Amarnath cave located in Jammu and Kashmir is an important shrine and is considered to be one of the holiest
shrines in Hinduism. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains and covered with snow most time of
the year. It is open for`pilgrims for a short period of time in summer specially in the holy month of Srawan. The Ice Shiva Linga in Amarnath cave is dedicated to
Lord Shiva (शिव)
Inside the 130 feet high Amarnath cave the ice Shiva
Linga waxes during May to August and gradually wanes with the phases of the moon. The Sjiva reaches at its height during the summer.
The Amarnath Cave has been a place of worship since ancient times. There are several references to this pilgrimage in ancient texts.
One story relates to Bhrigu Muni. Long time ago it is said that The Vale of Kashmir was submerged under water and Kashyapa Muni drained
it through a series of rivers and rivulets. Therefore when the waters drained, Bhrigu Muni was the first to have Darshan of Lord Amarnath.
When people heard of the Lingam, it became an abode of Lord Shiva for all believers and a pilgrimage which is done by lacs of
people each year.
Amarnath pilgrims travel on foot, either from Srinigar or from Pahalgam.
The latter journey takes approximately 5 days. The State Road Transport Corporation and Private Transport Operators
provide the regular services from Jammu to Pahalgam and Baltal. Also
privately hired taxis are available from Jammu. The shorter northern route is just about 16 km long, but it is quite difficult to climb. It starts from Baltal
and passes through Domial, Barari, and Sangam to reach the cave. The northern route is along the Amarnath valley and all along the route one
can see the river Amaravathy (It is more like a tributary of Chenab) which originates from Amarnath Glacier.
During the Amarnath Yatra route, various non profit organizations set up food
supply and resting tents which are available for free to the pilgrims. Near the shrine, hundreds of tents which are erected by
locals can be hired for a night's stay. Helicopter services from base camp to Panjtarni (6km from the cave) are also available from various
Rising death toll of pilgrims
The death toll from natural causes during this year's Amarnath Yatra
2012 has risen to 98. Lack of acclimatization, high-altitude sickness, bogus health
certificates and systemic failure could be among the causes, doctors say. A crucial factor that could contribute to the deaths of pilgrims is the
lack of acclimatization which is an absolute must before undertaking high-altitude expeditions, said Parvaiz Koul, head of medicine at the
Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Jammu and Kashmir's only super-specialty hospital.
"Pilgrims just get up from Baltal and Pahalgam (the two base camps for
the Yatra) and start the uphill trek without any proper acclimatization. To safely negotiate the high pressure gradient, one must acclimatize for
at least three to four days," Koul told IANS. "Acclimatization must be made compulsory for the pilgrims to avoid high
altitude sickness and associated complications".
Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB)
The Amarnath Yatra is Officially organised by the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir
in collaboration with the Shree Amarnath Yatra trust. The Government
agencies provide necessary facilities all along the route during the
Yatra period, which includes provision of ponies, supply of power, telecommunication facilities, firewood and setting up of fair price
shops. also thousands of central reserved police force and state police
are deployed to provide security to pilgrims from potential terror threats.
Jammu and Kashmir governor N.N. Vohra, who is also chairman of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) that manages the affairs of the Yatra, has
been regularly visiting the base camps and other halting points of the Yatra to ensure that sufficient stocks of oxygen
and other medical facilities are made available for the pilgrims.
In the year 2011 nealy 107 pilgrims had died due to natural causes during the
Yatra. In 2010, 78 and in 2009, 42 pilgrims died due to natural causes. About 750,000 pilgrims visited the cave shrine last year. The figure was
600,000 in 2010 and 450,000 in 2009. This year, 6.20 lakhs pilgrims have
performed the Yatra.
Supreme Court expressed shock
different age groups are among 98 who have died due to natural causes
during this year's Yatra, which is definitely a reason for concern. The Supreme Court had Monday expressed shock over the fact that 10
pilgrims had lost their lives the past three days.
"It is a very sad thing. Within three days, the toll has gone up from 87
to 97. We are worried that more people should not die," an apex court
bench of Justice V.S. Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar observed. The court has also directed that medical facilities at the north Kashmir
Baltal camp be augmented three times over what these presently are. "At least in this session, no more deaths should take place," the apex
court judges hoped, asking the state government to take help from other states to improve medical facilities for the pilgrims.
Amarnath Yatra obstacles
The pilgrimage to Amarnath was banned from 1991 to 1995 due to threats from
militants. In 1996 the militants had assured that they would not interfere allowing a resumed yatra.
In the year 2000 the pilgrimage suffered another setback with the massacre in Pahalgam of 30 people by Kashmiri separatist militants. Most were yatris on their way to Amarnath
In the year 2006, a controversy broke up about an artificial Shiva Lingam in Amarnath. In 2006, the natural Shiva Lingam was very small at the onset of the
On 26 May 2008, the Government of India and the state government of Jammu and Kashmir reached an agreement to transfer 100 acres
of forest land to set up temporary shelters and facilities for Hindu pilgrims. Kashmiri separatists opposed the move citing reasons
that it will jeopardize the article 370 that gives separate identity to
the people of Jammu and Kashmir and prevents any Indian citizen to settle in Kashmir. People in Kashmir staged widespread
protests against this decision by government of India. Due to the protests, the J&K State government relented and reversed the decision to
transfer land. As a result, Hindus in the Jammu region launched counter-agitations against this roll back.
Amarnath Yatra Map