Apart from adventures, Pahalgam is the starting point of the annual Amarnath yatra (holy journey) to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath, which is said to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Every year in the month of July/August, thousands of pilgrims descend on Pahalgam on their way to the holy cave to visit the massive ice 'Shiv-ling' which waxes and wanes with the phases of the moon.
The dates vary every year looking at the weather conditions and according to Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) in the month of Sharavan (Vikrama Samwat). The Yatra was from 01 August to 31 August in year 2004, for example and from 11the June 2006 onwards for two months.
"The Himalayan pilgrimages are the oldest organised travel system, evolved over time by Hindu sages and embodying the spirit of wander, adventure and spirituality"
Government of Jammu & Kashmir,Office of the Assistant Director Tourism, Pahalgam.
Subject:- Fixation of rates of Ponies/Labourers/Dandies/Tentage during the period of Shri Amaranth Ji Yatra,2006
As approved by the Deputy commissioner Anantnag (Yatra Officer) and recommended by the Additional Deputy Commissioner(J) Anantnag the rate structure for Ponies/Labourers/Dandies/ rentage etc for Shri Amaranth Ji Yatra,2006 shall be as under:-
I. Tented Accommodation: ( Private/JKTDC)
Type of Accommodation
a). Floor Accd.with one quilt Matress & Pillow or sleeping Bag with one blanket & pillow (per head per night
b). Floor Accd.with one quilt Matress & Pillow or sleeping Bag with one blanket & pillow (per head per night)
( Rs.500/- per head entire Yatra)
c). Accommodation with cot quilt Matress & pillow or sleeping Bag with one blanket & pillow (per head per night)
d). Accommodation with cot quilt Matress & pillow or sleeping Bag with one blanket & pillow (per head per night)
( Rs.700/- per head entire Yatra)
ll. Dandi/Labourer/Labour with Pithu. (Chandanwari to Holy Cave & back)
A. Dandi Rs. 10,000/- (with eight persons)
B. Labourer Rs. 1300/- (with maximum 20 kg of load)
C. Labour with pithu Rs. 1400/-
III. Riding/Pack ponies.f With max. load of 70 Kg for Riding pony & 60 Kg for Pack pony
a. Chandanwari to Pissu top & back Rs. 600/-
b. Chandanwari to Zojipal & back Rs. 650/-
c. Chandanwari to Sheshnag & back Rs. 1300/- d. Chandanwari to Mahaguns top & back Rs. 1500/-
e. Chandanwari to Poshpathri & back Rs. 1700/-
f. Chandanwari to Panchtarni & back Rs. 2100/-
g. Chandanwari to Holy Cave & back Rs. 2650/-
By order of Dy.Commissiotier,Anantnag.
Assistant Director Tourism, Pahalgam.
NO: ANY/06/ /Top, Dated:
Copy to the:-
1. Principal Secretary to Govt.Tourism Department for favour of information.
2. Deputy Commissioner ,Anantnag for favour of information.
3. Director Tourism,Kashmir with the request that the same may kindly be published in yatra printed material/local,Nalional News Papers and in Govt. Gazette.
Amarnath Yatra: Journey of faith
The Amarnath Yatra is among the oldest organised pilgrimages, evolved over time by sages and embody the spirit of travel, adventure and spirituality
Legend has it that Shiva recounted the secret of creation to Parvati in the Amarnath cave. Unknown to them, a pair of mating pigeons eavesdropped on this conversation.
Having learned the secret, the pigeons are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode.
Many pilgrims still report seeing pair of pigeons when they trek the arduous route to pay obesiance before the ice-lingam.
There are other ancient tales surrounding the mysterious caves. One story that symbolises the spirit of secularism in Kashmir is of a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik, who was given a sack of coal by a sadhu.
Upon reaching home, he discovered that the sack contained gold. Overjoyed, Buta Malik rushed back to look for the sadhu and thank him. But he discovered only a cave on the spot of their meeting. Eventually, the cave became a place of pilgrimage.
To date, a percentage of the donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendants of Malik, and the remaining to the trust which manages the shrine.
