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My actual Amarnath Yatra has started in this post, because I will reach the destination here which is called Pahalgam which is quite important as far as yatra is concerned . I will tell you its importance as we proceed. Hence from here I have named this series as Amarnath Yatra.
Patnitop to Jawahar Tunnel
After enjoying around 30 good minutes in Patnitop we marched forward towards our journey to Pahalgam. After Patnitop we again had to climb down the ghat around 1000 meters and entered Chenab Valley.Rivers between mountains always fascinate me and I have only one wish that is to bath in it. But not the right time. Right time will come in this tour. But right now just look at the colour of Chenab river ( light green). Again heat started to build up from here and from here our journey was terrible . Around 2-3 hours I was soaked in the sun . I felt like a worker working near open furnace continuously for 3 hours with sun right on the top of the head. And there was no AC in the car. I had never imagined that I would felt something like this in Jammu and Kashmir 1000 m above sea level. Even in Sahyadris Maharashtra , Lonavla ( 600 m) near Mumbai is always pleasant. This was too much for me. Each each minute was going like an hour.
Ramban, a very noisy and crowded town came in between and thereafter we again started to climb up. Just before Ramban , we had lunch in one of the Vaishno Dhabas. The lunch was fantastic. But after the lunch my driver wasted some time in repairing his spare tyre which was punctured . He wasted around 45 minutes more here in Ramban which was adding to frustration due to heat. And then afterwards while driving we came to know that he was waiting for his friend to come in another car with another set of passengers to Srinagar. Now I can’t understand mentality of drivers here why they wanted to meet and go together. They were not going to talk as they were in different cars. The destinations were different ours was Pahalgam and their was Srinagar, then why our driver waited for his friend I still don’t know. Till Anantnag our cars were together and then we parted ways from there. No sense here but we wasted a good 45 minutes in this .
For around one half hour in ghats, besides the tribuatries of Chenab and Chenab, in Chenab valley, at around 4.30 pm, we came to a Jawahar tunnel which was around 2.5 km in length which changed complete scene . The tunnel is maintained by Beacon. Once in side the tunnel the driver has to maintain a constant speed throughout the tunnel.
Jawahar Tunnel to Anantnag, Anantnag to Pahalgam
After crossing this tunnel , we came from Jammu valley to Kashmir valley and temperature directly dropped from 40 to 25 which I found quite amazing . Heat completely vanished within 2.5 kms and climate became pleasant . Manu Tyagi had told me about this great mountain and tunnel before that climate changes after the crossing the tunnel but I didn’t believe much. But yes the climate completely changed which was huge relief for me. After around few kilometers crossing the Jawahar Tunnel, I had first view of Kashmir valley from a point called Titanic View Point.
Just see some breadth taking views from here . Imagine the below place fully covered with snow in the winter with some green Deodhar trees in between. And imagine same place covered with flowers of all colors in one month of spring. Completely green till my eyes stretched as far I could. Heavy cool breeze touching my ears and telling me ” Welcome to Kashmir”. I was just flat looking at greenery and feeling the climate. I wanted to stay here some more time , but had no choice, but to leave. Lot of people were just staying here at Titanic View point enjoying the views , some feeling the climate , some having chat with each other, few smoking and others like me enjoying the beauty and clicking pictures .” OH YES. I WILL DEFINITELY COME TO KASHMIR ONCE IN SPRING AND ONCE IN WINTER IN MY LIFETIME “. These were initial thoughts when I first saw Kashmir Valley from Titanic point.
Then after few kms we reached Qazigund, a small town, which is called Gateway to Kashmir where we have to pay the toll of rs. 70 for using this highway and in Qazigund we bought some fruits like red and yellow plums , apples which were very helpful in our yatra to Amarnath.Then again after few kms , we reached Anantnag. From Anantnag, we left Jammu Srinagar highway and diverted to road on Pahalgam. Pahalgam is 43 kms from Anantnag. From Anantnag, Lidder river follows us till Pahalgam then Chandanwadi and then Sheshnaag. In my life I wanted to see many rivers like Ganges, Yamuna, Narmada , Brahmaputra etc. And with God’s grace I saw many of these. But frankly speaking till now I have never seen so beautiful river in my life ( though I have not seen them from places like Gaumukh , yamnotri glacier etc.). Lush green clear mineral water flowing surrounded by green mountains having a huge natural gushing sound with village children enjoying bathing in it all the way and freedom from all worries and tension. That was the impression of Lidder river when I first saw it. I want to bath inside it.Hills and rivers fascinate me a lot.
And before reaching the great and beautiful town Pahalgam, I would like to tell you why was I here.
A short legend on Amarnath Yatra which I have heard from many years
In Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is the destroyer, the lord of all five elements, the ascetic god who meditates on a deer skin. He also wears a garland made of human heads (Munda Mala). Legend has it that Devi Parvati (Shiva’s wife) asked him why he wears the garland of heads. To this he replied that every time Parvati dies, a head gets added to the garland and hence it continues to grow. Parvathi then wanted to know the secret of his immortality.
Shiva was reluctant to divulge the secret of his immortality to Parvati, but he had to give in to the incessant pressure exerted by his wife. Therefore they set out to a secluded place where Shiva could divulge the secret of immortality or the Amar Katha to Parvati.
It is believed that Lord Shiva first left behind Nandi (Bull) his vehicle at Pahalgam, hence the real name Bail-Gaon. It is therefore believed that one must start from Pahalgam ( Bail-Gaon) onwards as the lord started his yatra here. Next part of the story I will tell you as I travel along each and every place where Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati had been visited.
