Amarnath temple is dedicated to worshipping Lord Shiva. It is located in the state of Jammu and Kashmir at a height of about 12,760 feet. The temple is only accessible for a short duration during the year in the month of July to August, when the ice Lingam is formed. The scene during the time is absolutely unbelievable and that makes people to believe in the sanctity of the place.
SIGNIFICANCE OF AMARNATH CAVE
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. Vedas, rituals and even astronomy testifies to His existence from the dawn of time .The Mohinjo-Daro 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 .
The Story of Amarnath:
Amarnath Cave is one which was chosen by God Shiva for narrating the secrets of immortality and creation of Universe to Maa Parvati . Centuries ago Maa Parvati asked God Shiva to let her know why and when God Shiva started wearing the beads of heads ( Mund Mala).God Shiva replied whenever you are born I add one more head in my beads. Maa Parvati said,” My Lord, my body is always destroyed every time and I die again and again, but you are Immortal. Please let me know the secret of this then ” God Shiva replied that it is due to Amar Katha .”Maa Parvati insisted that she may be told that secret and for long God Shiva continued postponing.
Finally one fine day because of constant demand of Maa Parvati,God Shiva made up his mind to tell the immortal secret. He started revealing the story of the lonely place where no living being could listen it for he chose Amarnath Cave. For the same, he left his bull Nandi at Pahalgam, on which he made his rides, at Chandanwari he left Moon taking it out of his hair, at the bank of Sheshnag he left his snake. He also left his son Ganesha at the Mahagunas Parvat and at Panjtarni he left behind all the five elements that is air, water, earth, sky and fire which are believed to be the building blocks of human beings. Lord Shiva then sat on Samadhi on to the skin of the deer and went into concentrating.
In order to make sure that no living being could listen to the story he created Rudra whom he names Kalagni. Shiva asked Rudra to fire up the cave so as to eliminate every trace of a living being. He then started off with narrating the story of the world to Parvati. Inadvertently, an egg which was lying beneath the skin of the deer, got protected and it is believed that the pair of pigeons which were born out of this egg became immortal having listened to the story of the Amar Katha. At various occasions’ people, while trekking the arduous route have seen the pair of pigeons.
Discovery of Holy Cave
According to legend, Bhrigu Muni was the first to have discovered Amarnath. Long time ago it is believed that The Vale of Kashmir was submerged under water and Kashyapa Muni drained it through a series of rivers and rivulets. Therefore, when the waters drained, Bhrigu Muni was the first to have Darshan of Lord Amarnath.
Thereafter, when people heard of the Lingam, it became an abode of Lord Bholenath for all believers and a pilgrimage which is done by lakhs of people each year.
The book Rajatarangini (Book VII v.183) refers to Amareshwara or Amarnath. It is believed that Queen Suryamathi in the 11th century AD gifted trishuls, banalingas and other sacred emblems to this temple. Rajavalipataka, begun by Prjayabhatta has detailed references to the pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave. Other than this, there are further references to this pilgrimage in many other ancient texts.
As we well know François Bernier, a French physician accompanied Emperor Aurangzeb during his visit to Kashmir in 1663. In his book “Travels in Mughal Empire” he writes while giving an account the places he visited in Kashmir that he was “pursuing journey to a grotto full of wonderful congelations, two days journey from Sangsafed” when he “received intelligence that my Nawab felt very impatient and uneasy on account of my long absence”. The “grotto” he refers to is obviously the Amarnath cave as the editor of the second edition of the English translation of the book, Vincient A. Smith makes clear in his introduction. He writes: “The grotto full of wonderful congelations is the Amarnath cave, where blocks of ice, stalagmites formed by dripping water from the roof are worshiped by many Hindus who resort here as images of Shiva”
There are a number of modern stories related to the rediscovery of the holy cave. One such story as narrated by the people is that of Shepherd Buta Malik. Buta Malik after receiving a bag full of coal went back to his home and when he opened it; to his surprise he found the bag full of coins of Gold. He was more than happy to receive this unexpected gift from the saint and immediately went on to thanking him. But instead of the saint he found the sacred cave and the Shiva Linga.
The 48-days July-August popular annual Hindu pilgrimage, undertaken by up to 600,000 or more pilgrims to 130 feet (40 m) high glacial Amarnath cave shrine of iced stalagmite Shiv linga at 12,756 feet (3,888 m) in Himalayas, is called Amarnath Yatra. It begins with a 43 kilometres (27 mi) mountainous trek from the Nunwan and Chandanwari base camps at Pahalgam and reaches cave-shine after night halts at Sheshnag Lake and Panchtarni camps.
The yatra is both a way of earning revenue by the state government by imposing tax on pilgrims, and making living by the local Shia Muslim Bakarwal-Gujjars by taking a portion of revenue and by offering services to the pilgrims,In olden days the route was via Rawalpindi (Pakistan) but now a direct train is there connecting rest of India to Jammu, the winter capital of the State. The best part of journey is between Guru Purnima and Shravan Purnima. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir makes all arrangements for the comfort of the pilgrims for undertaking the ritualistic journey for visiting the shrine on Shravan Purnama. But the highly unpredictable weather of the mountains should be more obliging before Guru Purnima as rains would not start. There is a bus service from Jammu to Pahalgam (7,500 ft.). At Pahalgam the pilgrims arrange for coolies or ponies to carry gear of food and clothes etc. Everybody remains busy making arrangements for the Yatra. The golden glow of, the sun falls on the turbulent river at Pahalgam. Pahalgam in Kashmiri means the land of shepherds.