Another legend has it that when Kashap Reshi drained the Kashmir valley of water (it was believed to have been a vast lake), the cave and the lingam were discovered by Bregish Reshi who was travelling the Himalayas. When people heard of the lingam, Amarnath for them became Shiva's abode and a centre of pilgrimage.
Chandanwari at 2,895 m and 16 km (10 miles) from Pahalgam, is the starting point of the Amamath yatra. The road from Pahalgam to Chandanwari is curvy, sometimes a relatively flat terrain, with quite a few steep curves. It can be undertaken by car (not busses and trucks for most part) with some skilled driving. From Chandanwari onwards the track becomes much steeper, being accessible on foot or by pony only. 11 km from Chandanwari is the mountain lake of Sheshnag, after which, 13 km away is the last stop, Panchtarni. A narrow spiralling path from Panchtarni leads to the Amarnath Cave.
The State Government makes extensive arrangements every year for the successful completion of the pilgrimage, registering each one of the over one lakh pilgrims, registering pony owners and dandi walas, providing camps en route, and ensuring safe, comfortable and speedy progress of the yatris.
Since the base point for the pilgrim's trek is picturesque Pahalgam, a large tented township springs up to accommodate the pilgrims. The conduct of the yatra is a gigantic task in which the State Government takes the assistance of the security departments for providing security and helping to keep the route open. All intermediate halting places have the same kind of facilities as are provided at Pahalgam, and a Yatra Officer is appointed to conduct the pilgrimage.
For year 2004: As per reports, authorities plans to make drinking water, diesel generator sets, sufficient quantities of foodgrains and firewood available to the pilgrims. Medical camps would be set up at all stages of the yatra besides the mini-hospitals at Nunwan, Pahalgam and Baltal.
BSNL (India's National Telecom Firm) would install telephone booths at Pahalgam, Chandanwari, Sheshnag, Panchtarni, holy cave, Baltal Sonamarg and Manigam, while police telecommunication department would provide wireless facilities for coordination along the hill track.
The authorities said the ban on polythene bags, plastic crockery besides pitching plastic tents at all stages of the yatra would be implemented strictly to check pollution hazards.
If your visit to Pahalgam is not during the period of the yatra, you can still take a pony ride up to Sheshnag lake, returning late evening.
The following are designated Registration Officers for Amarnath Yatra Registration
1. Assistant Director-Tourism,J&K Govt.,New Delhi
(For residents of Delhi ,Rajsthan, UP, Uttaranchal and Harayana)
2. Asstt.Director Tourism , J&K Govt.,Channai
(For residents of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry)
3. Tourist Officer, J&K Govt., Mumbai
(For residents of Maharastra,MP, Chattisgarh and Goa)
4. Tourist Officer, J&K Govt., Kolkata
(For Residents of West Bengal, Orissa,Bihar, Jharkhand and North Eastern States)
6. Asstt. Tourist Officer, J&K Govt., Hyderabad
(For residents of A.P. and Karnataka)
7. Dy.Direator Tourism, J&K Govt., Jammu
(For residents of Jammu, Punjab, HP and Chandigarh)
All intending yatries should take special note of the following points
Insurance: In view of the hazardous nature of the yatra, all yatries are advised to insure themselves, preferably before departure from the home stations. However, arrangements for insurance will also be available at the two base-camps during the yatra period UP
Accommodation: in order to cater to the requirements of all yatries, rented accommodation with bedding facilities is being set up by the J&K Tourism and private parties during the yatra period for use on payment basis. Facilities for booking such accommodation at rates approved by the State Tourism Department will be available at the base-camps
Personal effects: Because of the weather conditions, which can be wet and cold during the yatra period, yatries are advised to carry rain coats, woolens, umbrellas, walking sticks, personal medical kits, etc. The details are given in the Yatra information Pamphlet
Langar Permission: All applications (with particular mention of sewadars for a particular period) for grant of permission to set up free langar(s) by NGOs should reach the office of the Director Tourism (Kashmir), Srinagar, Tel./Fax. 0194-2479548 on or before Due date. No application shall be entertained/accepted after the cut-off date
Amarnath Yatra Officer
The Deputy Commissioner (Distt. Magistrate), Anantnag is designated as Yatra Officer for the Holy Yatra. He is responsible for making the necessary arrangemnets for the Yatra and keep the Disaster Managemnet Plan ready in case of any eventuality. Yatra contacted on the below given address:
JAMMU, MARCH 31, 2005. The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has drawn up a project to set up over 1000 odour-free toilets along the Amarnath yatra route.
