Pilgrimage is a spiritual journey. A pilgrim is detached from the worldly life. He doesn't care about the management or administrative part of such activities. We have been witnessing now since last few decades that such Yatras and pilgrimages have been turned into mere statecraft project just to create opportunities. That is why we have been witnessing the commercialisation of such religious activities specifically in the sub-continent which is known for diverse human cultures and religious heterogeneity. It is hard to identify any region which doesn't host one or other such smaller or bigger pilgrimages or Yatra. Although the said religious activity used to be purely spiritual in nature but because of the commercially oriented vested interest and their deliberate unholy interventions and indulgence, these pilgrimages are losing the spiritual sheen and aura.
The valley of Kashmir historically has been the natural host for such yatras/ pilgrimages being abode of hermits, saints of all the faiths. Shri Amarnath Yatra undertaken by the devotional Hindu pilgrims from all over the world is the live display of nature's dramatic and thematic mechanism which culminates in the formation of Ice Lingam (Shiv-Ling). It used to be one of the best examples of a purely spiritual experience for the devotional pilgrims and also for the facilitators of this yatra at the community level. This yatra is taken basically to have a glimpse of Shiva Lingam by every devotee. It unites the human chain involved en-route and is a live proof of pluralistic culture, exhibiting togetherness at all levels.
The discovery of this Shiva's abode is traced back to one Muslim villager known as Bota Malik. Botakoot was named after him, thus the discovery of the Amarnath cave and the Shiva's Ice lingam is credited to Malik ancestry a Muslim family which is an ample proof of pluralistic social order of Kashmir. The legacy of this tradition was carried by generations of the said area en-route the Amarnath yatra. I remember when we in Ashmuqam and other villages used to wait throughout the year for this occasion to celebrate the yatra along with our pundit friends, sharing of the dry fruits, walnuts and other available eatables was a unique experience and an opportunity for inter communal get together, the elders and village heads used to help in facilitating the proper arrangements for hosting of this yatra.
Some people even would accompany the Yatris and Chhaddi (the mace of Lord Shiva) up to the cave. Pahalgam seemed abuzz with the colorful amalgamation of inter-faith interdependence and collaborative efforts from both the communities who without the hesitation unconditionally facilitated Yatris, specifically the old ones to witness the Darshan (glimpse of Shivling) at the cave. The poniwallas, dandiwallas and local guides were religiously volunteering to assist the Yatris in every possible manner. The scene can be still witnessed at least from Pahalgam onwards. This Yatra besides being a spiritual experience for the devoted guests created an atmosphere of harmony and spiritual ambience with the Vedic Hymns and songs of Lord Shiva everywhere at each Padao (milstone). Amarnath Saane ki Jai, Jai Jai Shiv Shankar were the main slogans reverberating en-route the Yatra up to the holy cave. This Yatra not only was an opportunity for social and cultural bonding but also was economically rewarding to the people who would pitch tents and offer other necessary services for the yatris including the shoulder carts (daandi), Pony wallahs and others who accompanied the older pilgrims also by foot.
Let the Yatra and its affairs be handed over to Kashmir Pundit and Muslim communities. Let the vested interest find some other medium and method to safeguard their interests. Let spirituality be separated from politics.