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OUR AMARNATH YATRA 2013 (05.07.13 18.07.13) The package tour is organized by Sri Uma Traveles, Tuni (Sri Devarkonda Srinivas) Mob. No. 09493173323). We were 36 pilgrims, and 6 of the organizers crew, totally 42. We have started on 05.07.13 by AP Express, and reached New Delhi by 9.30 am on 06.07.13. We were hosted at Sanathana Dharmasala, Rajendera Nagar, New Delhi. Same night we left for Kurukshetra in Haryana by 2x2 seater Deluxe Bus. We stayed there in Jhat Dharmasala a big complex to stay, which has more than 200, some with AC facility, well furnished rooms, at moderate rates (Tel. No. 01744-290962/293662). There are some other such choultries to stay in Kurusketra. From the place we stayed the Brahma Sarovara is in 2 - 3 minute walk distance. 06.07.13 Kurukshetra, Haryana Important places to visit: took holy bath in Brahma Sarovar, some of us have offered Pinda pradanas to their forefathers at the holy Brahma Sarovar. We have visited the place where Maha Bharath Sangram took place in Dwapara Yug, the place where Bhishma laid on Ampasayya (The Arrow Bed) and the nearby Bhana Kund (created by Arjuna to satisfy the thirst of Bhisma on Ampasayya), the great Amara Vata Vriksha (Immortal Tree) which has witnessed the Bhagavat Geetha of Lord Krishna to Arjuna. By 06.07.13 evening we have reached Anandpur Sahib for night halt Famous Sikh Gurudwara we have visited in the evening. It is very big, and spacious. It has also more than 200 well furnished rooms to provide to the Yatries. The Langar in the Gurudwar provide free food to all the devotees round the clock, even in mid night. It is worth visiting the Gurudwar. 07.07.13 morning we have visited Naina Devi, (one of the 51 of Shakthi Peethas), Bilaspur Dist of Himachal Pradesh 60 km from Bilaspur & 15 Km from the famous Anadpur Sahib Gurudwar in Punjab, it is one of the Pancha Mathas (Naina Devi, Jwala Mukhi, Chamundi, Chinta Poorni, Vajsreswari maa). It is situated on a small but picturesque hill. Mini vans will go to the temple on the hill top, and there is ropeway facility also available. The same afternoon we have left for Jwala Mukhi in Himachal Pradesh, and reached there at around 05.30 Pm after fresh up we took darshan of Jwala Mukhi one of the Pacha Mathas & one of the 51 sakhti peethas. The toungue of Sathi is represented in the shape of flame here. Near the Shiva shrine on the small hill, flames will get from water when lit with matches. It is believed that the Emperor Akbar was visiting the temple yearly once, after he got impressed by the flames, which were kept burning even after he had covered the flames with a massive metal chatra. We stayed at Aggarwal Trust Bhawan, Jwalamukhi, Kangra dist (Tel. No. 9736309841/9736116342) 08.07.13 Maa Chintha Purni, is in the Una village of Una Dist in HP it is also one of the 51 shakthi peethas; Maa Chintha Purni is believed to take away all your worries (Chintalu purthiga). It is believed that the holy feet of Sati fell here. It is believed that Maa Chamundi has killed the Shumbha & Nishumbha here; they are also called as Chanda & Munda. The goddess is named after their names Chamunda . It is 24km from Kangra and 15 km from Dharmasala in HP. Dharmasala is one of the Budhist place. 09.07.13 We reached Kangada in HP and took darshan of maa Vajreswari (locally known as Brijeswari) It was very wealthy with valuable diamonds and pearls, Gajani Md. Has looted all the wealth of the temple in 1009. In 1905 a massive earth quake also destroyed the temple, and the present temple is rebuilt in 1920. From there we have proceeded to J&K night halt at Samba (Dist HQ) in Jammu 10.07.13 reached Srinagar for night halt. 11.07.13 Srinagar Boating in Dal Lake & on boat shopping in the morning. They charge Rs.100/- per head for nearly 2 hours boating (on 4-5 sharing basis). A beautiful Shiva temple situated on a picturesque location on the Gopadari Hill on the

South East of Srinagar, locally known as Sankaracharya temple,