Last year, the month-long yatra attracted more than 2.5 lakh pilgrims.
Over the years there have been protests from environmental groups that the yatra caused pollution and disturbed the ecological balance at the foothills of the Himalayas.
Desirous of maintaining the eco-balance this year, the board has embarked upon a massive effort to create environment-friendly facilities en route the cave shrine.
The Board's Chief Executive Officer, Arun Kumar, said 461 prefab toilets had been set up last year. Now, it proposed to set up at least one toilet per 10 pilgrims. Adequate water supply was expected to ensure faster degradation of all waste into manure.
Allow board to manage Amarnath yatra, says body
Mandi Ahmedgarh, April 17, 2005
The Shri Amarnath Yatra Welfare Organisation has urged the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir to implement the decision of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court and lift all restrictions on pilgrims, thus permitting the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board to manage the affairs of the pilgrimage independently.
The organisation has also welcomed the Union Government’s decision to extend a substantial grant for providing facilities for the pilgrims.
Mr Rajinder Kumar Sharma, a resident of Maherna village and president of the national unit of the organisation, headquartered at Kalka Market, Hauz Qazi, Delhi, said the NGO had taken a serious view of the alleged negative role of the Jammu and Kashmir Government, discouraging the devotees from taking the pilgrimage.
In a communication to Mufti Mohammad Sayed, Mr Sharma reminded him of the promises made in the manifesto of his party regarding the safety of the pilgrims.
Referring to the orders passed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently, Mr Sharma said: “Now when the court has decided the case in favour of the shrine board, the state government should not interfere in registration, langar arrangements and the duration of the pilgrimage. It should only ensure the security of the pilgrims, as directed by the court.”
Recollecting the woes of the pilgrims the organisation has put on record that the period between 1990 and 1995 had proved bad for the devotees who dared to visit this state for paying obeisance at the Amarnath temple.
The organisation has further noticed that despite the efforts by the Governor of the state to undo the restrictions laid down on the shrine board, the government was unable to build confidence among the Hindus.
Besides hurting their sentiments, it has adversely affected the prospects of their rehabilitation in the state. The age-old tradition of Chhari Mubarak on the eve of Rakhsha Bandhan was also interrupted.
Appreciating the decision taken by the Union Government to promote pilgrimage, Mr Sharma claimed that Rs 20 crore had been approved for providing more facilities in the state.
Besides constructing road from Baltal to Sangam, the board proposes to run a rope way from later to the “gufa”, Mr Sharma said.
Weather disruptions: Landslides on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway triggered by torrential rains, and elsewhere on the route, can sometimes lead to temporary suspension of the pilgrimage.
The climatic conditions are very uncertain . Rain or snowfall may take place at any time or place during the Yatra . It is to be particularly noted that abrupt changes in temperature might occur . Sunny weather may turn into rain / snow fall in a short time . The temperature may fall upto -5 degree C .
Chhari Mubarak reaches the holy cave after a night halt at Panchtarni. It is led by Mahant Dipender Giri from Dashnami Akhara in Srinagar.
The central tourism ministry, as part of integrated development of the tourist circuit (2004), is giving money for construction of shelter sheds for yatris on the Amarnath yatra route from Chandanwari.
Gujaratis for Amarnath yatra: The three branches of the J and K Bank (the nodal agency) in Gujarat recorded a total of 10,120 registrations in 2003 as against 6,216 the previous year.
Amarnath Yatra: Ten tips for a smooth climb
Tips for Amarnath Yatris:
1. Ensure you are physically and mentally fit to perform the journey as the Yatra involves trekking at an altitude of 1,4000ft. Get yourself medically examined and certified fit for the journey.
