Amarnath is 145 km east of Srinagar in Kashmir. There is an ice Silva-linga here that changes size with the seasons, and also as the moon waxes and wanes it becomes bigger and smaller. On the full moon day the linga is about 6 ft high. Each year on the full moon day of July-August (Sravana) when the Siva-linga attains its maximum height there is a festival at this cave temple. It is said that Lord Siva first appeared on this day.
It is located in a glacial valley at 4,175m (13,700 ft.). The cave is about 150 feet high and 90 feet long. Within the cave there are four or five ice formations that resemble the figures of different gods. The biggest figures of different gods. The biggest figure is regarded as Siva (Amarnath). On the left side of the linga is an ice formation called Ganesh, and on the right side is one of Parvati and Bhairava.
The area is covered with snow from September to June. The cave opens only in July and August. This is the rainy season, so pilgrims have to brave the rain to get there. About 25,000 people make this pilgrimage each year. You can also hire ponies and dandies for the trip. It is very crowded during the annual Sravana festival. There is a yearly pilgrimage starting from Srinagar that is led by the Chhari Saheb, the holy seepter.
The of the most important event during July/ August, is Amarnath Yatra to the Holy Pilgrimage. This is an annual event when thousands of Hindus from different corners of the Globe visit Amarnath caves. The pilgrims trek from Pahalgam to these caves and worship the great ice Lingam. Legend has it that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in a cave in Amarnath. Unknow to them, a pair of mating doves eavesdropped on this conversation and having learned the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode. Many pilgrims report seeing the doves-pair when they trek the arduous route to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva). This is an event you certainly will talk about for the rest ow3f your life.
There is famous Rigvedic Verse that says “Ekam Sat ” that is “There is one Being ,the sages call Him by many names.” The God (Parmeshwar) has three deities who carry on the world .This is Known as Holy Trinity. Brahma- the creator, Vishnu – the perpetuator of life and Shiva (Mahesh ) -the purifier and perpetuator of good and destroyer of evil. Rig Veda refer Shiva as Rudra as in its following verse . “We Worship Tryambaka (Rudra) , Who spread Fragrance and Increases Nourishment , May He release me ,like the cucumber from its stem , From Mortal Life , But not From Immorality . “(Rig Veda Mandal VII Sukta 59 and Mantra 12)
The Yajurveda describes Shiva as ascetic warrior Whose robe is of Deer Skin and He carries Trishul .
According to the verse Satyam, Shivam ,Sundaram ,the life is described as having three facets Truth (Satyam), Good (Shivam) and the Beautiful (Sundaram). Shiva is a living God. The most Sacred and ancient books of India, the Rig Veda narrates His presence in the hymns. Vedic myths, rituals and even astronomy testifies to His existence from the dawn of time .The Mohindaro and Harapa findings confirm Shiva worship in the ancient India. According to the older scriptures, He has three places of His residence. One is Kailash Parvat another is Lohit Giri under which Brahamputra flows and third is Muzwan Parvat .
Significence of Amarnath Cave
The Legend about the importance of Amarnath Cave is as follows :
This is The Cave which was chosen by Bhole Shankar for narrating the secrets of immortality and creation of Universe to Maa Parvati ji . The story goes like this . Centuries ago Maa Parvati asked Shiv ji to let her know why and when He started wearing the beads of heads ( Mund Mala) . Bhole Shankar replied when ever you are born I add one more head in my beads . Maa Parvati said ,” My Lord, my body is destroyed every time and I die again and again, but you are Immortal. Please let me know the secret of this .” Bhole Shankar replied that it is due to Amar Katha .”
Maa Parvati insisted that she may be told that secret. For long Shiva ji continued postponing . Finally on consistent demand from Maa Parvati He made up his mind to tell the immortal secret . He started for lonely place where no living being could listen it . He choose Amarnath Cave . In preparation to that He left His Nandi ( The Bull which He used to ride ) at Pahalgam (Bail gaon) . At Chandanwari He released Moon from his hairs (Jataon). At the banks of Lake Sheshnag He released the snakes . He decided to leave his Son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat (Mahaganesh Hill ) . At Panjtarni, Shivji left the Five Elements behind (Earth , Water, Air , Fire and Sky) which make living being . He is the Lord of these elements. It is believed that as a symbol of sacrificing the earthly world , Shivaji and Maa Parvati had Tandav Dance . After leaving behind all these, Bhole Shankar enters the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati Maa.
