Amarnath Temple is one of the holiest shrines of Lord Shiva. Known as the Baba Barfani, he resides in the cave amidst the majestic mountains of Jammu and Kashmir. Every year during the month of Shravan (July and August), devotees from all around the country undertake the Amarnath Yatra. In this post, we will be sharing with you our experience of our Amarnath Yatra Trek along with necessary information about the Amarnath Yatra route and details about registration.

It is not surprising that Lord Shiva chose to share the tale of immortality with Goddess Parvati at this place. The beauty of the place is fascinating and reaching there is arduous. What better place can it be to share a secret?

Amarnath Cave or the Holy Cave

The legend behind Amarnath Yatra – the belief

One fine day, Goddess Parvati asked Lord Shiva why he wears a garland of human heads. To this, the immortal God replied that every time she dies, he adds a head to his garland and it continues to increase. The Goddess now wanted to know the reason and secret of immortality (Amar Katha) from Lord Shiva. After all, she wants to be with him for the entirety.

Lord Shiva, was obviously reluctant to divulge the secret to Goddess Parvati. This was a secret of the universe, something that needs to be guarded voraciously. But Goddess Parvati was also determined to know the immortal secret, and the Lord had to give in to the wishes of his wife. Which husband who loves his wife dearly can ever keep a secret from her? Even the Gods are no exception!

So he chooses a safe place that is away from humanity and life.

On his way, he renounces all his worldly goods and companions one by one. He leaves his ride (Vahan) Nandi, the Bull at Pahalgam. At Chandanwari, he lets go of the crescent adorning his hair. At Lake Sheshnag, he removes the snake Vasuki from his neck, his son Sri Ganesh at Mahagunas top. And finally, he leaves all the five elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky) at Panchtarni, symbolizing his sacrifice of the material world to finally reach the secluded cave.

It is here at the cave where the lord narrated the story of immortality to his wife Goddess Parvati. But before that, he ensured that there are no living beings in the cave. Inspite of that, 2 white pigeons somehow managed to listen to the tale of immortality. It is said that even today those 2 pigeons are seen on top of the Holy cave.

The cave where Lord Shiva narrated the secret of immortality to Parvati is considered holy by the Hindus and thousands of pilgrims visit this place every year.

A Sadhu meditating - Legend of Amarnath Yatra

Amarnath Yatra – a journey of faith

A visit to the Amarnath Temple is a journey of faith for many. Inside the holy Amarnath Cave, an ice-lingam is formed naturally every year during this particular time between the months of July and August. Inside the cave, water drops trickles down from the top and freezes into ice. It forms a solid base first and then the lingam is formed in a miraculously. Reaching the cave is not an easy task just like many other pilgrimages in India. The Lord definitely wants to test his devotees before they reach him.

amarnath yatra route

Amarnath Yatra Trek Route

We had always heard about the beauty of Amarnath Yatra trek. We are not religious per se, but we believe in the spirituality of nature. It is not a mere coincidence that most of the pilgrimages are located in close consonance with nature. We decided to go for Amarnath Yatra trek to experience this spirituality of nature.

We decided to trek the entire route starting from Chandanwari to Amarnath Cave and back by the Baltal route. You will also get ponies and palanquins that will take you to Amarnath.

Amarnath Yatra Map

Day 1: Reaching Pahalgam: Jammu – Pahalgam (315 km)

Lidder River at Chandanwari

We reached Jammu on a fine morning. We met a number of Yatris on the Jammu Railway station itself. We came to know that there are bus services available for the Yatris at the Tourist Reception Centre, J & K Govt., Raghunath Bazaar. We hurried there only to know that the last bus taking the Yatris have left for the day. These buses start quite early in the morning.

We did not want to wait for a day at Jammu and so hired a taxi to Pahalgam. This journey too was full of surprises. We got stuck in a riot and curfew near Ramban in Jammu! In this critical moment, we also learnt how humanity is above all religion.

We decided to take the Amarnath Yatra by the Pahalgam route, starting from Chandanwari and all the way up to the Holy Cave. The distance covered from Chandanwari to the Amarnath Gufa (cave) is around 36 km. But as you know, in the mountains distances are always deceptive.

