As the month of Shravan approached, I felt like doing something more than the regular this time. I just realized I could go on a pilgrimage. Pilgrimage it will be then! I decided and the moment I thought pilgrimage, there was only one synonym I could get – Amarnath.
It was the month of May. I knew I had to register before a month to be able to get into the Tour schedule. So I booked for the month of July which they say is the best month not only because it is the month of Shravan but also because, Amarnath is snow-clad at this time of the year.
I registered for the Yatra and got my registration card. Without this, I knew I couldn’t embark on my tour. Wow! Oh yes! I was so excited!! I knew I had to prepare a lot. My work schedule suddenly seemed to melt into nothingness and things got did in my professional life on their own. Call it the positive vibration of the plan to Amarnath or call it enthusiasm to reach there which made me work easily on the professional front.
Tickets bought, registration card obtained and I started working out on my physical fitness for the trek up to the Amarnath temple. I knew I had to work on my trekking capacity as the trek involves steep walking up the mountain. I did not want to go on a pony ride or get carried by porters. I wanted to trek up!!!
My aunt couldn’t come along with me as she suffered from heart problems. I created my own identity card with all my details just in case I got lost. Woolen clothes packed and a light backpack and I was all set for the Amarnath Yatra. Amarnath – the holy cave of Lord Shiva at a height of more than 4000 m. Yes, I wanted to see the paradise in India, Jammu, and Kashmir. My friend asked me why I was so excited about going there and what it was all about. I said that Amarnath was all about Lord Shiva in the form of an ice lingam. The Lingam forms and wanes as per the season. There is a beautiful cave in between a small gorge.
I reached Pahalgam by train and this is where my trek started. The first day of my trek started from Chandanwari. The trek up was adventurous and exciting as I climbed the steep inclines of the mountains with the streams gurgling beside me. The wild nature in full bloom, the spectacular ambiance just relaxed me and I never felt the tiredness that normally I feel even walking up a road in the city. We halted at Sheshnag. We saw a mountain lake. Our group was a mixture of people from all over. Very soon we bonded, and we were like a family.
Sophie, a French girl was with us and I spoke to her in French as I knew the language. She found the whole experience exhilarating. Day one ended with all of our camping and waiting for the next trek on the second day.
The next day I woke up to the twittering of birds, and the feel of the green breeze grazing my cheeks. It was a total contrast to the sun coming into my face from the lacy curtains in my room. My room looked a far cry from the pleasantness of the surroundings I was in. We started at Sheshnag and the climb up was steadily increasing. Pawan Sharma who was in our group started singing religious songs and we enjoyed singing our way up. We reached the Mahagunas pass and suddenly went down a descent. This is the fun part. After the trek up, the trek down was so relaxing and easy. We trekked down to Panchtarni. Sophie was so red in her cheeks and her face was all flushed. She gave me her bit of Gatorade and I gave her my regular lime juice. With the camping at Panchatarni at night, the group settled down tired and weary but totally relaxed. Sushila, who was in our group, was coming for the tenth time and she recounted tales of her past experiences. She regaled us with humor when she told us how they got scared listening to the rustling of leaves at night! Tales of love and revenge were also told by people who were locals and who were traveling with us.
We actually felt a little sad that the last day of the trek was coming closer. We were so used to the group feel that the entire trek up seemed a dream for us. We were just around 6km away from the cave. We left early in the morning to avoid the long queue up.
We reached the cave amidst a lot of cries for Lord Shiva. There was a fine regulation for entry to the cave. The Shiva lingam looked majestic and impeccable. The darshan was finished in a hurry as there was a stream of devotees waiting for us. We had the lovely darshan of the ice lingam and performed our usual rituals, puja; aarti sang a whole lot of bhajans. The stalagmite in the cave resembles the Shiva linga. It was solid when we saw it as we were there at the right time. There are two other formations like this and this was revered as Goddess Parvati and Ganesha.
On our return, we returned to Panchtarni and had lunch. It was a relaxing experience, we felt rejuvenated, and fresh. We continued our trek down and continued to Wawjan. Here the lovely glaciers and the beautiful lake had history written all over it. A local there told us about stories of the past. Our fourth night was spent in Wawjan. From here we went to Zojibal. And then later to Pahalgam.
Thus ended a tour of the best pilgrim spot in India and a feel of the divine. Yes sure, this was on my next agenda whenever I felt the need to reach out to the Almighty closely.