Delhi Youth in Kashmir's Amarnath Yatra

Within the last ten years now, more and more middle-class Indians travel throughout their own country. A lot of them are taking their holidays to carry out religious pilgrimages, often at the other end of the indian subcontinent, and that they could not afford to realize a few years ago. It is the case of the famous Hindu pilgrimage of Amarnath Yatra, which takes place in the Himalayan mountains of the Indian Kashmir, and which is only open two months per year. More and more, young city dwellers from the major cities come here as pilgrims, far from that traditional image we all have of the Hindu devotee.

It was the case for a small group of six childhood friends from Delhi who carried out the Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage. In spite of the bad reputation of the area to those townsmen, they threw themselves in the adventure.
Manoj Lonji Tamir
Manoj, the "boss", is a manager in a call center, Lonji and Tamir work for a telephone company. While Raïesh is a young data processing specialist. Dileep is a business man and Majid a future mechanical engineer.
Raïesh Dileep Majid

I met them at the foothills of the Kashmir mountains, as the trucks and cars were blocked by the army because of a bombing attack.

Such as every access road of the Kashmir province, the trade routes are all protected by soldiers from the Indian army. In certain "sensitive" areas close to the Pakistani border, we can see them every hundred meters. Thus, it is not rare that they block the roads to let their enormous convoys through, or to search the vehicles.

Blocked road because of a bomb, Kashmir
When I met them, as our vehicles had remained immobilized for three hours, the six friends were alongside the road, a bit stressed to wait for the resumption of circulation.
hiites in Kashmir, India

They talked about the bombing attempts and last armed group attacks which they heard about recently. Accounts gathered in the press or from friends, and which happened, so they said, in the region. They were thus relieved to take the road again towards Pahalgam in order to prepare the pilgrimage, the main goal of their adventure in Kashmir.

After one night of rest in the house of a farmer in the village of Pahalgam, they were on their way : on the track towards Shandavari, the last inhabited village before the 5 days hike through the mountains. Like the other townsmen, the Delhi friends don't have any gear for the mountainous environment. They simply brought their winter clothing and will buy raincoats, shoes and gloves before they start their adventure.
Pahalgam   Departure
Leaving the village of Shandavari with their new gear and traditional pilgrim sticks, the townsmen are from now on true “Yatrists”. It is easy to feel the effervescence that this departure brings to them : they unceasingly shout “Bam Bam Bole!”, the rallying call of the devotees on the path to the sacred cave.
Shandavari, India   Jeunes de Delhi Youth in pilgrimage
After two long days of hiking, the six city dwellers, like many other pilgrims, feel that tiredness and high altitude slowly get to them. Despite the high price of horse rental, the idea to sit on a horse's back appeals more and more to the Delhi friends. The buying power of that young middle-class enables them to pay for this small "luxury" : to be carried on with nonchalance throughout the paths of this magnificent himalayan landscape, which they now will be able to admire without producing any real effort.
Horse back-riding   Indian Himalaya
Since this pilgrimage takes place in splendid mountainous areas, and often far from which the six townsmen are accustomed to, they try to make the most of this new experience. For them, with the freedom they feel in the mountain, and the possibility of finding themselves between childhood friends without any family, this adventure is quite a revelation : their personalities open up in this environment.
Down a névé Pause Icy cold bathing
After days of walking, the pilgrims arrive at the most important stage of their trip : the plateau of the sacred Amarnath cave. Through broad "névés", and in spite of the cold and light drizzle, the six friends throw themselves into the icy water of the Amravati torrent. They say it is to purify themselves before the grotto's entrance : the legend says that Shiva filled it with an extraordinary nectar of immortality.
Indian Himalaya
Peaceful and still under the mystical shock of having carried out their pilgrimage, which every Hindu must do at least once in his life, the six city friends slowly take on the descending path. They will spend two more days to join the small village of Sonamarg in order to rally Srinagar, then the Indian capital.

Ending the pilgrimage

  Delhiites who became true Yatrists

The six Delhi friends and their "mister seven", before going on parting ways. From now on, all true yatrists, they will go back to their lives after this Amarnath Yatra break: towards work, studies or travel…

  Delhi Six and their "M. Seven"
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