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A helicopter lands at Panchtarni helipad, specially prepared by the CRPF for the convenience of devotees. Private helicopter services are available from both Baltal and Pahalgam to Panchtarni, a busy nodal point on the Pahalgam route, barely 8 km from the Amarnath cave. Panchtarni, at the foot of Mount Bhairav, has five rivers flowing out of five glaciers. Pilgrims often camp at Panchtarni for the night

Pilgrims’ progress

Author: admin

Magical, mythical and mystical, the Amarnath cave—situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft), about 141 km from Srinagar—draws the devout in large numbers. Though it’s a journey of faith for the majority, for some it’s communion with nature. In essence, the Amarnath yatra, held for 45 days from the end of June to the first week of August, celebrates the breathtaking landscape of the Himalaya along with the grit and determination of devotees, who trek through the most picturesque and bleak terrain in the world in challenging conditions to witness the holy ice stalagmite or Shiva lingam.

The yatra to one of the holiest shrines of Hinduism starts from the base camp in Pahalgam, a hill station, or Baltal, a flower-laden valley. Facilities, including tented accommodation, medical assistance, food and security, are provided throughout the route. Zulfiquar Hasan, IGP, Central Reserve Police Force, which has been playing a vital role in the conduct of the annual yatra, tells Harmony-Celebrate Age, “Over 12,000 additional troops, including women personnel, are deployed for security on both the routes.”

On the flipside, the large numbers of devotees have translated into large-scale littering of plastic and non-biodegradable garbage such as tents, raincoats, plastic bottles, gutkha and candy wrappers, all along the route, jeopardising the fragile ecosystem and earning the wrath of environmentalists.

Shilbhadra Datta, who undertook the arduous trek, presents images that speak of belief and bravery, faith and beauty.

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
October 2018