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Hindu pilgrims' journey of faith in Kashmir
Hundreds of thousands of devotees climb to Amarnath Yatra cave each year, undertaking an arduous trek to pay obesiance.
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2012 09:13

Srinagar, Kashmir - Chanting bam bam bolay, thousands of Hindu devotees throng to the beautiful valley of Pahalgam for their yearly pilgrimage known as the Amarnath Yatra.

Located amid the beautiful snowy mountains of the Eastern Himalaya in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Amarnath cave is a sacred shrine, highly revered by Hindus.

A two-month annual pilgrimage seasons sees devotees - or Yatris - walk and ride ponies or palanquins climb to the cave, located 3,800m (12,700ft) above sea level, some 140km (85 miles) from Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, to have glimpse of an ice stalagmite they believe to be a symbol of Hindu god, Lord Shiva. 

Click here for more on the Kashmir conflict

The frozen column is said to grow and shrink "miraculously", with the phases of the moon - reaching its maximum height during the summer.

The cave can be reached via two routes, each taking pilgrims through famous tourist destinations. One passes through Sonmarg, while the Pahalgam route is preferred by many Yatris. The Pahalgam path takes about two to three days to reach the cave, along a tough, mountainous route. Its steep gradient makes it very difficult to climb, yet elderly pilgrims still scramble up the rocky path.

The Yatra ["journey'] is a long trek, and pilgrims face a number of difficulties on the treacherous route. The scarcity of oxygen due to the high altitude has at times resulted in several cardiac arrests in recent years. 

Pilgrims also have to endure abrupt climatic changes, as the weather can often swing wildly from sunshine to rain - and even snowfall amid the higher reaches of the mountains. 

As a result, a number of pilgrims do not survive the journey.

The Yatra is special on many counts. The Hindu shrine is believed by many to have been re-discovered in the 15th century by a Kashmiri Muslim shepherd by the name of Buta Malik, and the annual event has come to represent the history of communal harmony between communities in the valley, even as Kashmir itself has fought for self-determination over past decades.

It is Kashmiri Muslims who make the arrangements for the pilgrims, and provide them with all facilities during the entire pilgrimage period. Kashmiri ponies, palanquins and helpers carry the pilgrims to the top - and in doing so risk their own lives.

The event is important for the livelihoods of so many Kashmiris struggling to make a living in the valley..

In 2012, around half a million pilgrims have registered for the pilgrimage - out of which some 250 000 Yatris have already paid obeisance at the shrine.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
Amarnath Yatra 2012 began on June 24, amid high security in Indian-administered Kashmir.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
Thousands of pilgrims undertake the journey to the Amarnath cave, located inside a snow-capped mountain in the Himalayas.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,700ft), some 140km (85 miles) from Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
The Hindu devotees travel by foot, ride ponies and some take palanquins to reach to holy cave of Amarnath.


Al Jazeera/Al Jazeera
In 2011, an estimated 634,000 people participated in the pilgrimage, the highest recorded number of Yatris ever.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
People of different ages from all over India come for the yatra, to pray by an ice stalagmite they believe to be a symbol of Hindu god Lord Shiva.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
The mountainous route to the shrine is one of the toughest and longest routes. Its steep gradient makes it very difficult to climb.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
The crowds of devotees are watched over by thousands of police officers deployed for the pilgrimage.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
Kashmiri pony owners, palanquin bearers and others risk their lives on the perilous route to the cave, helping to carry the yatris to the top.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
Despite the harsh environment and inclement weather, each year sees a new record number of pilgrims register for the holy trek.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
Various non-profit organisations set up food supply stalls - named pandals - which are made available free of charge to the pilgrims.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
Near the shrine, thousands of tents erected by local Kashmiris can be hired by yatris for a night's stay.


Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera
This year, around half a million pilgrims have registered for the pilgrimage - of which some 250,000 yatries have already paid obeisance at the shrine.


Follow Showkat Shafi on Twitter: @ShowkatShafi


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captions:
Amarnath Yatra 2012 began on June 24, amid high security in Indian-administered Kashmir.;*;Thousands of pilgrims undertake the journey to the Amarnath cave, located inside a snow-capped mountain in the Himalayas.;*;The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,700ft), some 140km (85 miles) from Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.;*;The Hindu devotees travel by foot, ride ponies and some take palanquins to reach to holy cave of Amarnath.;*;In 2011, an estimated 634,000 people participated in the pilgrimage, the highest recorded number of Yatris ever.;*;People of different ages from all over India come for the yatra, to pray by an ice stalagmite they believe to be a symbol of Hindu god Lord Shiva.;*;The mountainous route to the shrine is one of the toughest and longest routes. Its steep gradient makes it very difficult to climb.;*;The crowds of devotees are watched over by thousands of police officers deployed for the pilgrimage.;*;Kashmiri pony owners, palanquin bearers and others risk their lives on the perilous route to the cave, helping to carry the yatris to the top.;*;Despite the harsh environment and inclement weather, each year sees a new record number of pilgrims register for the holy trek.;*;Various non-profit organisations set up food supply stalls - named pandals - which are made available free of charge to the pilgrims.;*;Near the shrine, thousands of tents erected by local Kashmiris can be hired by yatris for a night\(***)s stay.;*;This year, around half a million pilgrims have registered for the pilgrimage - of which some 250,000 yatries have already paid obeisance at the shrine. Daylife ID:
1341756574536
Photographer:
Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Al Jazeera;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi;*;Showkat Shafi
Image Source:
Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera;*;Al Jazeera
Gallery Source:
Daylife
Daylife Raw Data:
Hindu pilgrims descend on Kashmirhttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmiren-usAl Jazeerafeedback@daylife.com10Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:09:37 GMTMon, 09 Jul 2012 17:38:02 GMT http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=00cA1amfOw7if

