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Pilgrims’ progress: Chhari-Mubarak on its way to Amarnath cave

Pilgrims’ progress: Chhari-Mubarak on its way to Amarnath cave
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Rakhsha Bandhan, which will be celebrated on 20 August this year, will see the conclusion of the age-old annual Amarnath Yatra for this year. The pilgrimage to the cave of Shri Amarnath in south Kashmir, is undertaken in the month of Shravan. For the past several years, however, the Yatra has been shadowed by threats and fear of possible terror attacks.

Adverse conditions in the form of difficult, mountain terrain and inclement weather were always there, but failed to daunt the spirit of the devout pilgrims. This year, the Yatra has faced further setback courtesy the communal clashes in the district of Kishtwar. Millions of devotees trek through the daunting mountains to the shrine of Amarnathji for a darshan of the naturally-made ice Lingam. The Amarnath Yatra also coincides with the holy month of Shravan, the month of Shiva devotees. The beginning of the annual pilgrimage (Amarnath Yatra) is marked by pratham pujan (first prayer) to invoke the blessings of Amarnathji.

The Yatra concludes with the arrival of Chhari-Mubarak in a procession from the Sankaracharya Temple in Srinagar. The Chhari-Mubarak Puja is held on the day of Raksha Bandhan. The Chhari-Mubarak, a holy silver staff, epitomises the mystical powers of Lord Shiva. Other than the ice Lingam, the Chhari-Mubarak has a pivotal significance in holy Amarnath pilgrimage.

The Yatra begins only after the ceremony of Chhari-Mubarak at the Budshah Chowk in Srinagar. It’s believed that the Chhari was given by Lord Shiva to Rishi Kashyap along with an order that it must be carried to Amarnath each year. That’s why pilgrims on Amarnath Yatra are suggested to carry a symbolic walking stick, which gives them spiritual strength to tackle the long and arduous journey to the Amarnath cave.

To mark the beginning of Amarnath Yatra, the Chhari-Mubarak leaves Srinagar for Pahalgam on Vyas-Purnima, to execute the bhoomi-pujan and dhwajarohan ceremony. It subsequently, on Samawati Amavasya – a fortnight before Raksha Bandhan, moves to Sankaracharya Temple in Srinagar to perform a puja. After that, it’s sent to the Sharika Bhawani temple and then Dashnami Akhara for Chharisthapana (establishment of the chhari) and dhwajarohan ceremonies. Thereafter, on the auspicious occasion of Nag Panchami, Chhari pujan is done, and after exactly five days, the
Chhari leaves for the Amarnath shrine.

On the way to Amarnath, the Chhari is lodged in various destinations en route from Pahalgam to Sheshnag to Panchtarini to Amarnath. On Raksha Bandhan, it stays at Amarnath cave, where the Chhari puja is performed.
This holy Chhari is then brought back to Pahalgam, and is immersed into the water of Lidder River. People who take the Pahalgam route to Amarnath cave can complete their journey along this holy staff.

This year, the traditional Chhari-Pujan of the silver staff of Lord Shiva was performed at Dashnami Akhara in Srinagar on 11 August, on the day of Nag Panchami. The Chhari-Pujan was conducted under the supervision of Mahant Dependra Giri, custodian of the holy staff. The journey of the holy staff of Lord Shiva started from 16 August under the supervision of Mahant Dependra Giri along with hundreds of sadhus.

The Chhari-Mubarak will leave from Pahalgam and make a night halt at Chandanwari on 18 August before proceeding towards Sheshnag, Panchtarni and will reach the holy cave on 20 August, on the occasion of Shravan Poornima (Raksha Bandhan), the day when rituals of the annual Amarnath pilgrimage will culminate.

Even after so many disruptions such as protests and curfew across the Valley, in the aftermath of the killings of five Indian soldiers at  the Line of Control by Pakistani troopers, protest and curfew in Ramban and nearby areas over the killing of locals in BSF firing, about 3.5 lakh pilgrims travelled for a darshan of the naturally-formed ice Lingam inside the 3,880 metre high cave shrine this year.

The Amarnath shrine is managed by Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) that was constituted by an Act of the Jammu and Kashmir state legislature in 2000 with the governor of Jammu and Kashmir as its ex-officio chairman.
The Amarnathji Shrine Board is responsible for the better management of the Amarnathji Yatra, upgradation of facilities for holy pilgrims and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
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