One of the most famous and gruelling pilgrimages, the Amarnath Yatra, kicked off on Monday, 1 July amid tight security. Each year, the Yatra attracts devotees from all over the country to visit the holy cave in Jammu and Kashmir. Pilgrims trek for kilometres in life-threatening weather conditions and under threat of terror attacks to pay obeisance to the ice Shiv lingam that forms inside the cave every year.Heavily guarded by security forces, the pilgrimage has claimed several lives due to attacks and bad weather conditions – but it continues to attract lakhs of devotees each year. Here are the myths, legends and the tragedies that befell pilgrims undertaking the Amarnath Yatra.Amarnath – meaning the immortal lord – is one of the many names of Lord Shiva.The Amarnath cave is popularly believed to be the place where Lord Shiva revealed the secret of his immortality to goddess Parvati. However, there are many versions of the tale across cultures.According to one of the legends, Lord Shiva chose a lonely place to reveal the secret where no living being could overhear him – which turned out to be the Amarnath cave.There are many legends and folklore on the discovery of the cave. According to one such legend, the cave was discovered by a shepherd called Buta Malik. As the story goes, a saint gave Malik a bag full of coal. On returning home, however, he discovered that the bag was full of gold coins. Overwhelmed, he set out on a quest to look for the saint, but discovered the cave instead.For years, the descendants of the Malik family were reportedly exempted from land revenue tax and part of the shrine’s offering also went to the family.In 2000, the J&K Shri Amarnathji Shrine Act was passed that did away with the hereditary rights of various families over the shrine and gave management of the shrine and the pilgrimage to the board led by a Hindu governor and 10 members.References to Amarnath have also been made in historical chronicles like the ‘Rajatarangini’ and its sequels. Some reports, citing religious texts, also suggest that the cave is over 5,000 years old. However, the exact time of the discovery of the cave or the lingam is unknown.The Amarnath cave is situated at the distance of 140 km from Srinagar and 46 km from Pahalgam, and is located at a height of 3,888 meters above sea level.The nearest airport to reach Amarnath is Srinagar from where pilgrims can choose to avail helicopter services. For pilgrims traveling by train, Jammu is the nearest railway station.There are two available trekking routes to reach the place. One route is via Pahalgam, situated around 46 km from the cave. This route, usually takes five days to reach the cave.Another route of 14km can be taken from Baltal to Amarnath cave which can be completed within one day of trekking. The route passes through Domel, Barari, and Sangam to reach the cave.The ancient Pahalgam route is used more often by pilgrims as it is wider and people can opt to walk or ride ponies.The yatra has been marred by a spate of terror attacks over the years, the latest one being in 2017. The valley is heavily guraded by drone-mounted cameras, jammers, police dogs, bullet-proof bunkers, and satellite tracking devices to look out for trouble.Terrorist Group Declares "Ban"From 1991 to 1995, the yatra remained suspended due to constant threats from terrorist organisations. In 1993, the Harkatul Mujaheedin declared what it called a "ban" on that year's yatra.In a statement, the organisation, threatened the pilgrims with "serious consequences".1996 TragedyOn resuming after five years in 1996, unseasonal blizzards led to a tragedy that claimed the lives of 242 yatris, killed by exhaustion and exposure. The then National Conference government constituted a committee headed by the retired IAS officer Dr Nitish Sengupta to inquire into various aspects of the tragedy and suggest measures and remedies to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future.2000 MassacreOn 2 August 2000, terrorists opened fire killing on pilgrims killing over 89 people in Pahalgam’s base camp. However, the unofficial figures are said to be much more. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Pahalgam and blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for the killings.2001 Grenade AttackIn 2001, 13 people, including two police officers were killed after a militant hurled two grenades at Sheshnag camp and later opened fire near the Amarnath shrine. Of those killed, six were pilgrims.2002 Twin AttacksIn 2002, eight pilgrims were killed and 30 were injured in two co-ordinated terror attacks on 30 July and 6 August.Two pilgrims were killed and three injured on 30 July when terrorists threw grenades at a civilian taxi of pilgrims in Srinagar. Further, nine people were killed and 27 injured on 6 August as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists' fired shots at Nunwan base camp.2017 Bus AttackA bus carrying seven pilgrims who were returning from Amarnath was attacked by terrorists killing seven, including six women. At least 19 people were injured in the attack. We'll get through this! 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