Amarnath or Ambarnath (as local Kashmiri people used to say) located in the Anantnag district of Kashmir. Amarnath is one the most divine Jyotirlinga of Shiva made of ice only visible from july to august. Let’s make the prologue little bit mythological. According to the hindu mythology Shiva, the protector of Universe is immortal. His wife Parvati with her different Avatars Sati, Dakhsyarani,Amba, Ambika, Gauri, Kali, Rajeswari, Durga, Tripurasundari on her different birth once asked her husband Shiva that why he is immortal!!! As this was the only wish from her wife (murdered wish LOL!) Shiva, being a loyal husband (we too :P ) to full fill her wish took her in a isolated cave where he told her the Amar-kahani. On his way he left his son Ganesha, pet Seshneg, his companions, and lastly 5 components of life; earth, water, air, fire, sky. After hearing that amarkatha pravati becomes immortal but somehow a Pigeon couple managed to hear the amarkatha (how illogical!! Oho I should not say like this.. zipped :P ) and they also become AMAR!! There was formation of Shiva linga with a structure of Parvati of ice!! Once a local kashmiri boy found that cave with ice made linga while grazing his sheep!! Now that Cave called as Amarnath Cave!!
Many many thanks to that boy who found that cave which creates to the awesome trek with bold landscape beauty!
Offo lots of myths!! Over n out pls!
Coming to the trek details. This trek can be completed via two different routes
i) From Pahalgam via Chandanwari. This route is much more beautiful than the second one but distance is little bit more (actually not little :P )
ii) From Baltal which is 6-7 hrs far from Srinagar
Though I took the traditional Chandanwari route nd come down via baltal.
This trek need trek pass which has to made prior to the trek, as no such on spot pass not given over there. For the pass you have either download the form (consists of personal info form and medical certificate) or issue from some enlisted bank for free of cost. But I prefer to download the form to avoid the queue. The medical certificate has to be filled duely by the registered doctor only. Even me,being a doctor had to visit the enlisted doctor to sign the form. Then you have to submit the whole form with Rs 50/- along with 3 passport size photos in the enlisted bank mentioning the date of your trek and your preferred route. They will give the challan consisting 3 parts, entry part, exit part and the third one for issuing mobile sim card as while entering J n K there will be no such network of any prepaid connection of other state.
Some things one has to remind while doing this trek:
I) Govt ID
II) Rain coats or poncho
III) Long plastic sheet
Let’s start the trip now! Aye aye caption lets sail ;)
Day 1: I took Poorva express from howrah for Delhi due to unavailability of tickets of Rajdhani express. It took almost 27hrs to reach Delhi
Day 2: Reached New Delhi at around 10 AM. I took Shalimar Express from Old Delhi for Jammu at around 3:50 PM which took approx. 11Hrs. So I got aprrx 4hrs for Delhi tour
Day 3: At around 5 AM I reached Jammu. OMG Indian Railway was on time !!
On reaching Jammu I made a mistake. I took a bus for bhagwati Nagar to reach the Amarnath Basecamp! Where I should take share taxi from the jammu station for Pahalgam! On reaching Bhagwati nagar I got freshened up then took a share cab for pahalgam at aroun 10 AM. Fare was 750/- per head. Quite fair enough! Oh my god the road was too good! Really buttery smooth it was! When you are in Amarnath yatra trip you don’t have to bother about the food. There was lots of bhandaras where you will get foods,tea,drinking water to fill your stomach. Around 5PM we were about to cross Banihal tunnel,longest tunnel in the India. Oh ghosh what a project BRO has made! After crossing the last check point for pahalgam around 9’o clock ,we reached a 4 point crossing where there is a turn for Baltal. Police stopped us on that point as local people were throwing pebbles on Amarnath yatris, so no more vehicles will move further for that day. We and other people somehow managed the police to arrange a military convey for the people who have already crossed the last check point. When we were about to start our vehicle, we heard bombing sound from the pahalagam side. We took a ‘U’ turn & reached 7Km back to a go-down of food corporation which was preoccupied by Militaries and allotted for Yatris . There was a bhandara too. While returning from that crossing I was not terrified but was feeling adventurous (Crazy me :P ) After full body check up & X-ray of baggage we got entry into the go-down. We took bedding for Rs 50/-per head and for the 1st time in my life I slept with 300 more people in a go-down enlightened with 3 !000 watt bulbs. But believe me, it was the coziest sleep ever.
