Call from the Spiritual Cave: The Amarnath Pilgrimage

Photo of Call from the Spiritual Cave: The Amarnath Pilgrimage 1/1 by Miralee Ghia

Pilgrimages are an important part of the Indian tradition. They are events which let us experience the serene presence of God and awaken the divinity embedded deep inside us. Amarnath, a heavenly way to liberation, is set at an altitude of approximately 12,756 ft. in the picturesque mountains of Kashmir. It is one of the sacred Indian pilgrimages dedicated to Lord Shiva where an iced Shiva-Lingam is miraculously formed every year. It is believed that Lord Shiva revealed the secrets of immortality to his consort Goddess Parvati here. The cave shrine is accessible during the months of July and August. Lakhs of devotees take up the arduous trek every year to receive the lord’s blessings.Being spiritual and having a fondness for mountains I dreamt of going on this pilgrimage someday. I was fortunate to be presented with the opportunity to fulfill my dream at an early age. A close friend who was organizing the trip invited me to join along.

After undergoing a medical checkup, which is a government compulsion for such pilgrimages, we got our documents in order with the necessary stamps. The days flew by in excitement and on a wet rainy morning of July 2014 we flew to Srinagar. A pre arranged luxury bus was waiting in Srinagar to escort us to Pahalgam from where we were to start the pilgrimage the next day. Rising up early next morning while it was still dark, we took a hot bath and got dressed on time. May be it was enthusiasm mixed with curiosity that we eagerly waited for the cabs who would take us to Chandanwari; the start point of our pilgrimage. The drive to Chandanwari was through a zigzag road by the side of River Liddar. Upon reaching Chandanwari we proceeded for the security check and later hopped onto our horses to advance.

The sky now was a clear blue and the sun was shining bright, its warmth filling me with hopes of a buoyant ride ahead. The route to the cave was scenic granting us with breath taking views of snow clad mountains and crystalline streams. We were completely exhausted by the time we reached the Panchtarni campsite. The path to salvation calls for mental strength and endurance whether on foot or horseback. At Panchtarni, we spent the rest of the night in cozy tents. Next day, early in the morning we resumed our journey to the holy cave. Ancestors say that to accomplish such pilgrimages one must have the lord’s blessings and must have got his calling. The opening of the cave is a large semi circular hollow in the cliff. The test of our faith on Lord Shiva continued as on reaching below the cave we saw a long staircase. After climbing up the stairs, I entered the cave and on the right corner I saw a tall iced Shiva-Lingam representing the yogi God; Shiva. I stood there, hands folded in reverence expressing gratitude for inviting me to such an auspicious place and bestowing upon me his blessings. I came out feeling tranquil, with a sense of fulfillment. It was time for us to descend. We chose to walk through another route, the Baltal route, which unlike the Chandanwari route is shorter, steep and narrow.

The treacherous trek, high altitudes and the unpredictable weather conditions does not deter the faithful and lakhs of pilgrims visit the holy cave shrine every year to receive the divine vibrations and blessings of the ascetic God. The Amarnath pilgrimage is a journey of faith and belief making the visit to the spiritual cave a life changing and an enthralling experience.