Amarnath Yatra 2012 began on June 24, amid high security in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:10:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=00cA1amfOw7ifShowkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Amarnath Yatra 2012 began on June 24, amid high security in Indian-administered Kashmir.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=01EW3XQfGUdSz

Thousands of pilgrims undertake the journey to the Amarnath cave, located inside a snow-capped mountain in the Himalayas.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:10:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=01EW3XQfGUdSzShowkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Thousands of pilgrims undertake the journey to the Amarnath cave, located inside a snow-capped mountain in the Himalayas.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=0aJs68mb4u24Z

The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,700ft), some 140km (85 miles) from Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:10:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=0aJs68mb4u24ZShowkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,700ft), some 140km (85 miles) from Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=0b1928N2gj7Fc

The Hindu devotees travel by foot, ride ponies and some take palanquins to reach to holy cave of Amarnath.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:11:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=0b1928N2gj7FcShowkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

The Hindu devotees travel by foot, ride ponies and some take palanquins to reach to holy cave of Amarnath.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=02i3eWI4CIgB7

In 2011, an estimated 634,000 people participated in the pilgrimage, the highest recorded number of Yatris ever.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:11:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=02i3eWI4CIgB7Al JazeeraAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

In 2011, an estimated 634,000 people participated in the pilgrimage, the highest recorded number of Yatris ever.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=0foU5CBcKZ3c2

People of different ages from all over India come for the yatra, to pray by an ice stalagmite they believe to be a symbol of Hindu god Lord Shiva.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:11:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=0foU5CBcKZ3c2Showkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

People of different ages from all over India come for the yatra, to pray by an ice stalagmite they believe to be a symbol of Hindu god Lord Shiva.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=09Ws3qCg2G4xL

The mountainous route to the shrine is one of the toughest and longest routes. Its steep gradient makes it very difficult to climb.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:25:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=09Ws3qCg2G4xLShowkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

The mountainous route to the shrine is one of the toughest and longest routes. Its steep gradient makes it very difficult to climb.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=06qP1tL5TrfOD

The crowds of devotees are watched over by thousands of police officers deployed for the pilgrimage.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:11:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=06qP1tL5TrfODShowkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

The crowds of devotees are watched over by thousands of police officers deployed for the pilgrimage.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=0dLYgkl3UZ38e

Kashmiri pony owners, palanquin bearers and others risk their lives on the perilous route to the cave, helping to carry the yatris to the top.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:11:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=0dLYgkl3UZ38eShowkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Kashmiri pony owners, palanquin bearers and others risk their lives on the perilous route to the cave, helping to carry the yatris to the top.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=02SJdpT5KoeXY

Despite the harsh environment and inclement weather, each year sees a new record number of pilgrims register for the holy trek.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:11:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=02SJdpT5KoeXYShowkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Despite the harsh environment and inclement weather, each year sees a new record number of pilgrims register for the holy trek.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=080xe9z6KQcd1

Various non-profit organisations set up food supply stalls - named pandals - which are made available free of charge to the pilgrims.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:12:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=080xe9z6KQcd1Showkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Various non-profit organisations set up food supply stalls - named pandals - which are made available free of charge to the pilgrims.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=08NLbK6aYv2H7

Near the shrine, thousands of tents erected by local Kashmiris can be hired by yatris for a night's stay.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:12:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=08NLbK6aYv2H7Showkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

Near the shrine, thousands of tents erected by local Kashmiris can be hired by yatris for a night's stay.

http://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=00JDeNSblXfZE

This year, around half a million pilgrims have registered for the pilgrimage - of which some 250,000 yatries have already paid obeisance at the shrine.

Sun, 08 Jul 2012 14:12:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/A-journey-of-Hindu-faith-in-Kashmir?image_id=00JDeNSblXfZEShowkat ShafiAl JazeeraAl Jazeera Upload Images

This year, around half a million pilgrims have registered for the pilgrimage - of which some 250,000 yatries have already paid obeisance at the shrine.



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