Day 4: Military allowed us to drive for Pahalgam after 7AM. Through out the way there was armed military convoy. It was like I’m the safest person in the world. Kudos to the military person. We reached Pahalgam around 10:30 AM. Luckily a Kashmiri man came to me after crossing the entry gate of Pahalgam, for room rent. He told me that he is having a cottage on upper part of the Lidder, 5 mins away from market place but surprisingly complete peacefull (which I was hunting for). I dunno why I was forcged to believe him as he was the 1st hotel owner approached to me. I might still hunt for another. That person Ashfaq Lone has some magical powers in his words. He guided me to his car & took my rucksack.Allah had planned lots of surprises fro me. When I’ve reahed that esort ‘Zabish’ , my god how peacefull it is. Lidder River divides in upeer part of the Pahalgam & reunited forming a spindle shaped island. The resort is near the lower end of the spindle, means there are 2 streams in front and behind of the resort. Just imagine how cool it is !! After having lunch I got ready ready for local sight seeing. Ashfaq bhai already booked a cab for me. Cost was1250/- Aru valley, Betab Valley, 500 years old Shiva temple (only shiva temple in pahalgam) were in the list. Entry fee of Betab 100/-. I don’t know why the fee was too high!! That was Ramjan month. On returning resort,I got freshened up. Someone knocked my door, Ashfaq bhaiya was there inviting me to join the iftar. I was so overwhelmed to join them in their large kitchen. For the 1st time I had tasted salted tea and kasmiri bread with lots of fruits. Then 2 daughters of Ashfaq bhaiya made me their tutor :P Qushbu nd Aayaat such cute dolls are they.
Day 5: After having breakfast I left for Baisaran, 5km trek for pahalgam. You can take mule for that also. Though I choose my own feet ;) Baisaran is basically a valley or you can say nature made golf court. Local folks called this place Switzerland of Kashmir during winter. The route was through pine forest with lots of birds chirping around you. When I have reached baisaran, I felt like rolling on the ground. Grasses were so soft with a breathe taking view of that valley. You people have already seen this place in the song “jiya re” of the movie “Jab tak hain jaan” where Anushka climbed a tree. On around 2pm I returned my resort. Rest of the day spent romaing the local market. There are lots of garden in Pahalgam where you can hang out. There was a langarkhana or bhandara in the premises of shiva mandir. I joined there for dinner where I met a group who were also from Kolkata and all were lawyer. Dunno why I had felt something for them and exchanged phone number to complete the trek together. Later I realised that was my destiny to meet them as they made my trek so special.
Day6: Qushbu, 7 years old princess of Ashfaq bhaiya, cried a lot as I was about to leave for the trek. She made my cry while heading towards the car for Chandanwari from where the trek about to start. It wa 3:55 AM. It was peach dark without a single star in the sky. Maybe weather was in favour with my little princess. There was long que of cars for the chandanwari. At around 4:30 AM it started raining with few drops. While we almost headed towards chandanwari, it started raining cats and dogs. After giving the entry challan at the chandanwari gate we entered for the next gate. As it was raining heavily, authority paused the trek. We entered a large bhandara and had our breakfast and started enjoyning the bhandara programmes. Suddenly I heard some noise outside of the bhandara. On heading outside, I have noticed that the rain already dimmed and there was formation of “Om” sign over a nearby mountain due to snow fall over that portion. May be due to the rock design of the mounation, but yes it was “OM”. As it was already 11’o clock and there was no sign to start the trek, the authority announced that there will be no trek until the rain stop. We become disheartened and return back to pahalgam. Qushbu seemed to be the happiest person seeing be back. Such a cute doll she is!! Whole day spent gossiping with local folks as you know men will be men, wherever he goes he finds his own circle :P