At least a month before the Yatra, it is advisable to start preparatory exercises: Even a brisk walk of about 4 to 5 km per day would be beneficial. Breathing exercises like Pranayama would help combat the lack of sufficient oxygen at high altitudes.
2. Do carry heavy woollens, including thermal body warmers, wind cheaters, raincoats, sleeping bags, blankets, water-proof shoes with sufficient grips, small water proof tents, torch with sufficient batteries and walking sticks.
3. Keep a slip with your Name, Address and the name of accompanying yatri in your pocket
4. Women are advised to avoid sarees and opt for salwar kameez or trousers.
5. Carry water and dry eatables. Ration and firewood quota is available en route and can be purchased.
6.All medical facilities during Yatra are free. It is advisable to carry your own personal medical kit and First aid box.
7. Hire only a registered ponywalla or porter. Don't walk far away from ponies carrying luggage.
8. Move slowly and steadily, as this is an arduous pilgrimage and maintain discipline.
9. Alcohol is strictly prohibited
10. Don't relax at places where warning signs are fixed. Don't attempt short cuts on the route.
Sadhus: Pilgrims extraordinaire of the ardous Amarnath Yatra
SAMEER C MOHINDRU
Ash smeared, saffron clad and tousled haired sadhu's are participating in good numbers in one of the toughest of all pigrimages- Amarnath Yatra.
At a time when many pilgrim destinations are becoming vulnerable to consumerist culture, discouraging many god fearing saints from paying a visit, sadhus continue to form a large group, easily dentifiable and with a diverse background visiting the holy cave here.
"We are here at the invitation of Bhole Nath (Lord Shiva) and issues like security, food and money do not matter for us. It is the lord himself who arranges for our pilgrimage," is the typical reply of a sadhu Sant Bhavaninath of Nath Ashram, Bhopal.
Senior officials fondly recall the yesteryears when almost every yatri was a sadhu at a time when for the middle class and nouveau riche this pilgrimage "was something they had only heard or read about".
Even now there number runs into thousands, large enough for the government to register them separately and even give Even the terrorists find their sartorial representation to exploit.
What sadhus cherish the most is the natural charm of the track with all the mountains and rivers and tent accomodation which they want to be maintained but feel will be corrupted with metallic roads and permanent structures in the coming years.
Yet they take a prophetic outllook and warn "Shiva the destroyer" will assume charge if humans fiddle a trifle too much with nature. Look at Vaishno Devi, the streams are drying up there and soon there could be acute shortage of water, remarked one of them.
Sadhus also express their anguish when many pilgrim buses reluctant to carry even two sadhus from the base camp in Jammu to the one in Pahalgam.
"Things have changed, people should not be heartless when they are paying a visit to the God's abode. It is not big deal for us as a decade ago we used to walk up from Jammu itself and reach the holy cave in three weeks," says a sadhu from Shiv Kutir in Beas (Punjab). There are sadhus of different types coming for the yatra. One is a saint from Rohtak (Haryana), a regular here, who claims he has been standing for 11 years, he does not speak and lives only on fruits and liquids, his associates said.
He shuns photographers but his swollen bare feet with peeling skin, speaks volumes of the level of devotion associated with this yatra.
Another sadhu Baba Nirmannath from Shitaladham in Kaushambhi near Allahabad on his first visit was disappointed over the near melting of the lingam when he reached here.
Old timers recall that earlier the yatra used to end on Raksha Bandhan but the lingam remained there-- a never melting structure-- in all its resplendent glory.
They complain of too large crowds coming more out of adventure rather than devotion and scorn at the cameras whose flash generates heat causing the melting of the lingam.
An erudite saint from Hyderabad quotes Maxim Gorky, "man has learnt how to fly like birds and swim like fishes, but how to live on earth he does not know".
Other related yatras during the same time in the same region:
Poonch district: darshan of Budha Amarnath temple at Rajpura (Mandi), about 25 kms from Poonch town. Management committee of Buddha Amarnath and some social organisations arrange free community kitchens.
More than a ten of thousand devlotees also undertake Machail yatra in Sapphire valley (temple of Machail Dam) of Doda district in Jammu division.