Sacred Journey to Amarnath Cave… (01 July 14)
Our journey to Amarnath Cave started from Baltal camp on 1st July. We woke up at around 3.30 am in the very early morning. We took our bath at that time and paid Rs.70 for a single bath! By 4.30 am we started riding our individual horses with bated breath. We thought that we did early. But our horse owner told us that we were still late by 30 min. After a 30 min horse ride we reached the main check post. Our passes and personal id were verified by the authority, yet again.
And thereafter, the most memorable and most fearful journey of my life started. It was a real fun. For the first 3 kms I was not able to even balance myself on the horse ride. The railing along the roadside stretched up-to 4km, and after that we could see the steep fall along the roadside. Along the way we were slowing moving up to great heights, and then moving down to steep rises. I really felt butterflies in the stomach and had Goosebumps. I decided to not see steep sides of the huge mountains.
The Road was 8-10 feet wide and it was created by crafting of mountains. Devotees who were on foot journey were travelling by the mountain side. Middle of road was occupied by palanquins. Usually senior citizens used Palanquin. Horse rides were on the steep side of road, and they were away by 1-2 foot from the road end. The Horse owner held the horse by a rope around his neck .He also had a stick in his other hand.
The road was fully occupied by horse droppings and mud due to rain on the previous day. The horse owner told us that we should help the horse by bending ahead while it is advancing, and while on slope we should bend towards backside. We had 4 horses moving in sequence. In our procession my horse was in the fore front, followed by my wife’s , my mother’s and lastly my father’s , in that sequence. The name of my horse was Bulbul. I tried my best to communicate with Bulbul, but in vain.
Deep valleys were showing up and I have to say that I got really frightened. I thought in my mind that if anything happened, then nobody would be able to find even a fingernail of mine. The horse was walking along the edge of the mountain. A deep valley, a small road, trust, fear, curiosity, nature, glacier, and frame of mind….all these took me to an altogether different world. I could see the water flowing out from a glacier. It was such a soothing and charming view. However, unfortunately, I could not take more photos as I had to balance myself on horse. I could see army jawan carrying 2 dead bodies on stretchers. I thought that if my horse slip on road, then I might be able to hold railing in order to survive. But what will happen to my family? All these thoughts were moving around in my mind .However, by grace of Amaranth, such terrible situation did not arise.
Army Jawans were standing at every 500 meters… they stood like rocks... they were guarding whole area all day/night like panther silently watching jungle….responsibility was shown in their gesture … they were doing their task with no fear… thrust & hunger was not bothering them… they were helping people, distributing snacks, biscuit & tea… they were controlling movement of people… I salute their courage… high respect for them…
We took a tea-break after around 7km. The health of my mother’s horse was not good. So I asked the owner to replace the horse with a healthy one. He asked about money I would pay. I told him I would pay him money in Baltal base camp, only after return. I asked the horse owners to have tea. I was quite surprised with bill. It was Rs. 240 for four teas! I saw that they were taking tea with Kashmiri roti.
After the tea session, the road turned very narrow with steep valleys. Before Barari stop, 2 roads were separated, one for horse and another for Palanquin. We took a 5 min break at Sangam stop. The last 1 km road was made of glacier. But we stepped down from the horse probably far too early, and we had to cover some part walking. We had to make almost a 6.5 hour journey in order to reach a point near Amarnath cave. And then I could see that big waiting line of devotees. The entire area was crowded by tents and lungar’s. Temperature dipped too low.
At Amarnath Cave… (01 July 14)
Amarnath Cave is at a height of around 12756 feet from the sea level. The oxygen content in the area is very low. As we stood up glacier, we realized that we had not taken a single meal in the last 6.5 hour long journey. It was so physically stressing that my wife collapsed. After taking rest and plenty of water, biscuit and oxygen, her health improved. But, thereafter, we did not want to take any more risk. So we decided to ride Palanquin for the remaining distance. But, to my utter dismay, our palanquin was stopped by security personal, and again we needed to walk along in order to reach queue.
The snow was slippery and a number of people slipped due to that. Due to less oxygen in the air, a number of senior citizens and ladies suffered. In the hustle queue, we were moving with crowd. Suddenly the Army jawans came into picture, just to make sure that people were disciplined in queue. They helped elder people to reach cave. They were guiding people. Also they sent people to medical camp for checking. Within 2.5 hour, we had darshan of Amarnath God. Amarnath cave is at 12756 feet height above sea-level and completely made of rock.
The Amarnath Shivlingam (Wikipedia: “In traditional Indian society, the linga is rather seen as a symbol of the energy and potential of God, Shiva himself”) is made by snow. It had a height of around 10 -12 feet. I somehow forgot everything else while taking darshan. I was enthralled.
I did not see a single bird in the 14 km long stretch of journey, but could see one pigeon in the cave. According to Hindu mythology there are two pigeons. I could not understand how the pigeon alive in cold. What might they eat in this remotest place? People come here only for 2 months in year and even they suffer from cold and low oxygen. Probably it was the miracle of the nature. Or could it be Baba Amarnath’s blessing? Who knows?
We took snacks in the lungar. The road was so slippery and snowy that we had a hard time to walk. In two or three occasion I simply slipped, but somehow balanced myself from falling.