A journey to the Amarnath cave shrine is an important spiritual expedition that all devout Hindus dream of setting out to at least once in their lifetime. It is a much revered abode of Lord Shiva who is enshrined here as an Ice lingam. Lord Shiva is referred to as Amarnath here. According to legends, in this cave Lord Shiva had disclosed to Devi Parvati, his consort, the secret of Amaratwa or Amar Katha. This amazing cave temple is located in the Amarnath district of Jammu and Kashmir and is perched atop the Amarnath Mountains, at an elevation of 5846 meters above the sea level. The Yatra to the holy Amarnath cave takes place in the Hindu month of Shravan. Numerous pilgrims from different parts of the country make a beeline to the holy cave of Amarnath Ji to get His blessings. Darshan at the shrine starts early in the morning and closes at 5 pm. So, pilgrims who are going for Darshan must leave the cave shrine by 5 pm.
Routes to Amarnath Cave
One common route to Amarnath starts from the Pahalgam base camp. You have to travel on foot on this route to reach the cave shrine. Those who have problem walking can avail pony services to reach the shrine. The first stop is Chandanwadi. It is nearly 16 Kms from Pahalgam. Chandanwadi is cradled at an approximate height of 2895 meters. Again from Chandanwadi you need to proceed to reach the next halt, Sheshnag which is nearly 13 kms away from Chandanwadi. After Sheshnag you have to trek a distance of 4.6 Kms to reach Panchtarni, the next stop. From Panchtarni, a trek of 2 kms will make you reach the Amarnath shrine.
The total distance to be covered by trekking from Pahalgam to the Amarnath shrine is approximately 36-48 Kms. It takes near about 3-5 days for pilgrims to complete a one-way trek to the Amarnath shrine.
Here follows the route map:
- Pahalgam – Chandanwadi
- Chandanwadi – Pissu Top
- Pissu Top – Zoji Bal
- Zoji Bal – Naga Koti
- Naga Koti – Sheshnag
- Sheshnag – Warbal
- Warbal – Mahagunas Top
- Mahagunas Top – Pabibal
- Pabibal – Panchtarni
- Panchtarni – Sangam
- Sangam – Amarnath Cave
About The Various Stops on the Pahalgam – Amarnath Route
Pahalgam – From the state capital, Srinagar, Pahalgam, the Yatra base camp is nearly 88 kms away. Taxi, bus or car may be availed to reach Pahalgam from Srinagar. Pahalgam, a small hamlet along River Lidder is known for its extraordinary scenic beauty. Pahalgam has many good accommodation as well as food options. Since, Amarnath Dham Yatra starts from Pahalgam, you’ll be getting all essentials for puja at Pahalgam itself.
Chandanwadi – The road to Chandanwadi from Pahalgam is in good condition. Even mini buses can play on this road. The road runs along River Lidder. Pilgrims on their way to Amarnath Dham prefer to take their first night halt at Chandanwadi. Ample food supply is available at Chandanwadi.
Pissu Top – From Chandanwadi you have to proceed uphill to reach Pissu Top. According to legend, Asuras and Devas were competing with each other to reach Lord Shiva. There took place a fierce battle between the Asuras and Devas in which all the Asuras were killed. Pissu Top mound resulted from the heap of the corpses of the Asuras.
Sheshnag – Pilgrims usually reach Sheshnag on Day 2 of the Yatra. The route has several steep slopes and passes through forested belts. A cascading, clear stream runs alongside. Pilgrims can bathe in this stream and brush aside their tiredness.
Panchtarni – This scenic place lies on the foothills of Mount Bhairav. From Sheshnag pilgrims need to ascend a steep height across the Mahagunas Pass perched at about 4276 meters covering 5 kms of distance. Next, they need to descend to reach the emerald pristine Panchtarni meadows perched at an elevation of 3657 meters. Pilgrims usually reach Panchtarni on the trek’s third day. Pilgrims put up at Panchtarni for the night. Due to excessive heights and low oxygen levels in the surrounding some pilgrims might face breathing issues.