Lord Shiva takes his Samadhi on the Deer Skin and concentrate . To ensure that no living being is able to hear the Immortal Tale , He created Rudra named Kalagni and ordered him to spread fire to eliminate every living thing in and around the Holy Cave . After this He started narrating the secret of immortality to Maa Parvati . But as a matter of chance one egg which was lying beneath the Deer skin remained protected . It is believed to be non living and more over it was protected by Shiva -Parvati Asan (Bed) . The pair of pigeons which were born out of this egg became immortal having listened the secret of immortality (Amar Katha). Many pilgrims report seeing the pair of pigeons when they trek the arduous route to pay their obeisance before the Ice-Lingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva).
Discovery of Holy Cave
The story narrated by people about the discovery of this Holy Cave is of a Gujjar ( shepherd) Buta Malik . He is given the credit of discovering this Holy Cave . Story goes like this , that a saint gave Buta Malik a bag full of Coal. On reaching his home when he opened the bag , to his utter surprise the bag was full of gold coins . This made him overwhelmed with joy. He ran to thank the Saint . But, what he found was that the Saint had disappeared . Instead , he found The Holy Cave and Shiv Lingam there in . He announced the discovery of this to the Villagers. Then onwards this has become the sacred place of Pilgrimage .
The ancient epics narrate an other story which goes like this. The valley of Kashmir was under water .It was a big lake. Kashyap Rishi drained the water through number of rivers and rivulets . In those days Bhrigu Rishi came that way on a visit to The Himalyas. He was the first to have Darshans of this Holy Cave . When people heard of the Lingam, Amarnath for them became Shiva’s abode and a Centre of pilgrimage . Since then Lacs of devotees perform the pilgrimage through tough terrain and avail eternal happiness. The trek to Amarnath, in the month of sharavan ( July-August) has the devout flock to this incredible shrine, where the image of Shiva, in the form of a Lingam, is formed naturally of an Ice Stalagmite, which waxes and wanes with the Moon’s cycle . By its side are fascinating, two more Ice Lingams, that of Maa Parvati and of their son, Ganesha .
When To take up Yatra
The Amarnath Yatra is organised every year by the J &K Govt. during the month of Shravan ( July and August); the dates however , vary every year looking at the weather conditions and according to Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) in the month of Sharavan (Vikrama Samwat). This year Yatra will be taken up from 08 July, 2003 to 08 August, 2003.
Yatra to Baba Amarnath Holy Cave for which one has to trek a height of about 14,500 ft is full of thrill and joy .The feeling of divine which is always beneath ones’ heart , burst out and one realises ‘Moksha’ as one attends the Cave and perform the prayer before the Shivlinga . Surrounded by beautiful valleys, mountains , one will always feel His presence on the paradise of the earth, the memory of which hardly vanishes with time A journey which will rediscover the nature and its love which is always inside but one has never felt.
The climatic conditions are very uncertain . Rain or snowfall may take place at any time or place during the Yatra . It is to be particularly noted that abrupt changes in temperature might occur . Sunny weather may turn into rain / snow fall in a short time . The temperature may fall up to -5 degree C.
How to travel
Indian Airlines had daily flights to Delhi and Srinagar. There are also flights to Bombay, Calcutta, Chandigarh, and Leh. The Indian Airlines office(542-735) is at the Tourist Reception Centre on Vir Marg.
The Shalimar Express departs from Delhi at 4.10 pm and arrives in Jammu at 7 am. There are other trains to and from Delhi. From Jammu there are direct trains to Bombay, Calcutta (Jammu Tawi Exp # 3152, daily, 6.15 pm, 46 ½ hr). Most buses leave between 6 and 7 am, in order to arrive before night. A ticket to Srinagar should be booked in advance. There are buses to Delhi (14 hr), Amritsar (5hr), and Pathankot (3 hr). From Pathankot you can get a bus to Dharamshala and Dalhousie. Deluxe buses depart from the railway station, usually between 6 and 7 am.