Discovery of Holy Cave
The story narrated by people about the discovery of this holy secret cave is of shepherd named Buta Malik . He is given the credit of discovering this secret cave . Story goes like this, that a saint gave Buta Malik a bag full of coal. On reaching his home when he opened the bag , to his sheer surprise the bag was full of gold coins . This made him overwelmed with joy. He ran to thank the Saint . But, what he found was that the saint had disappeared. Instead, he found the holy cave and ice shiv lingam there. He announced the discovery of this to the Villagers. Then onwards this has become the sacred place of pilgrimage .
The ancient epics narrate an other story which goes like this. The valley of Kashmir was under water. It was a big lake. Kashyap Rishi drained the water through number of rivers and streams. In those days Bhrigu Rishi came that way on a visit to the Himalyas. He was the first to have sight of this holy Cave . When people heard of the shivling, then Amarnath for them became Shiva’s abode and a centre of pilgrimage . Since then Lakhs of devotees perform the pilgrimage through tough terrain and avail eternal happiness.
By the main ice shivling’s side are fascinating, two more ice lingams, that of Devi Parvati and of their son, Lord Ganesha .
Pahalgam or Srinagar ?
About an hour later from Anantnag , we reached Pahalgam. As soon as we reached Pahalgam there was gate and security check. While having our security check I and Sonali decided that we are not going to Srinagar . We had one day extra after our Amarnath Yatra. Seeing just the glimpse of Pahalgam, we decided not to go Srinagar and rest or enjoy in Pahalgam itself , that much were we impressed on our first look at Pahalgam. Beautiful green Lidder river, High mountains covered with pine trees, fresh cool breeze, massive green gardens filled with flowers of all colors and fragrances are . Apart from it it had wonderful market for shopping Kashmiri items like shawls , handicrafts etc. But the biggest plus point was climate, atmosphere and scenes. Also our driver told that Srinagar was hot. So Srinagar was dropped and we decided to have a rest day in Pahalgam after the Amarnath Yatra .Our decision was absolutely right that I will share in coming posts. We finished scanning our luggage and went further to actual Pahalgam . Our driver showed us Amarnath base camp in Pahalgam. But we had to keep our mighty lugguage down and travel to the Amarnath Cave. So we decided to stay in the Hotel.
We asked our driver about the hotel. He said that they will be available for rs. 1200/night. I thought he is just convincing me so that he can make some comission out of it. We reached Pahalgam main bazaar which is little expensive, but then driver took to Pahlagam village 1 km further towards Chandanwadi where he showed us some hotels in a range of rs. 1200 / 1400. Rooms were ok but no one was there. All were locked. As I was going to visit the cave on last 5 days the crowd had vanished. So everything was empty I thought if I get anything in a range of Rs. 600 – 800 it would be OK. There were lot of hotels in line and I started asking hotel for rs. 400/ night. No one was willing to give and driver told me no one is going to give in rs. 400 . Rates in the season are Rs. 1200 to rs. 1400. I told lets see.
I wandered two more and then one small boy came to me and asked me in a very polite way ” साहब एक बार मेरी जगह देख लो. ” ( please look at my place once.) His politeness attracted , and I went with him to his Hotel . As soon I had first glance on his Hotel I thought Oh! no this is a hut . That Hotel was looking very shabby from outside with no proper name plate and roof was made up of Asbestos sheets. I still went inside to see how it was and to my surprise , it was the best one I had seen among the four which I had seen. I immediately decided to say yes and told him that I am going to give only rs. 400. he immediately said Sir 500. I said no 400 means 400. Thats it. From that point he readily agreed . My job was done in rs. 400. How lucky I was and to tell you that room was amazing considering its cost. The bags which I was suppose to keep in cloak room were negotiated on Rs. 20 / bag. I was lucky. I will show you the Hotel pics in my Pahalgam Post.
Finally we all were inside our room tired. We kept our luggage and it wa salready 8.00 pm and we had to still dine. So we decided to move quickly to Hotel. Mean while coming to Pahalagam we had seen one wonderfully lit temple on the way . So we decided to have a look at it and then dine.
So on the way to main bazaar we went to the temple . It was the famous Gauri Shankar temple of Pahlagam which also comes in its sight seeing list.
The vision of the temple was like colorfully lit beautiful hut with a kalash and gopuram at the entrance. And inside Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati were present in the form of beautiful shivalinga. Just have a look below.
Besides the temple , there was a bhandara from Lucknow. This Bhandara’s president was a Sikh and his name was Sardar Amar Singh Sethi and entire Bhandara was funded by him. And this was Bhandara’s last day. Now this was the sign that this yatra is done and supported by people of all castes and religions. I congratulated him but with no ego and attitude he said this entire thing is done by Lord Shiva and not him. He told ” सब भोलेनाथ करते है , मैं तो कुछ नहीं.” .Tears were just about to role from my eyes seeing his dedication but some how I managed to hold them.
केवल कुछ आदमी के पुण्य इतने होते है , के इस जग के अनगिनत व्यक्तियों के पापों को अकेले ही संतुलित करते है. इसलिए यह जग चल रहा इन जैसे महान आत्माओ की वजह से.
We decided to have food here . And yes it was our first prasad ( offering ) of Lord Amarnath.
After that we went to Hotel were tired and then slept .In next post I will start my most anticipated Amarnath yatra from Pahalgam. Till then
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