Celebrated In: India
Celebrated By: Hindu (Hindu)
Amarnath cave is a Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir, India. It is dedicated to Shiva. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m, about 141 km from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir and reached through Pahalgam town. The shrine forms an important part of Hinduism, and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims. Thousands of Hindu devotees make an annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave on challenging mountainous terrain to see an ice stalagmite formed inside the cave.
The Amarnath cave has been a place of worship since times immemorial. There are references to the legendary king Aryaraja who used to worship a lingam formed of ice in Kashmir. It is believed that Queen Suryamathi in the 11th century AD gifted trishuls, banalingas and other sacred emblems to this temple. Rajavalipataka, begun by Prjayabhatta has detailed references to the pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave. Other than this, there are further references to this pilgrimage in many other ancient texts.
The Amarnath temple is a popular yatra destination for only Hindus. In 2011 it received about 634,000 persons, the highest recorded number for the yatra. The number was 622,000 in 2012. Pilgrims visit the holy site during the 45-day season around the festival of Shravani Mela in July–August, coinciding with the Hindu holy month of Shraavana.
The beginning of the annual pilgrimage, called Amarnath Yatra is marked by 'pratham pujan' to invoke the blessings of Shri Amarnathji.
En route the cave, various non-profit organizations set up food supply and resting tents called pandals which are available for free to the pilgrims. Near the shrine, hundreds of tents which are erected by locals can be hired for a night's stay. Helicopter services from base camp to Panjtarni are also available from various private operators.
Every year, thousands of central police and state police personnel are deployed to provide security to pilgrims from potential terror threats. The forces position at various halts and also in the perimeter of the shrine.
The pilgrims have to register themselves before the yatra to get a valid entry for the holy Amarnath yatra.