Amarnath Yatra: Mufti plays spoil sport!
Every year in the
month of Shravan (July-Au-gust), thousands of people from all
corners of the country converge into the beautiful Lidder Valley of
Pahalgam, in Kashmir. The event is the annual pilgrimage to the holy
cave of Amarnath but for the last few years, the pilgrimage has been
under threat from militants operating in the Kashmir Valley.
One of the holy trinity, Shiva is a living God. The most sacred and
most ancient book of India, the Rig Veda evokes his presence in its
hymns. Vedic myths, rituals and even astronomy testify to his
existence from the dawn of time. But Shiva, the destroyer, the
mendicant, is undefinable: he is a great yogi, the guardian of the
absolute. His actions constitute the themes of the myths in which
his nature unfolds.
The sacred day for darshan falls on Shravan Purnima (the night of
full moon). The day is also celebrated as Raksha Bandhan. One of the
special features of the night is that the self-formed snow lingam of
Lord Shiva waxes and wanes with the moon.
This year´s Amarnath yatra will commence from Jammu on July 29, 2004
and the first darshan at the holy cave will be on August 1. The
first batch of yatris will arrive at Pahalgam on July 29 itself.
Thereafter, they will be allowed to proceed towards the holy shrine
on July 30 and after halt enroute, they will have the first darshan
on August 1. The last darshan will be on August 31, 2004.
Due to the limited holding capacity at Pahalgam and Baltal, it was
decided that only 3,500 yatris would be allowed to proceed for
darshan daily as heretofore. Of this, 2,700 would travel from
Pahalgam and 800 from the Baltal side.
An attempt is on to limit
the number of yatris in the name of terrorists.
The meeting also took some important
decisions to regulate the rush of yatris to avoid creating confusion
and also avoid exposure of the yatris to the vagaries of the
weather. The registration of yatris would be compulsory and done
only through various branches of Jammu and Kashmir Bank. While 80
per cent registration would be made in the conventional manner, 20
per cent would be done through the internet on an experimental
basis. The internet registration would be available by accessing the
Website of the said bank.
The J&K Bank was asked to take nacessary steps in consultation with
the SASB for developing software for registration through the
internet, subject to the allotted quota for a particular state.
Registration through internet would be regulated and once the 20 per
cent quota gets exhausted, the system would entertain no further
Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation
in a cave in Amarnath. Unknown, a pair of mating doves eavesdropped
on this conversation and having learned the secret, took rebirth
again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode. Many
pilgrims report seeing the dove-pair when they trek the arduous
route to pay obeisance before the ice-linga (the phallic symbol of
Another legend has it that a Muslim shepherd, Buta Malik who was
given a sackful of coal by a sadhu discovered upon reaching home
that the sack, in fact, contained gold. He rushed back to look for
the sadhu but on that spot he found a cave. Eventually this cave
became a place of pilgrimage for all the believers.
The trek to Amarnath, in the month of Shravan (July-August) has the
devout flock to this incrediable shrine, where the image of Shiva,
in the form of linga, is formed naturally of an ice-stalagmite. By
its side are two more ice-lingams, that of Parvati, and of their son
Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley,
Amarnath stands at 3,888 metres and and is 46 km from Pahalgam and
141 km from Srinagar. Though the original pilgrimages subscribe that
the yatra should be undertaken from Srinagar, the more common
practice is to begin the journey at Chandanwari, and cover the
distance to Amarnath and back in five days. Pahalgam is 96 km from
The trek from Chandanwari to Amarnath cave is on an ancient
peregrine route. The 30 km distance is covered in two days, with
night halts at Sheshnag (Wawjan) and Panchtarni. The distance from
Pahalgam to Chandanwari (16 km) can now be covered by vehicular
transport, and the trail runs along the Lidder river. Pilgrims camp
at Pahalgam or Chandanwari on the first night out.
The first day´s trek of 12 km from Chandanwari is through
spectacular, primeval country-side, and the main centre of
attraction is Sheshnag, a mountain which derives its name from its
seven peaks, resembling the head of a mythical snake. The journey to
Sheshnag follows steep inclines up the right bank of a cascading
stream and wild scenery untouched by civilisa-tion. The second
night´s camp at Wawjan overlooks the deep blue waters of Sheshnag
Lake and glaciers beyond it. There are legends of love and revenge
too associated with Sheshnag, and at the camp these are recounted
around the camp-fires, to the stillness of a pine-scented, Himalayan
The second day´s 12 km trek steadily gains height, winds up across
Mahagunas Pass at 4,600 metres and then descends to the meadowlands
of Panchtarni, the last camp enroute to the holy cave.
From Panchtarni to Amarnath the distance is only 6 km. But an early
morning´s start is recommended for there is a long queue awaiting
entry to the cave. The same day, following the darshan, devotees can
return to Panchtarni. They can also spend the night at Panchatarni
itself before returning to Chandanwari or Pahalgam for the onward
journey. Entrance to the cave is regulated, and darshan is a hasty
affair for there are many others waiting outside to pay obeisance
before the awesome Shiva-linga. The devotees sing bhajans, chant
incantations, and priests perform aarti and pooja, invoking the
blessings of Shiva the Divine, the pure, the absolute. For those who
journey with faith, it is a rewarding experience to this
cave-shrine, the home of the Himalayan mendicant who is both a
destroyer and healer, the greatest of the Hindu gods.
By arrangement with the Weekly Organiser.