Lidder River near Pahalgam

Day 2: Pahalgam – Chandanwari (by trekker, 16 km) – Pissu Top – Seshnag (trek, 14 km)

Pahalgam, the starting point of the Amarnath Yatra was full of people. The morning greeted us with the gurgling sound of the Lidder River and a clear blue sky. Pahalgam was busy with hundreds of people waiting to start for the Yatra. Like others, we took a trekker to Chandanwari, from where the Yatra begins.

Chandanwari provided a totally chaotic picture with thousands of people gearing to start the Yatra. For some of them, it was a dream coming true. The devotees of Lord Shiva started the yatra with hope in their hearts and gleam in their eyes. And then there were horses around with their owners urging us to hire the horses for the journey to the cave

As we reached the starting point, there were Bhandaras or langars or community kitchens which provided food to the yatris for free. Throughout the trek, we did not have to think about our stomach urges. Whenever we were hungry, there seemed to be a Bhandara nearby with such a variety of food that could even put some restaurants to shame! Vegetarian items like rice, roti, curries, idli, dosas and even chowmein were available. And while we were leaving the Bhandaras after filling our empty stomach, dry fruits and chocolates were given in our hands for the way

Bhandara on the Amarnath Yatra trek route

The trek started from Chandanwari with the Lidder river beside us. The first 5 kilometres of the trek was strenuous. It was a steep climb up to Pissu top.

But once we reached Pissu top, all our tiredness simply vanished. Beautiful, mesmerizing are understatements to describe the landscape. In between, the trek was relatively easier with some flat walks and meadows. Seshnag greeted us with a beautiful emerald green lake. There were camps nearby where we halted for the night.

The emerald green Seshnag Lake on Amarnath Yatra Route

Seshnag Lake

Day 3: Seshnag – Mahagunas Top – Panchtarni – Sangam – Holy Cave (~20 km)

The next day greeted us with snow on the Seshnag mountains. Full of energy, we started for the day’s trek. On this day, we had to cross the Mahagunas Pass at 14500 ft.

As we gained height, the greenery of the previous day gradually diminished and the landscape became barren and brown and lifeless. After a steep climb to Mahagunas Pass, there was descent and a walk through the meadows. After a trek of 5 km, we were greeted with the sight of colourful tents of Panchtarni campsite.

Mahagunas Top

Panchtarni is the confluence of 5 rivers surrounded by the mountains. The serenity of the place is such that even amidst so many people, we felt calm. We decided against staying at Panchtarni and forwarded towards the cave. Panchtarni to the holy cave is another 6 km. The first km was a rocky trail followed by a steep climb of 2 km and then level walks once we reached Sangam. We reached the Amarnath campsite at around 5 pm.

Panchatarni

towrads the Sangam at Amarnath Trek Route

Day 4: Amarnath Darshan, then Amarnath – Baltal (14 km)

The way to the cave was through a climb of stairs. Photography was not permitted inside the cave. We went inside the cave and had a glimpse at the legendary Shivling, an ice stalactite grown naturally every year at that time.

We returned through the shorter route via Baltal. It is a 14 Km trek downhill and can be covered in a day. We trekked down taking stops at various places. Bhandaras were there all through the way, so we were never left hungry. Though the landscape of this route is also quite beautiful, it falls short off the route through Chandanwari.

So while going to the cave, we would suggest taking the Chandanwari route, the path taken by the Shiva and Parvati. In this way, you will be able to understand the legend of Amarnath Cave as well as assimilate beauty of the route.

Baltal camps

camps at Baltal

Life at the Amarnath Gufa (Cave) or the Holy Cave

The place near the Amarnath Cave was a colourful riot with shops, tents and bhandaras all around. These shops were temporary and were built on a thick layer of ice. The locals have set up shops where you can find delicacies of Kashmir like saffron, almonds and apricots. There were Sadhus all around telling stories about anything and everything. The place looked no less than a local bazaar.

There were many makeshift tents for sleeping at night. We stayed in one such tent. There were some community bathrooms too. Where you can have a bath. Hot water was available for a charge.

