Thursday, 18 August 2011

Shri Amarnath ji Yatra - darshan at the Holy Cave 30th July 2011

Visited the Holy cave of Shri Amarnath ji for Darshan of Shivlinga. Divine atmosphere there. Sat in meditation for about 10 minutes, could actually feel the presence of Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati. Divine experience among beautiful natural surroundings. Mountains with snow laden tops.
Started the day from Yatra camp at Manigam (30 Kms from Srinagar) at 08 AM by JKTDC bus in CRPF convoy to Baltal (Yatra starting point) through picturesque Sonmarg along the beautiful Indus valley.
Sonmarg is about 84 kms from Srinagar, at an altitude of 2,740 m from the sea level Known as the 'Meadow of Gold', Sonmarg is set amidst a valley of flowers and lakes. The word “Son” literally means “Gold” in Hindi, and this golden beauty covered with white snow is most attractive in the spring. The exotic flora of the region is nurtured by the Sindh river. Sonmarg is the gateway to Ladakh. The dense forests of Sonmarg comprise of sycamore and alpine flowers, silver birch, fir and pine. The place is frequently visited by nature lovers in the search of tranquil peace and soothing natural beauty. The stunning blue water lakes and grasslands are the other attractions. The enchanting beauty of the towering snow clad mountains is a real treat to the eyes. We  had to stop for checking by Army. Could see camps along the river. How one wishes there was more time for 2-3 days stay at Sonmarg. REALLY BEAUTIFUL.
After reaching Baltal at about 10 AM, we deposited luggage in Locker room. Lots of Langars & stay tents with arrangements for toilets available.
From there took Helicopter by Pawan Hans to Panchtarni (8 kms distance, travel time 07 minutes). Good experience. One can see pilgrims walking on hill roads to Holy Cave.
At Panchtarni: It’s a very beautiful place with a small river flowing surrounded by snow laden mountains. Sun was shining but still cold. From here it is 06 kms trekking to the Holy Cave. Ponies, palkis are available but we decided to trek. It is a tough trek but one gets lots of inspiration seeing large groups of people including old people, old ladies walking alongside large number going on ponies/palkis. It’s pleasant to start but gets tough after walking barely a short distance only. Besides the steep climb, narrow hilly path where hordes of ponies cross at short intervals what makes it more difficult are regular patches where one has to walk on snow it is very slippery and also cold. One gets tired easily due to steep slope and shortage of oxygen at this level. Frequent rests have to be taken. However after 3 Kms climb the Holy Cave becomes visible from a distance and suddenly the motivation & energy level boosts due to pious feeling. Moreover the route from here is not that steep but very slippery as one has to walk on snow for all the remaining route of 3 kms.
As we reach near the Cave it becomes more difficult to walk but the enthusiasm keep you going. There are lot of Langars & tents along the river offering variety of snacks, tea & food for yatris. It’s a beautiful place with snow clad mountains and also cold. Besides yatris, one can see small tents of Sadhus in penance filling the whole atmosphere with religious feeling. Near the cave we had to climb stares for darshan.
It is a gigantic cave situated at an altitude of about 3888 meters. We were lucky that not much crowd was there. You can buy prashad from many shops below the stairs or it is also available in the cave. The place where Ice Shivlingam is formed is covered by iron grill but the Shivlingam is easily visible with a big Trishul on its side. On another side of the cave there is a smaller ice lingam said to be Parvati ji. We offered Puja for sometime seeking blessings of the divine. Then sat on the platform in the cave itself for some more time for Japa & meditation. After closing the eyes I could actually feel the presence of divine in the air. It’s an amazing experience filling one with utmost sense of fulfillment. We also saw a pair of pigeons considered pious to see.
After that fulfilling experience we came down and followed our Journey back to Panchtarni where we stayed overnight as the last flight of Helicopter was at 06:30 PM and we reached at around 07:30 PM. Although sun had set but still there was little light. Again beautiful sight as the hills looked even more beautiful in the twilight. We enjoyed hospitality of a Langar of some person from Punjab who was very caring and provided not only good food, tea, tentage accommodation with quilts to keep warm as cold wind was blowing and suddenly it was very cold and we were literally shivering. At night he gave us hot milk to drink and it was good night to a day full of divine darshan.
Story about Discovery of the Holy Cave: Although cave is mentioned in the Puranas but a popular story goes about its re-discovery that a saint gave a shepherd Buta Malik a bag full of Coal. On reaching his home when he opened the bag, to his utter surprise the bag was full of gold coins. This overwhelmed him with joy. He ran to thank the Saint. But the Saint had disappeared. Instead, he found The Holy Cave and the Ice Shiv Lingam there in. He announced this discovery to the Villagers. Then onwards this became a sacred place of Pilgrimage.

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