Every year, the Amarnath Yatra which happens in Jammu and Kashmir, attracts lakhs of devotees in a span of 1.5 months. This year, the Yatra started on July 1 and will go on till August 15, and it has been reported that 1.73 lakh people have already performed the pilgrimage.

Situated at 3,888 metres above sea level in the Kashmir Himalayas, Amarnath Cave houses an ice stalagmite that symbolises mythical powers of Lord Shiva, according to the Hindu legend. The ice stalagmite structure shrinks and grows with the phases of the moon; reaching massive dimensions especially during May to October. Two other ice formations representing Parvati and Ganesha have held religious significance for ages now.

It is believed that taking the pilgrimage at least once in the lifetime can free one of all the worldly suffering. The main temple site alias Amarnath Cave is situated about 141km from Srinagar; and can be reached via two routes.

The shorter route is a 14km trek from Baltal while the longer route is a 45km trek from Pahalgam. It obviously needs some amount of physical stamina to undertake these treks, and medical proof stating that you’re in the best of your health. However, there are provisions for helicopter services from both these base camps as well.

Legend goes that, when Goddess Parvati wanted to know the secrets of life and death,  Lord Shiva took her deep into the mountains so that nobody could evesdrop on them. On their way to a cave in the mountains, they even left their companions behind. Lord Shiva left Nandi – the bull – at Pahalgam; the moon perched on his head at Chandanwari; his snake at Lake Sheshnag, the 5 basic elements of life at Panchtarini and his son – Lord Ganesha – at Mahaguna. Since then, Hindu devotees find themselves undertaking this perilous mountainous trek every year, in search of true moksha.