Shops and temporary tents near Amarnath Cave

Amarnath Yatra – where religion is secondary

Doing the Amarnath Yatra trek was definitely a wonderful experience. The scenic beauty of the place no doubt enthralled us, but in this trek, we met different people who made a lasting impression on us. It is here we understood that people matter a lot! People make places much better.

There were people of different ages and backgrounds. There were first-timers as well as people who come back to do this Yatra every year. There were aged people and even handicapped people. They were full of hope and enthusiasm doing the Yatra to seek blessings from God. They completed the Yatra just on the strength of their faith. There were on the true pilgrimage.

We met a family who comes to Amarnath Yatra every year. They had brought their 5-year-old daughter (during that time, people of all ages were allowed) to the trek and the little girl had trekked all the way up! There were people who chose horses and palanquins for their visit to the cave and some others who would do the entire Yatra barefooted.

pilgrims on horses

Finally, there are the locals who help the Yatris in every way possible. Religion never comes in between during the Amarnath yatra. The Muslims provide shelter to the Hindu pilgrims during the Yatra. We also came across a Christian couple doing the Amarnath Yatra trek.

A true picture of communal harmony! The pilgrims could never complete their journey without the help of the locals. They were the most helpful and smiling people we met.

The Supreme power welcomes all with open hearts. It is only we human beings have created barriers among ourselves in the name of religion, caste and creed.

enjoying hookah with the locals

faces of Amarnath

Amarnath Yatra Route

There are two routes for doing the Yatra.

Chandanwari route: Chandanwari – Pissu Top – Sesh Nag – Mahagunas Pass – Panchtarni – Sangam Point – Amarnath Cave. This is the longer and famous route (45 Km) and usually takes 2 to 3 days.

Chandanwari is near Pahalgam which is connected by road from Jammu and Srinagar.

Baltal Route: Baltal – Sangam Point – Amarnath Cave. This is the shorter route (14 Km) and can be covered in a day.

Baltal can be reached by road from Srinagar.

on the way to see Baba Barfani at Amarnath Gufa

Amarnath Yatra by Helicopter

You can also do Amarnath Darshan by helicopter. The helicopter leaves from Neelgrath and will drop you at Panchtari. The remaining path you have to complete by foot, horses or palanquin.

Return ticket from Neelgrath – Panchtarni – Neelgrath will cost Rs. 3608/-. One way ticket from Neelgrath to Panchtarni or vice versa cost Rs. 1804/- one way.

view of the river and helicopter ride at Amarnath

How to reach Pahalgam?

To reach Pahalgam, you have to reach Jammu first. You can fly in to Jammu Airport.

The nearest railway station is also Jammu. It is well connected with Delhi and other metro cities of India by trains. Jammu Rajdhani, Samparkranti Express, Garib Rath and many other trains are available from Delhi.

Once you reach Jammu, you can avail bus services to Pahalgam. Bus services available for the Yatris at the Tourist Reception Centre, J & K Govt., Raghunath Bazaar.

How to reach Baltal?

To reach Baltal, you have to reach Jammu again. From Jammu, you will get buses to Baltal.

on the way towards Pahalgam

Amarnath Yatra Preparation

The Amarnath Cave is located over an altitude of 13500 feet where climatic conditions might not be very favourable. Yatris might have breathing problems, nausea, headaches and dizziness on the way. There are medical camps by Indian Army at all the major stops where you can get help and attendance, but it is always better to get yourself prepared for the yatra.

From 2014 onwards, Amarnath Yatris had to undergo compulsory medical examinations and obtain medical certificates from authorized medical centres. The list gets updated from time to time.

