Surrounded by lofty mountains, breathtaking landscapes, gushing water streams and picturesque meadows, the Kashmir valley of the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir has always been an abode of spirituality. The essence of spirituality has been a part and parcel of the region and over the years has bestowed the people with bountiful blessings.
One such place of great religious importance is Amarnath cave. The Amarnath cave is a revered shrine situated at an altitude of 12,756 ft, located about 140 kilometres from Srinagar, summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. One has to go through the tourist resort of Pahalgam in south Kashmir to reach the Amarnath cave. The cave located in Lidder valley is surrounded by glaciers, snowy mountains and is covered with snow most of the year. It is the abode of the Mahamaya Shakti Peetha.
The Shiva Lingam is a stalagmite and is formed due to the freezing of water drops that fall from the roof of the cave onto the floor resulting in an upward vertical growth of ice. There are different types of stalagmites. Here, the stalagmites considered as the lingam, a physical manifestation of Shiva, form a solid-dome-shape. Parvati and Ganesha are also present here as two smaller stalagmites. It is mentioned in the ancient Hindu texts of Mahabharata and Puranas that the Lingam represents Shiva.
For this year’s Yatra the Jammu & Kashmir administration is all geared up to welcome the pilgrims who are all set to visit the Kashmir valley. The Yatra is being conducted after a hiatus of two years since the same could not be held in 2020 and 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This time around the Yatra is expected to break the previous records with respect to arrival of Yatris.
The civil administration, Jammu & Kashmir Police and the other security agencies are working in tandem in order to ensure that the Yatra passes off peacefully without any inconvenience to the Yatris. The registration for the Yatra has already begun and 566 branches of banks like State Bank of India, Jammu & Kashmir Bank, Punjab National Bank and YES Bank have been designated to register pilgrims for Amarnath Yatra 2022.
Adequate arrangements are being made by the administration so as to ensure that the Yatris do not face any difficulty while performing the religious obligation. Proper arrangements regarding food, healthcare, transportation and security are being put in place for the smooth conduct of the annual Amarnath Ji Yatra. Bhandaras are going to come up at different places en-route Yatra in order to meet the food requirements of the Yatris for the Amarnath Yatra 2022.
It would be in place to mention here that the annual Amarnath Yatra is conducted from two traditional routes in Kashmir valley. While the Pahalgam-Chandanwari route connects the Amanath cave with the rest of the world from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district side, the Ganderbal-Baltal route connects the cave from Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district. On both the routes three-tier security set-up would be in place so that the subversive elements do not pose any threat to the Yatra and the Yatris.
The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) is working round the clock so as to ensure that there is no discomfort to the people undertaking the Yatra for the current year. It is expected that there would be a record inflow of Yatris for this Amarnath Yatra since the same is being conducted after couple of years. It is expected that all the records with respect to the arrival of tourists would be broken and as such the challenges would also increase for the people at helm. As the preparations are underway since March, one can expect that this year would witness hassle-free Amarnath Yatra.
People who have affordability to spend can avail the helicopter services for undertaking the Yatra. The helicopter services are available from both the routes and it has been a hit among the people in the past as well. The helicopter services provide an opportunity for the business class people as well as senior citizens to have darshan of Shiv Lingam and return to the base on the same day. This year too one can expect that people in large number would avail the helicopter services while performing the Yatra and having darshan.
The health department issued an advisory few days back under which it is envisaged that Amarnath Yatra-2022 would be tobacco free. Necessary instructions have been issued in this regard and it is expected that the Yatris would follow the dos and dont’s in letter and spirit. At the same time it is expected from the staff deputed for the Yatra would also follow the suit in this regard. It has to be ensured that the tobacco products are neither sold nor used by the Yatris and the staff deputed.
On the security front, higher-ups of Jammu & Kashmir Police along with other security agencies like Army, Border Security Force (BSF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been carrying out meetings on regular occasions in order to ensure that there is no compromise on the security of the Yatris. All these professional security forces agencies are working in liaison with one another and this in all likelihood would lead to a successful Amarnath Yatra-2022.
Over the years the annual Amarnath Yatra has been boosting the economy of Jammu & Kashmir since many stakeholders are involved to provide services to the Yatris. Amarnath Yatra is a perfect example of pilgrimage tourism and it has been infusing a new lease to Jammu & Kashmir tourism. Transporters, dhaba owners, other eateries, pony wallas and porters provide varied services to the Yatris and in return they earn handsome amount as service charges.
Amarnath Yatra-2022 is going to start from June 30 and it would culminate on August 11 on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan. One can expect the Yatris to adhere to Covid Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) and in case of emergency they should report to nearby health facility for assessment. At the same time the staff deputed for Amarnath Yatra should work in a professional manner since Yatris are our guests and they ought to be treated in a proper manner.
The writer is a senior journalist