nearly 200 steps to climb. The Mughal Gardens is combination of three renowned gardens namely the Nishat Bagh, Shalimar Gardens and Chashm-e-shahi. These gardens are every travelers delight with beautifully laid out manicured gardens, with vibrant flowerbeds, terraced lawns and well long stretches of cascading fountains. The Astadasa Shakitipeetha Kasmeerethu Saraswathi the temple is situated in a small village by name Kishanganga, which is just outside of the Line of Control in POK. . It is approachable from a place called Bandipur in North Kashmir, 80 KM from Srinagar. I think to visit there; Passport & Visa are required (to be verified) as it is in POK. It is also believed that Adi Sankaracharya had relocated the main deity there to Sringeri in Karnataka. However we have not visited the same. 12.07.13 morning we left for Baltal one of the gateway routes to Holy Amarnath cave reached Baltal Base Camp at 1 Pm. Took lunch at the Langars that are organized by Non Govt. Charity Organizations. The Langars is one of the very good systems in throughout J&K during the Amarnath Yatra Season. In every town of J&K we can see the Langars where they provide verities of food, tea, coffee, drinking water, and other soft drinks to the yatries at free of cost with a great respect towards the yatries. They also provide sleeping facilities like beds & Blankets who want to stay there in the nights. Medical facilities are also available in the langers at free of cost, they provide the medicines also to the needed. Really it is a very good culture in J&K, simply superb culture. After reaching Baltal, our mobile phones will not work. If we want we have to take a new sim with the prior permission of concerned. After coming out of Baltal, again our sim will work. In J&K only post paid mobile connections of outside states will work, but not the prepaid connections. I believe it is not for security reasons, but known to the TRAI only. It is really a failure game in the part of Govt. of India. If anybody wants a prepaid connection, he can get the sim of any service provider of their choice by paying Rs.300/- at any local pan shop, even without mentioning their name. From Baltal to reach the Holy Amarnath Cave, there are Ponies, Dollies (Dandies), and also Helicopters. Even by walk the Yatries reach the cave which is 14 KM from Baltal Base came. Normal rates (to and fro) are as below: Pony Rs.4000 Rs.6000/- depending on the weight (Govt. Rate is Rs.2800/-); Dolly Rs.8000- Rs.10000/- even Rs.12000/- in rush season ( Govt. Rate is Rs.5000/-; Helicopter Rs.3000/- upto Panjtarani subject to availability of tickets. The Helicopter tickets can be obtained online. (from Panjtarani the cave is 6 km) again one should reach the Cave either by Pony, Dandi or by Walk. From here the pony will charge Rs.1600/-; Doli will charge Rs.3200/- to & fro. We went upto Pachatarani by Helicopter on 12.07.13 and stayed there in the Tents (chargeable tent) by paying Rs.300/per head. They have provided one cot, bed and one rojai in the tent. It was too cold in the night, but tolerable. 13.07.13 - Morning after taking bath (hot water provided on payment of Rs.50/- per bucket) and a cup of hot tea (free of cost in Langar), we have proceeded to the holy cave by Doly paying Rs.3200/- per head. The doly will take us very near to the Holy Cave darshan place (only 15 steps to climb). If we go by pony we need to walk about 200 steps to take darshan of Lord Amarnath. Hence to the aged, dolly is better than Pony. We took darshan of the Lord at 8 AM of 13.07.13, the Holy Lord Amarnathji Linga was over 2 feet height at that time, and we also seen the couple of pigeons in the cave. By the side of Lord Shiva we have seen the ice statue of Lord Ganesha and maa Parvathi. Later we came to know that the Ice Shiv Ling got disappeared by 15.07.13. Hence it is advisable to anybody who wants to undertake Amarnath yatra, better plan in the early days of Yatra commencement, instead of waiting till the last days of the permitted yatra period. One should obtain proper permit from the Amarnath Shrine Board to proceed for Amarnath Yatra with the support of prescribed medical certificate. We have obtained all the required permits even two months in advance to our Yatra. By 11 am we came down to Baltal Base camp and after lunch at the Lunger (free of cost) we left for Srinagar by Bus, and reached Srinagar at 8 pm (Baltal to Srinagar 105 KM). 13.07.13 night halt at Srinagar.

