those who journey with faith, it is a rewarding experience, this simple visitation
to a cave-shrine, the home of the Himalayan mendicant who is both destroyer
and healer, the greatest of the Hindu God"
The trek from Pahalgam to Amarnathji cave is on an ancient peregrine route.
The 45 - km distance is covered in four days, with night halts at Chandanwari,
Sheshnag (Wawjan) and Panchtarni. The distance from Pahalgam to Chandanwari
(16 km) is now covered by motor transport. The pilgrims camp here or at Pahalgam
on the first night out.
The first day's trek of 13 km from Chandanwari is through spectacular, primeval
countryside. The main centre of attraction on this trek is Sheshnag, a mountain
lake which derives its name from its seven peaks, resembling the heads of a
mythical snake. The journey to Sheshnag follows steep inclines up the right
bank of a cascading stream and wild scenery untouched by civilisation. The second
night's camp at Wawjan overlooks the deep blue water of Sheshnag lake, and glaciers
beyond it. The lake is also associated with legends of love and revenge, and
at the camp these are recounted by campfires, to the stillness of a pine-scented,
second day's 12 km trek steadily gains height, winding up across Mahagunas Pass
at 4,600 m and then descending to the meadow - lands of Panchtarni, the last
camp enroute to the holy cave.
From Panchtarni to Amarnathji is only 6 km, but an early morning's start is
recommended for there is a long queue awaiting entrance to the cave. The same
day, following darshan, devotees can return to Panchtarni in time for lunch,
and continue to Wawjan to spend the fourth night out; or continue further to
Zojibal, returning to Pahalgam on the 4th day.
Entrance to the cave is regulated, and darshan a hasty affair for there are
many others waiting outside to pay homage before the awesome Shivalingam. The
devotees sing bhajans, chant incantations, and priests perform aarti and puja,
invoking the blessing of Shiva, the divine, the pure, the absolute.