Amarnath Yatra 2009
- Submitted by: Jagannatha Rao, India
- Submission Date: 18th Jul 2009
Lord Amarnathji Yatra 2009
Having got disappointed last year myself and my wife Padmaja, were a bit tentative to plan for 2009 Amarnathji Yatra. But, somehow we decided that we should try to make this year and go early. Yatra date was initially fixed as 7th June, 2009 by the Shrine Board but got postponed to 15th June via Baltal route. The other route through Pahelgam was slated for delayed opening towards end of June 2009 but not sure.
It is a good idea to go through the Pahelgam route and return via Baltal route to reduce the travel time and fatigue while maintaining the traditional route. The Pahelgam route is Pahelgam Chandanwari Pissu Top Seshnag Sangam Holy cave (26km). We can make Jammu as our base camp keeping only minimum luggage with us for the trek / horse ride.
In view of the uncertainty in opening the Pahelgam route and time constraint we decided to go through the Baltal route both ways (32 km both ways). We have started making arrangements quickly as flight tickets to be booked in advance, at least a month, to get better deals. We wanted to explore other modes of journey as well including Train journey to enjoy the diversified Indian cultural heritage. We have in fact used all modes of travel like Train, Flight, Taxi, Horse ride, Pallaki (DOLI), trek, Bus, cable car and boat rides during our week long trip.
We set out from Hyderabad at 10.30 pm on 25th June, 2009 by Dakshin Express and had a good comfortable journey. It was a cramped compartment despite being AC coach with excess luggage. But the co-passengers were good and we had a good time. The train promptly reported at H.Nizamuddin on 27th June, 2009 4.30 am and straight in to the waiting hands of our elder son Vamsi working at Delhi. It was terribly hot with the ambient temperature hovering at 36degrees even at this early morning hour. We spent few hours to relax and get refreshed. We took the kingfisher flight from Delhi to Srinagar at 11.45 hrs (delayed by one hour) and reached Srinagar by 1 pm. We tried to share the taxi with someone but could not find quickly any. As the local people hurried us to engage cab to catch up the Convoy we booked a prepaid taxi (Rs2100) from airport to Baltal (80 km), the base camp for proceeding to Amarnath. It took about three and half hour. Another economical option is to go to City Bus stand and pick a shared sumo or Bus if you have some spare time.
We failed to locate the Shrine Board registered tents at Baltal Base Camp and managed to check in to a private tent costing Rs 500 per tent per night. If you book on bed basis it is Rs 100 per bed per person per night. They provide warm bedding and blankets. It was reasonably cold but could manage with the blankets/ warm bedding provided at the Tent. Hot water is available at Rs 25 per bucket. We planned for a horse ride to Amarnath the next day, 28th June, 2009. Lots of bargaining here. We paid Rs 1200 per horse return trip. Horse ride is a bit tricky and sometimes even risky and very much straining. Trekking is also not a safe option with very bad track. Pallaki (Doli) could cost about Rs. 4000/- per return trip per person. Helicopter ride one way is Rs 3200 per person but to be booked in advance. Though we are supposed to register for the Yatra on line, no body insisted or checked for our registration document at any time.
Sun Rise here is very early and at 05 am it was quite bright. The Sun sets at around 07.45 pm. Food ( only Vegetarian) is not an issue as there are lots of Bandaras/ Langars ( community kitchens) put up by various Charitable trusts and choice food is being served, 4 times a day with lot of affection and free of charge. Apart from regular Roti, curries and rice, it includes many varieties of sweets, fast food, biscuits, chocolates, milk, tea, coffee and even dry fruits. They are being supplied all along the 16 km stretch to Amarnath. Thanks to all these noble hearts! This is true even for the Pahelgam route.
We started our journey to Amarnath around 05.15 am from Base camp on 28th June 2009 (an hour early is better) and reached Amarnath base camp at about 11 am. The stretch is very risky and the track is not properly laid. At times we have to get down and trek to avoid very steep gradients. Lots of snow around and walking is not very safe all the while. This narrow stretch is common for Horses, trekking and for those using Doli (pallaki) carried by four persons. Also this is a two way route for both going and coming. But the indomitable Hindu spirit makes many to take up the journey year after year despite all these and we could see even a few physically challenged persons, small kids, senior citizens venturing the trek.
