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