The much-awaited and most exciting pilgrimage Yatra – other than the Char Dham – is just around the corner. The excitement to visit Baba Barfani Holy Cave is evident as devotees are gearing up for the annual pilgrimage of Amarnath. After all, the Yatra has resumed after a gap of two years since the pandemic outbreak – Covid-19. What is this pilgrimage, and why does nothing deter the faith of devotees who keep showing up despite the challenges there are every year?
Amarnath Cave is the holy abode of Lord Shiva (The Auspicious One). The eternal God is known by many names in his varied forms, such as Nataraj, Bholenath, Mahadev, Bhairav, Mahayogi and more. However, the most known and revered form of him is Shivalinga, a cosmic pillar with no beginning or end and is a symbolic representation of Lord Shiva’s union with Maa Parvati.
At Amarnath, Shivalinga manifests in the form of natural ice stalagmite every year. This natural occurrence can be witnessed during specific months as the place is heavily blanketed in a thick coat of snow throughout the year except in summers. The annual pilgrimage starts at the end of June and continues till August. The holiest event falls in the month of Shravan (July-August)- the fifth month of the Hindu Solar Calendar. Shravan month is very dear to Lord Shiva and holds an important place in the heart of devotees.
As such, the natural formation of Swayambhu Himani Shivalinga at Amarnath during Shravan month is considered the holiest occurrence. The place has a religious significance attached to it, for this is where Lord Shiva arrived with Maa Parvati, his consort, to attain absolute seclusion. Amar, meaning immortal and Nath, meaning Lord, refers to the immortal one, i.e., Baba Barfani (Shiva). Upon knowing that Baba is eternal but not the Mata, and every time she is born, he adds a bead to his MundaMala; Maa gets curious as to why she has to die whereas he is immortal. The curiosity leads to the journey of Amarnath, where Shiva narrates the story of Amar Katha to her. Read the full story here.
It is the same journey that is walked every year by thousands of devotees to seek Baba Barfani’s blessings. The main cave, situated at the height of about 13000 feet, is full of challenging routes, yet devotion breaks all worldly bounds to arrive at this holiest shrine.
The Yatra involves trekking at altitudes as high as 14000 feet. The Amarnath Yatra will begin on 30th June 2022 and conclude on 11th August 2022.
Amarnath Yatra Registration
The registration for the Amarnath Yatra commenced on 11th April 2022. One can register themselves individually or in a group. The registration necessitates the submission of the following:
- Filled-in the prescribed Application form.
- Prescribed Compulsory Health Certificate (CHC) authorized by the Doctor/ Medical Institution. Download the CBC form here.
- Four passport-size photographs (3 for Yatra Permits and 1 for the Application form)
While applying for the Amarnath Yatra 2022 Registration in the group, the Yatra Registration fee is Rs. 220 per Yatri. The colour of the Yatra Permit issued by the Registration officials will differ for each day based on the preferred route of Yatris.
Pilgrims can only undertake the Yatra from the age of 13 to 70. No person below the age of 13 and above 70 is allowed on this Yatra. Also, women pregnant for over six weeks cannot be a part of the Yatra.
Amarnath Yatra Route
The following two routes are there to reach the Holy Cave:
- Jammu – Pahalgam – Amarnath Cave
- Jammu – Baltal – Amarnath Cave
Comparatively, Pahalgam is the longest route than Baltal. The overland route is approx 48 km from the Amarnath Cave, whereas the Baltal route is only 18 km long.
- Pahalgam, District Anantnag
This is the oldest and most traditional route, which will lead you to go through the mythical spots associated with the famous story. You will witness the places where Lord Shiva released his adornments, such as Nandi, Moon, Snakes and everything he is seen associated with.
The route involves reaching Jammu or Srinagar to arrive at Pahalgam. From Pahalgam, at a distance of 16 km, is Chandanwari. This is the base camp from where the trek to the Holy Cave will begin. Next would be Pissu Top, Sheshnag, Panchtarni and then the Darshan of Baba Barfani.
- Baltal, District Ganderbal
The route from Baltal allows you to reach your destination sooner than the former. The trek route is 18 km long, and it’s a day or two journeys to the Holy Cave. The route involves going through Baltal, Domel, and Brarimarg, to finally arrive at the Amarnath Cave. Pony Ride and Dandies Services are available to help you reach a certain point. Where Pony Services are not available, Dandies come into play.
