The registration for the 45-day long Amarnath Yatra started on Monday, February 29, 2016. Pilgrims can obtain the registration forms from the branches of Punjab National Bank, Jammu and Kashmir Bank and Yes Bank. Those who seek Helicopter services do not have to register.
In 2016, the pilgrim season starts on July 2 and ends on August 18. More information can be found here: http://www.jammu.com/shri-amarnath-yatra/registration.php
The Amarnath Cave Temple is an important pilgrimage place for the Hindus. The temple isn’t open all year round. Pilgrims can only access the temple for about 45-days a year. The pilgrim season begins in July and ends in August. It coincides with the Shravani Mela.
The Amarnath Cave Temple is an important destination for Hindus. Each year there is an increase in the number of devotees who trek to this temple braving the hostile climate and the tough terrain.
Before the Yatra (journey) commences, a ‘pratham pujan’ is held to propitiate Lord Shiva. Amarnath Yatra is different from other pilgrimages in many ways. It requires pilgrims to travel on foot. They commence the journey from Pahalgam or Srinagar. Those who start from Pahalgam take about 5 days to complete the yatra.
There are regular bus services between Jammu and Pahalgam. There is a shorter route which starts from Baltal. It is just 16 km long; however, it is a steep climb to the cave and hence very few pilgrims take this route. The view is well worth the effort, though.
The importance of Amarnath Yatra
Most Hindus want to undertake this journey at least once in their lifetime. There is an interesting story behind this pilgrimage.
Parvati wanted to know the secret of immortality. Her consort Shiva was immortal, but she wasn’t. She would die and be born again and again. Shiva told her that if she wanted to attain immortality, she had to listen to the Amar Katha. He was ready to tell the story but he didn’t want anyone else to hear it. So, he took Parvati to the Amarnath Cave. Shiva knew that the cave and its surroundings were not habitable. On the journey to Amarnath, he left Nandi (the celestial bull which he rides) at Pahalgam. At Chandanwari, he left the moon who resides in his hair. He left the snakes that he wears around his neck at Lake Sheshnag and at Mahagunas Parvat, he left his son Ganesh. At Panjtarni, he left behind the five elements as well. Then he entered the Holy cave with Parvati and started narrating the secret of immortality to her. In spite of the precautions he had taken, a pair of pigeons overheard the story and attained immortality. Even today, pilgrims report seeing a pair of pigeons at the shrine. It is not clear how they survive at this altitude.
Amarnath Cave Temple stands at an altitude of 3,888 m. It is about 14 kms from Baltal and 46 km from Pahalgam. Earlier pilgrims used to start the journey from Srinagar which is about 140 kms from the Temple. Now most of them start from Pahalgam or Chandanwari.
Amarnath is one of the major Hindu Dhams. The cave is the abode of Lord Shiva. There are no idols inside the temple. Instead, pilgrims worship the ice-lingam which forms inside the cave naturally.