Day7: 2:50 AM, it was still heavily raining outside with roaring of the Lidder. Sliding the window,watching the river in monsoon with a cup of Kashmiri tea was such blissfull. At around 4AM the weather become trek friendly and I got a call from that group that they are about to leave and I should pack asap! I just took 5 mins to change and headed towards the bridge without informing that doll. As I didn’t want to make her cry again! I still miss her face. At around 6 am we started our trek. 1st 2.5km was pathetic as it was almost 70 degree steep. The mules and horses accompanying with the rain made the road so muddy that I was about to cry :P 1st stop was Pissutop. According to the myth, here Shiva left all his demon partners. Here we had our breakfast in a bhandara. It was 11am. We have already completed the toughest part of the trek. Around 12pm we left Pissutop. The cozy sunny weather making the surrounding serene. Snow covered peaks with green valley ,cold streams and small falls made our way so beautifull that me and my trek buddy Rathin Da sit there for 1hr which were the best moments of the trek .We had our lunch in Zojibal. Suddenly I got a view of a small lake from which the stream of Lidder originates. OMG!! It is that famous Seshnag Lake! When I reached close to the lake, it is not small, it is huge! According to the myth, Shiva left his Seshnag over here. None gonna belive if he/she ever see this lake. Yes the lake literally looks like a lied 5 headed snake where the 5 heads are 5 mountains surrounding it and more over the stream originating from it looks like the tail! Ghosh! It already started raining. When we almost reached the tent place there was a breathe taking view of 3 Peaks from left to right Bramha Bishnu Maheswar. This lake is rich with water from fresh molten ice. We headed to our tent. Per head it costs around 350/- The tent was cozy but due to heavy rains it was pathetically muddy everywhere. Due to the bad weather I missed the milky way and starry sky.
Day 8: It was around 6am, my god it was still raining heavily. 8’o clock: still raining. We got an announcement that the yatra again paused due to heavy rain fall. Now it was like someone snatched the ladder while climbing the tree. There was only a way to face the situation was to return back to pahalgam, as there was limited stock of food in bhandara. There was an announcement there everyone get only 2 parathas. This was the 1st time for me to face the situation like this. I was too stubborn to return back. We waited the whole day for checking our luck. And it shows its color. From 5pm it was shiny with clear weather.
Day9: We packed our rucksacks as soon as possible. Next point is Mahagunastop or Maha Gensh Stop via warbal.According to the myth here Lord Shiva left her son Ganesh. The way after leaving the seshnag the track was pathetic! It was just 8 inch wide way with half molten snow covered. We had to count each of our step, otherwise wohooo the stony way and then cold stream waiting for you to hug :P
Previous 1 day constant raining made the trail superbly pathetic :P When we reached mahagunatsop it was foggy everywhere and adding to your surprise, mahaganesh stop was completely snow wrapped. The way upto Poshpatri, we literally done ice skating . Such an awesome experience it was. I think there were lots of surprise still waiting for us. The bhandara at Poshpatri had 51 food items. All tiredness vanished in a moment. After 1 hr leaving Poshpatri, the first view of Panchtarani. According to the myth 5 elements of life; Air, Water, Earth, Fire and Ether had been left behind by Shiva before reaching the Cave. More 2 hrs of trek, we reached panchtaranai, a green valley with a stream and surrounded by snowy mountains. Here we also booked a tent though the condition of the tent was much poorer than Seshnag.
Day 10: At around 4:30 am I woke up and found the twilight just before the sunrise. The view of sunrise in the valley was majestic. At around 6am we started for the cave. On the way 1st point was Sangam where trail from baltal and Panchatarani meet. After reaching sangam the rest of the way till cave was completely snow covered and the reflection of the sunray was making the way quite difficult that is why you need a proper sunglass! At around 10 am we reached the closest bhandara to the cave. You have to drop everything except your clothes ornaments and cash in the shops from where you are buying Prasad! Now you have climb few hundred stairs after the security check up. I was quite lucky to see the full grown Linga of Shiva and stupa of Paravati too. While reaching the cave there was very small water flow flowing from the cave-roof. The flow was so little that it forms few droplets while reaching the ground. I don know why the droplets dropped on each every person’s head like shiva is blessing everybody (though sounds funny but quite spiritual enough). When I reached the cave for a unknown cause I got goose bumps and the situation made me cry. Now while writing these lines am really getting goose bumps.
Now its time to return via baltal. As the weather was completely clear the trail was too much dusty that while reaching baltal at around 7 PM I found myself completely greyish :P The trail was so pathetically inclined that if someone make something roll down,that 100% must reach baltal rolling :P
We took share cab for Srinagar from baltal and reached at around 1am .
After 1 day I had my flight back to Kolkata :’(