There is another route to reach Amarnath Cave, it is from Pehalgam, though it a lengthy route (45 KM Trekking route), one can enjoy the travel by visiting the holy places like Chandanwari, Seshanag lake, Ganesh top etc. one who want to travel by helicopter, can reach Panjtarani from Pahalgam and to the Holy cave by the other means. Whoever want to undertake the Yatra, should take care about health at least 3 months in advance the yatra - diet control and to walk minimum of 4-5 KM every day. To my opinion, even the aged with BP & diabetes can also under take the yatra without any fear, provided they are confident. 14.07.13 Srinagar we took darshan of Khseer Bhavani maa in the morning. There we offer Kheer to maa, and the temple has distributed kheer as prasadam to the devotees. Then we left for Katra. Reached Katra at 8 pm. 15.07.13 Katra Vaishno Devi There is a lot of stay facilities in Katra town, both private lodges and that of Devastanam. We have stayed in a private lodge (Hotel Hill Top) Again the maa Shrine is 14 km trekking from the Katra town, and can be reached by Pony, Doly, Helecopter and walk. The normal rates are as below: Pony Rs.1250/- to Rs.1500/-; Doly Rs.3000/- to Rs.5000/Helecopter Rs.1600/- (Rs.800/- one way) subject to availability of tickets. After getting down from Helecopter, we need to walk for 2 KM to reach the shrine. The Helicopter tickets can be obtained online. While talking to the Doly/ Pony persons we should talk about the Darshan of Lord Bahirav ji, which 1.75 KM diversion in the en-route to the maa shrine. We went to the Maa darshan by Pony. When compared to the Amarnath, Kedeanath & Yamunotri trekking routes, the Vaishno Devi trekking route is well organized and risk free. It took 2 hours for us to reach the shrine by pony. After taking darshan, we went to Bharav ji temple, and then came down. The total trekking route will be around 30 KM, from Katra to Vaishno Devi shrine, Bhairave jee temple and down to Katra, it took totally 8 hours including the darshan time. 16.07.13 Jammu 45 KM from Katra after lunch at Katra, we left for Jammu, there we took darshan of Lord Raghunath Ji, an ancient temple in Jammu. There are lot of sub-temples in the temple. The Crystal Shiv Linga is one of the other shrines in the temple complex. Lord Shidi Sai Baba temple is also there in the same complex. We can take Koti Lingala Darshan (One crore Shiva Linagas) in the same complex. Near the temple there is a big shopping to buy clothing and winter wear. We left Jammu for Amritsar in the evening reached Amritsar in the midnight. 17.07.13 - Amritsar - Morning we went to Golden Temple Sri Akal Takht Sahib (Gurudwara). We had very good darshan there. The persons on duty are very cordial, and guide us with a pleasing manner. In the Lunger in Gurudwara, they provide food at free of cost. They distribute Sikh literature at free of cost to the devotees interested. The culture is too good, one should need to observe and adopt. Cellphones & Cameras are allowed into the Gurudwar, but should not be used in the main temple. There are 5 important places (Sikh Panj Takhts) for Sikhs to visit, they are 1. Sri Akal Takht Sahib, Amritsar; 2. Sri Damdama Sahib, a village Talwandi Sabo, near Bhatinda; 3. Sri Keshgarh Sahib, Anandapur, this is the birth place of Khalsa; 4. Sri Hojur Sahib, Nanded on the banks of river Godavari, Maharastra; 5. Sri harmandir Sahib, Patna, Bihar. During this trip we have visited two of the five, they are Amritsar & Anadpur. Nearby we have visited Jallianwala Bagh, where during the freedom struggle; Gen. Dyer has brutally killed the freedom activists. One will get tears when see the Mytry Well there. Evening we went to Wagha Indo-Pak Boarder 30 KM from Amritsar town - every evening between 6.30 and 7.30 a Retreat March (Guard changing) will be celebrated there by both Indian & Pak army. It is very nice to see, one should

not miss it who ever visit Amritsar. Cellphones & Cameras are allowed. We can freely use our cameras there, no restrictions. 18.07.13 morning we reached New Delhi, we are again hosted in the Sanathana Dharmasala, Rajendera Nagar, New Delhi to get fresh up and proceed back to Hyderabad after lunch by AP Express. The package tour is well organized by Sri Uma Tavels, Tuni, and they have provided good food (morning Break Fast, lunch and night Tiffin), reasonably good accommodation during the tour period on sharing basis if travel alone. The staff is also well cooperative and cordial to the tourists. They have assisted the tourists in their medical needs where ever it was required. M. VENKATRAMAIAH 9492547187/8008514888