Holy Cave – Next day, early morning pilgrims start their trek for the holy Amarnath cave. Around the cave there is no place to stay. Therefore pilgrims need to return to Panchtarni for night stay post Darshan of Baba Amarnath. On their way to the cave shrine pilgrims pass by the confluence of River Panchtarni and Amravati. This is referred to as the Sangam. Pilgrims often bathe at the Sangam prior to entering the cave shrine in order to wash away their sins and turn pure and pious.
Post Darshan, pilgrims usually go back to Panchtarni and then Sheshnag by evening.
The Pahalgam to Amarnath route is the most commonly followed route. But those who wish to trek across a shorter distance and in lesser time, may take the Baltal route, another alternate route. The Baltal to Amarnath shrine route is nearly 14 kms long. This journey takes 1-2 days for a round tour. But this route has gorges and steep slopes and can be a little challenging for trekkers when compared to the conventional Pahalgam route. Also, the path in the case of Baltal route is narrower. Only people who are young, energetic and absolutely fit physically should opt for this route. Those who do not wish to trek may hire dandies to reach the cave. Pony services are not available on this route.
The route map for the Baltal to Amarnath route is as follows:
- Jammu-Srinagar (248 km)
- Srinagar-Baltal (92 km)
- Baltal-Domali (2 km)
- Domali-Barari Marg (6 km)
- Barari Marg-Sangam (4 km)
- Sangam-Amarnath Cave (2 km)
From Jammu, by-road journey can take you to Srinagar. From Srinagar you can reach Baltal through Sonamarg via buses or taxis. The journey takes you through mesmerizing vales, lofty mountains and the beautiful scenery can let you forget yourself and focus only on the divinity of Amarnath Ji.
Pilgrims going for Amarnath Dham by the Baltal route can complete the journey within a day. Camping at Baltal for the night is an experience in itself. Pilgrims are made to put up at tents for the night. Tents in most cases are pitched on glaciers. The camp organizers spread thermal sheets over the snowy surface and place a double layer of heavy blankets over it. That gets your bed ready for the night stay. Food comes from the Langar. It is tasty, delightful and comforting. Roaming around alone in the nighttime is a strict no-no. In the darkness of the night, wild animals may come out and make you their prey. You may just sit in your tent and feel warm and cozy by slowly sipping from a cup of fuming, hot Kahwa, a traditional tea from Kashmir made out of Saffron.
Heli Services to the Amarnath Cave
Helicopter services are available both from Pahalgam helipad as well as Baltal helipad.
Those who fly from Pahalgam helipad will be dropped at Panchtarni. The remaining journey of 6 kms needs to be completed by trekking.
Those who fly from Baltal, will be dropped at Panchtarni. Then they’ll have to trek a distance of 2kms to reach the sacred cave.
To avail any of the helicopter routes to Amarnath shrine, you need to do the following things:
- Devotees need to acquire a CHC (Compulsory Health Certificate) issued by licensed doctors or institutions.
- These tests need to be done according to Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Board’s instructions
- These tests need to be done prior to the start of advance Yatra bookings
- Devotees need to carry their identity proofs such as passport, driving license, Voter IUD Card etc.
The weather at Amarnath changes every now and then. In the Yatra season, the temperatures will be around 9 to 34 degree Celsius approximately. When you set out for the Yatra and when you choose the route you would take, you must keep the weather in mind.
Indian Army, State Government Police and the Central Government and also several Government aided groups and NGOs take the initiative to arrange best possible amenities and facilities on the Amarnath Yatra routes. Several resting tents and stalls are made available for the pilgrims. Ample supply of food and drinking water comes for the pilgrims. Shri Amarnath Yatra Trust offers facilities like firewood, telecommunication and power supply. There are many private airline operators offering Heli services from Pahalgam base camp or Baltal base camp to Panchtarni.
Tips For Amarnath Yatris
For a hassle-free and comfortable journey to the Amarnath Cave, you can follow the given tips:
- Children below the age of 13 years and elderly people above the age of 75 years shouldn’t go for the Yatra as the route is quite difficult and challenging.
- Ample woolens and windcheater jackets are a must during the trip. Warm caps, mufflers and socks too need to be carried. Raincoats and umbrellas too are needed. Sunglasses, sunscreen lotions, torches, mosquito repellents and essential medicines should not be forgotten.
- Light snacks, energy boosters and drinks need to be carried on the way to the shrine.