Amarnath Yatra is an annual pilgrimage to the holy shrine in Amarnath Cave located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft). The shrine forms an important part of Hinduism and is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims.
Inside the 40 m (130 ft) high Amarnath cave, the Shivalinga is formed of Ice every year during the month of June-August, afterwards it melts. According to Hindu beliefs, the Shivlinga grows and shrinks with the phases of the moon reaching its height during the summer festival. Lakhs of devotees visit the holy shrine to worship of the ice Shivlinga.
Legend is that this was the cave where God Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort, Goddess Parvati. Two other ice formations represent Parvati and Shiva’s son, Ganesha.
The Amarnath Cave is located about 141 km from Srinagar (Summer Capital of J&K) and 360 km from Jammu (Winter Capital of J&K). It can be reached either through the base camps of Pahalgam and Baltal by foot, ponies or porters. Regular Helicopters Services also operate to the Holy Cave.
In 2011 about 634,000 pilgrims visited the Holy Cave, followed by 622,000 in 2012. However the number dropped to 350,000 in 2013.