  
View of Baltal Camp for Shri Amarnath Yatra

This year it has been decided to start the yatra on June 29, 2011 and conclude on August 13, 2011 on the day of Raksha Bandhan, which has been decided by the SASB (Shri Amar Nath Shrine Board). The yatra is one of the means to give economic boosting benefits to local businessmen. Similarly, the tour and travel operators, hoteliers also get benefited though the yatra. Apart from, the locals also do come forward to render their good services to the yatries as a goodwill gesture. During present day time, there is an utmost need for initiating such steps as could help create an atmosphere in the Kashmir Valley which would bring more & more Confidence Building Measures into force. The Confidence Building Measures could be ensured through mutual trust & proper exchange of goodwill gesture. In view of this, we the people of State are required to provide all facilities to the yatries so that they could carry an impressionable image about State. It is firmly believed that the youth of Kashmir would do everything possible to warmly and open heartedly welcome the yatries this year. In order to ensure that the Yatra gets passed off peacefully & incident free, the mischief mongers need to be constantly watched, so that they could be refrained from indulging in their misdemeanors. It would be biggest folly if the past two years experienced practice is repeated this year also. We have a goodtime ahead in the ensuing yatra days and tourist’s season to boost the economic condition of Taxi/Tour operators especially Shikara operators who have been seen to suffer economic depravation consistently for the last three years especially during full summer tourist seasons. Let us hope that no such situation is created in the valley which is bound to erupt any trouble leading to the loss to the income of the people of valley. The yatries need to be given impression that their Kashmiri Muslim bretheren are always there to take proper care of the former during yatra or ensuing tourist summer season. It is much essential to express over here that the origin of the Cave is stated to have been initially discovered & detected by a Kashmiri Muslim family hailing form South Kashmir area known as “Malik Dynasty”. It is said that a person from this dynasty had discovered route to the origin of the shrine. So how easy it is to believe and gauge the degree of traditional intimacy between various religious sentimentalities of the valley. Since the time immemorial when the yatra was started, Kashmiri have provided proper protocol to Holy mace en-route everywhere on its way to Holy Cave. This year also everybody wishes that more and more pilgrims from outside State & inside state may visit the Holy Shrine for which the Kashmiri hosts await the visit of the pilgrims eagerly.




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