Amarnath Cave is one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimages dedicated to Lord Shiva. The shrine is located in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), India. It is the spiritual abode of Lord Shiva in his Linga form and is situated at the altitude of 12,756 ft, which is around about 88 mi from the J&K capital Srinagar. The most unique feature of Amarnath Yatra (pilgrimage) is that it gives all its devotees and visitors a transcendental experience upon entering the snowy mountains where Lord Shiva is believed to have been residing with his consort Parvati and their son Ganesha since time immemorial.
Visiting the shrine is a great challenge as the Cave is mostly snowcapped all throughout the year except during the summers when the Cave is opened for worship. Thousands of devotees throng the shrine everyday during this particular period to seek darshan of the self manifested Shiva Linga made up of ice stalagmite.
Amarnath in Scriptures
o A well known Rig Vedic Verse says that –
Meaning – ‘There is one Being, the sages call Him by many names.’
o God (Parmeshwar) has assumed three forms to carry on various activities in this world. They are the Holy Trinity of the Hindu religion.
– Brahma- the Creator of this Universe;
– Vishnu – the Preserver of life; and
– Shiva (Mahesh) – the Purifier and Perpetuator of good and Destroyer of evil.
o Rig Veda refers to Shiva as Rudra as can be seen in the subsequent verse.
“We Worship Tryambaka (Rudra), who spreads fragrance and increases nourishment, may He release me, like the cucumber from its stem, from mortal life to immortality.” (Rig Veda Mandal VII Sukta 59 and Mantra 12)
o The Yajurveda describes Shiva as an ascetic warrior whose robe is of deer skin carrying Trishul.
o According to the verse ‘Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram’, life is portrayed as having three aspects Satyam – Truth, Shivam – Good and the Sundaram – Beautiful.
o Shiva is Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscience. He is identified as a living God and many ancient scriptures including Rig Veda describes his presence in hymns; while other Vedic myths asserts his presence since the beginning of the time.
o The Mohinjadaro and Harappa findings confirm Shiva worship in ancient India. According to the ancient scriptures his three places of residence are Kailash Parvat, Lohit Giri under which Brahamputra flows and Muzwan Parvat.
The Secret of Immortality (Amar Katha)
The tale of ‘Secret of Immortality’ (Amar Katha) is related to the existence of Amarnath Cave. Upon insistence of goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva agreed to reveal to her the secret of his immortality. In search of a secret place where Shiva would reveal his secrets, both Lord Shiva and Parvati reached the Amarnath Cave. However, the tale of immortality was extremely confidential which Shiva wanted to disclose only to his beloved consort. Hence, on his way to the Cave the Lord left back his following possessions including –
– The Nandi (The Bull) at Pahalgam (Bail gaon),
– The Moon from his Jataon (hair locks) at Chandanwari,
– His snakes at Lake Sheshnag,
– The Five Elements – i.e. Fire, Water, Air, Earth, and Sky – at Panjtarni.
Lord Shiva also left his son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat (Mahaganesh Hill). Both Shiva and Parvati then performed Tandav Dance which was symbolic to sacrificing the earthly world and proceeding towards immortality. However, to ensure that nobody other than Parvati could listen to the tale of immortality, Lord Shiva ordered a Rudra called Kalagni to ignite a fire column around the Cave so that no living being could enter his Cave. However, an egg lying beneath the deer skin on which Shiva was sitting for performing his meditation overheard the whole Amar Katha and the two pigeons which came out from the egg became immortal along with goddess Parvati. Even today, many people recurrently report of having seen the two pigeons inside the shrine, beside the Lingam.
Legend Behind the Origins
Many mythological tales are associated with the origins of Lord Amarnath Cave.
o A legend attributes the findings of the Amarnath Cave to Buta Mallik, a Gujjar (shepherd). Once a saint gifted him a sack full of coal; however, upon reaching his home when Buta opened the bag he found the bag full of gold coins. He instantly ran back to the saint, but the latter had by then disappeared. At the place where Buta had met this saint, he found the holy Amarnath Cave along with a Shiva Lingam located inside it. Thus, the place emerged out as one of the major pilgrimages of the Hindus.
o There is another legend associated with the origins of the Amarnath shrine. Earlier the whole valley of Kashmir was submerged under a large lake. Sage Kashyap poured out the water via many rivers and rivulets. Finally, when Sage Bhrigu arrived at the Himalayas, he became the first to get the darshan of holy shrine. The place eventually became famous as Lord Shiva’s holy abode.
When to take up the Yatra?
The Amarnath Yatra is prearranged once a year by the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Govt. during the Hindu month of Shravan (July-August); the precise dates however alter each year depending on the weather and falling of Purnima (Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi) in the month of Shravan (as per Vikrama Samwat). The place is flocked and flooded by millions of devotees who worship the self-manifested Shiva Linga formed naturally of an ice stalagmite. The Linga waxes and wanes on the basis of the cycle of the moon. Two more ice Lingas of those of Pravati and Ganesha are seen flanked by the Shiva Linga.
The Yatra to the Amarnath Holy Cave for which one has to trek up to a height of about 14,500 ft is extremely thrilling and blissful. The feeling of divinity which lies within ones’ heart bursts out as one visits the Cave and performs the prayer before the Shiva Linga. Amarnath is considered the ‘Heaven on Earth’ and one may feel the presence of Almighty across the vicinity.
Published On: 31-01-2014