Amarnath Gufa seen at a distance along with the temporary tents

A few tips for doing the Amarnath Yatra trek

  1. Senior citizens above the 75 years and children below 13 years are not allowed to undertake Amarnath Yatra.
  2. Prepare adequately before the Yatra. Exercise and keep yourself fit. Even if you are not trekking, you need to keep fit as the climatic conditions are harsher in the mountains. Do regular exercise or walk briskly for at least half an hour from 3 months before the travel date.
  3. Do not worry about food and drink. You will get that in abundance at the Bhandaras.
  4. Respect the mountains. It is really fortunate to be amidst nature and see the Himalayas so close. Do not pollute the mountains by throwing trash and plastics.
  5. Follow the date and time given in the permit. Do not flout the rules in the mountains. The Indian Army works hard to ensure your safety in all conditions. They are there to help you in the entire Amarnath Yatra route. Do not give them reasons to complain.
  6. Carry warm clothes, mufflers and scarves and a handy towel.
  7. You may also carry a medical kit with you having useful medicines for headaches, pains, fever and stomach upset. There are medical camps at all the important places on the Amarnath route. You can get medicines there also.
  8. Carry your permit and an ID Card with you.
  9. Don’t forget your camera, mobiles and power banks.
  10. You can easily do the trek on your own. If you are not comfortable, there are Amarnath Yatra Packages available by different companies as well.

Indian Army camps at Amarnath

clouds covering the mountains in Jammu and Kashmir

Amarnath Yatra 2019 Updates

 Dates

In 2019, Amarnath Yatra will start from 1st July 2019 and shall conclude on 15th August 2019. This year only 7500 pilgrims will be allowed to do the Yatra.

How to Register for the Yatra – Amarnath Yatra Registration procedure

You have to compulsorily register in advance if you want to go for Amarnath Yatra. Follow and remember the following procedures for Amarnath Yatra Registration.

  1. The Registration of Amarnath Yatris are done by designated bank branches on a prescribed date.
  2. The Registration and issue of the Yatri Permit is done of first come first serve basis.
  3. Each designated bank branch has been allotted a fixed per day/per route quota for registering the yatris.
  4. You have to know from which route you will start the trek – the Chandanwari route or the Baltal Route. Your permit will bear the name of the route you are going to take.
  5. One Yatra Permit is valid for only one person.
  6. You have to submit the application form in the prescribed format along with Compulsory Health Certificate (CHC) to obtain Yatra Permit. The application form for registration and Compulsory Health Certificate are available online. The list of authorised institutions for obtaining the Compulsory Medical Certificate is also available online and is constantly updated.

Amarnath Cave or Gufa

What documents are needed to obtain the Yatra Permit?

To apply for the Yatri Permit, you have to submit the following documents to the Registration Officer:

  • Filled in application form
  • Prescribed Compulsory Health Certificate (CHC) to obtain Yatra Permit issued on or after the specified date by the authorized Medical Institution.
  • 4 passport size photographs

The Registration Officer issues permit for both Pahalgam and Baltal route along with the date when the Yatri will be allowed to cross the gates.

horses in Amarnath Yatra

Pony Charges on the Amarnath Yatra route – 2019

Chandanwari to Pissu top 1300
Pissutop to Chandanwari 1100
Chandanwari to Sheshnag 1700
Sheshnag to Chandanwari 1400
Chandanwari to M.G.Top 2100
M.G.Top to Chandanwari 1600
Chandanwari to Panjtarni 2400
Panjtarni to Chandanwari 2100
Panjtarni to Holy Cave 1300
Holy Cave to Panjtarni 1300
Chandanwari to Holy Cave 3500
Holy Cave to Chandanwari 3000
Chandanwari to Holy Cave & Back 6000
Panjtarni to Holy Cave & Back 2500
Baltal to Sangam ( one side) 1950
Baltal to Panjtarani ( one side) 2300

Cost of Dandies (carried by 6 carriers)

Chandanwari to Holy Cave and back 24000
Chandanwari to Holy Cave (one way) 15000
Holy Cave to Chandanwari 14000
Panjtarni to Holy Cave 2800
Holy Cave to Panjtarni 2600
Baltal to Holy Cave & Back 15000
Baltal to Holy Cave ( one side) 9000
Holy Cave to Baltal ( one side) 4700

A few more pictures of Amarnath Yatra Trek route

view from Pissu Top

snow patched mountains on Baltal route

flowers in valley

camps seen at a distance

wild horse standing on the mountain

starting from Chandanwari

sangam point

Mahagunas Top

Lidder River and pilgrims on the way to Amarnath Darshan

horses grazing on field at Kashmir

Flowers in valley

clouds covering the mountains at the Holy Cave

crossing the river on the Amarnath yatra route

Amarnath yatra trek route

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