Know that while trekking the route, you will be camping in Amarnath before resuming your journey again. These resting points provide facilities such as bedding, hot water, meals and medical facilities to make your journey easier, safer and more energetic.
How to Reach Amarnath
By now, you are aware of the two routes to reach Amarnath. But how do you begin from the beginning? Though reaching Pahalgam is mainly known to all, how to arrive at Baltal is a bit challenging. So, here is the route on how to reach Baltal first.
How to Reach Baltal
Jammu – Udhampur – Kud – Patnitop – Ramban – Banihal – KaziGund – Anantnag – Srinagar – Sonamarg – Baltal – Shri Amarnath Cave
Srinagar – Sonamarg – Baltal – Shri Amarnath Cave
How to Reach Pahalgam
Srinagar – Pahalgam – Shri Amarnath Cave
Modes of Transportation to Amarnath
Daily flights operate to Srinagar by Delhi and Jammu. Since Pahalgam or Baltal don’t have any Airports, one has to book flights from their respective city to Srinagar or Jammu.
If you are in Jammu or Srinagar, know that regular Buses and Taxis are available daily. However, coming from different States directly to Pahalgam or Baltal, the distance is as follows:
Distance from major cities of India to Pahalgam/Amarnath via. Road/Cab Service
Delhi to Pahalgam – 855 km
Kolkata to Pahalgam – 2366 km
Mumbai to Pahalgam – 2173 km
Hyderabad to Pahalgam – 2378 km
Chennai to Pahalgam – 3010 km
Bangalore to Pahalgam – 2969 km
Chandigarh to Pahalgam – 573 km
Distance from major cities of India to Baltal/Amarnath via. Road/Cab Service
Delhi to Baltal – 903 km
Kolkata to Baltal – 2470 km
Mumbai to Baltal – 2254 km
Hyderabad to Baltal – 2480 km
Chennai to Baltal – 3243 km
Bangalore to Baltal – 3080 km
Chandigarh to Baltal – 678 km
Arrive at the City of Temples, Jammu. Neither Pahalgam nor Baltal is connected by a direct train. Jammu, Tawi and Udhampur are the nearest stations.
Find more information on how to reach Amarnath here.
Amarnath Shrine Board
Amarnath Yatra is the most popular pilgrimage site for the Hindu devotees. The religious tour is organised by the Amarnath Shrine Board every year. The Board is responsible for arranging the facility right from the registration, following the official procedure and making provisions to provide medical facilities and relief during the journey.
Pilgrims who are eager to get themselves registered can get the Registration form and download the Medical form from their official website. After completing the Amarnath Yatra 2022 Registration Form, you need to submit it to the nearest Bank or Yatra Registration Centre. After downloading the Medical Form, you need to get it signed by the Medical Practitioner. Only a few institutions in each State are authorised to issue a Compulsory Health Certificate (CHC). Check the one nearest to your place here.
What to Keep in Mind Before Undertaking Amarnath Yatra in July/August
- Achieve Physical Fitness: If you have successfully registered yourself with Amarnath Shrine Board, make it a habit to walk 4-5 km daily. This will prepare your body to undergo extensive trekking during the Amarnath Yatra. Also, Yoga and breathing exercises help improve oxygen efficiency in the body.
- Know the Signs of High Altitude Sickness: Symptoms of high altitude sickness could be any of the following: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, visual impairment, bladder dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness and difficulty in sleeping, drowsiness, chest tightness, fullness, loss of coordination of movements, paralysis on one side of the body, congestion, fast breathing and increased heart rate, gradual loss of consciousness and mental status changes.
- Check with your physician if you are allergic or have pre-existing medical conditions. This will make it easier for you to decide on the route – Pahalgam or Baltal – that goes with your health condition.
- Carry water bottles to combat dehydration and headaches. Drink a lot of fluid, about 5 litres per day.
- Avoid Liquor and Smoking.
Author is a student who loves to explore new corners of learning. He likes writing and travelling while taking challenges that question his abilities and skills. His hobbies are helping people and spending time in nature.