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Journey to a Cave in Kashmir

 
 

Each year, Hindu devotees make a pilgrimage to the sacred Amarnath cave, one of Hinduism’s most revered shrines.

The Amarnath cave has been a place of worship since time immemorial, with references to the site found in many ancient texts. According to a Hindu legend, the cave is where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort Parvati.

The cave itself is covered with snow most of the year, except for a short period in summer when it is open for pilgrims. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 meters (12,756 feet). 

Hindu devotees brave sub-zero temperatures to hike over glaciers and high altitude mountain passes to reach the sacred cave. The Amarnath cave houses an ice stalagmite, worshiped by Hindus as a symbol of the god Shiva. 

More than 350,000 Hindu pilgrims took part in this year’s two-month pilgrimage, during which Indian paramilitary soldiers and police are being deployed along the route to protect against attacks by militants who have been fighting for the independence of Kashmir since 1989.

Experts and locals say rising temperatures and the activities of the pilgrims, such as burning wood and using diesel generators and plastic pollution, have put a strain on the ecosystem of the area.

Ahmer Khan is a freelance documentary photographer based in Kashmir. He tweets @ahmermkhan

Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
Indian Hindu pilgrims rest on the way to the sacred Amarnath cave during the annual pilgrimage in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
Hindu pilgrims are carried by Kashmiri Muslim palanquin bearers as they make their pilgrimage to the sacred Amarnath cave.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
A pilgrim runs to the base camp after completing the pilgrimage.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
A Kashmiri horseman looks on during the annual Hindu pilgrimage.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
A portrait of a young Kashmiri horseman who earns his livelihood by ferrying Hindu pilgrims to the cave.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
Indian army personnel patrol the pilgrimage route used by the people for the annual pilgrimage. About 50,000 Indian security personnel were deployed to guard the route and the pilgrims.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
Every year, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims trek through treacherous mountains, along icy streams, glacier-fed lakes and frozen passes, to reach the Amarnath cave.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
Indian Hindu pilgrims return back on their rented horses from the pilgrimage to the base camp. Horsemen usually charge $100 to take pilgrims to the cave.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
Hindu pilgrims on their horses move on the mountain trail to the sacred Amarnath cave.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
Indian Hindu pilgrims rest at the base camp on July 15, 2018 in Baltal, 125 km (77 miles) east of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, India.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
A Kashmiri Muslim man fixes his palanquin near his tent just before taking Hindu pilgrims to the cave.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
A Kashmiri Muslim horseman sleeps after the pilgrimage was suspended due to the heavy rains and landslides along the pilgrimage route.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
Camps erected by Hindu pilgrims during the annual Amarnath pilgrimage.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
Hindu pilgrims rest at the base camp which consists of thousands of temporary tents used by the pilgrims during the scared pilgrimage.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
Journey to a Cave in Kashmir
The journey, which people take by foot or on horses or carried by palanquin, takes about 8 to 10 hours.
Image Credit: Ahmer Khan
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