It is about 1.5 km walk to the holy cave on the Snow after we are dropped at the Horses alighting point (base camp at Amarnath). You are bewildered by the vast and magnificent snowy mountains all around and a deep sense of utmost devotion engulfs you at once. This could be a result of the grandeur of the Great Himalayas which dwarf us by many times and the fact that you have realized your dream of making it to the Almighty.
The rush at the cave was moderate to high and took us about 3 hours to trek and have the darshan. One can use Doli to go up to the Cave if one cannot trek the 280 steps to the cave. This might become necessary for quite a few as the horse ride is not as comfortable for as long as 6 hours one way. We had a good darshan of Lord Amarnathji despite some undisciplined crowds nearer the Sanctum Sanctorum. We could even spot the legendary black pigeons within the Holy Cave. We were given a silver coin as Prasadam and were greatly pleased and filled with inexplicable joy to have accomplished our long standing desire to undertake this pilgrimage.
We started our return ride at around 2.30 pm and returned to the Baltal base camp by 7 pm in the evening on the same day. While returning People at the Bandaras on the way side offered chocolates, biscuits, fruit juices, vegetable Manchuria etc and enquired with a warm smile about our trip. We were greeted through chanting of Jai Bhole, Bham Bham Bhole and these were reverberating in the sky. We took a well deserved rest and had a oil massage to get relaxed.
We left the next day to Sonmarg by Bus, 15 km away for a days stay amidst the Great Himalayas. We stared at around 8 am and it took less than an hour to reach Sonmarg. We booked our cottage at the TRC situated near the Bus stand and were dropped at the Tourist Bungalow by a Sumo which charged us Rs 150 per drop. The tourist Bungalow is 3 km away from the town but it does not matter. This is the place to stay. It is a real Jannat (Heaven). TRC Manager at Sonmarg was very helpful. The double bedded Cottage was priced at Rs. 750 per day. We enjoyed trekking to the glacier nearby, 2 km, and were lost in the woods. We met with another couple that came from Mumbai and shared our experiences.
We engaged a Sumo to Srinagar which is 70 km away. The sumo charged four of us Rs 2300 but showed us enroute, the famous Ksheer Bhavani temple and local Mogul gardens (Chashme Shahi, Shalimar and Nishat) at Srinagar before dropping us at our Hotel booked through Youth Hostels of India. We later stayed for 3 days at Srinagar and visited many beautiful places like Gulmarg, Dal Lake, Sankaracharya temple , Sarika Temple (in old Srinagar City and supposed to be one of the 18 SAKTHI Peethas, locally the places is known as Baadam wari )etc.
We booked our Deluxe Bus ticket to Jammu (Rs 250 per seat) starting at 07.30 AM on 3rd July, 2009 through RTC as we found that on these types of Ghat roads, buses are safe and comfortable than private Cabs. It was 2 x 2 push back and was not that uncomfortable though the journey lasted over 10 hours. We could Visit the famous Raghunath temple at Jammu and could be back in time to catch our Uttar Sampark Kranti Express to Delhi. Jammu station was very much chaotic and were a bit apprehensive about our being able to board the train despite having confirmed booking. Summer Rush coupled with Amarnathji Yatra and Viashno Devi probably aggravated the situation. But Railways could do better. Even in the train the rush was heavy and unruly. There was too much of unauthorized travel.
We reached Delhi by 06 30 am on 4th July, 2009. The journey was less tiring was quite good as it covered a distance of about 600 km in about 10 hours. We stayed at Delhi for two days with our son before returning to Hyderabad. We left by the Spice jet flight at 06 am from Delhi and reached Hyderabad by 08 AM. We had earlier gone to Srinagar way back in 1983 as part of our Honey Moon. In this 8 day trip we could perform three Yatras, in a way. Theerth Yatra (pilgrimage), Prem Yatra (Honey Moon (second)) and Aatmeeya Yatra (spending some time with our Son).
Thank you Lord for what all bestowed on us!!