Children, every year you must be hearing about a large number of people going for the Amarnath Yatra. But do you know why people take so much effort for this yatra just to see a cave
The Amarnath Cave, located in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, is one of the holiest shrines highly revered by the Hindus .Dedicated to the Lord Shiva, the shrine is claimed to be over 5,000 years old and forms an important part of ancient Hindu mythology. For thousands of years the cave was not visited due to external invasions and natural calamities. The holy cave was discovered in the 15th century by a Muslim shepherd Buta Mallik. Inside the main Amarnath Cave is an ice stalagmite resembling the Shivling, which waxes during May to August and gradually wanes thereafter. This lingam is said to grow and shrink with the phases of the moon, reaching its height during the summer festival. The Shivling at Amarnath is made from ice and is formed naturally.
According to Hinduism, this is the cave where Shiva explained the secret of life and eternity to his divine consort Parvati. There are two other ice formations representing Parvati and Shiva’s son, Ganesha. The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,760 ft), about 141 km (88 miles) from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir.It is a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus – about 400,000 people visit during the 45-day season around the festival of Shravani Mela in July-August, coinciding with the Hindu holy month of Shravan. Devotees generally take the 42 km (26 miles) pilgrimage on foot from the town of Pahalgam, about 96 km (60 miles) from Srinagar, and cover the journey in four to five days. There are two alternate routes to the temple: the longer and more traditional path from Srinagar, and the shorter route from the town of Baltal. Some devotees, particularly the elderly, also ride on horses to make the journey. During the past fifty years, the ice Shivling has shrunk in size. While weather does affect its shape and size, many environmentalists blame global warming forthe condition.
While the earliest reference to Amarnath can be seen in the Nilamata Purana, a 6th century Sanskrit text which depicts the religious and cultural life of early Kashmiris . The holy cave has been described with full topographical details in the Bhringish Samhita and the Amarnath Mahatmya, both ancient texts said to have been composed even earlier. References to Amarnath, have also been made in historical chronicles like the Rajatarangini and its sequels and several Western travelers’ accounts also leaving no doubt about the fact that the holy cave has been known to people for centuries. The original name of the tirth, as given in the ancient texts, is Amareshwara, Amarnath being a name given later to it.
How the Shivling is formed
Inside the 40 m (130 ft) high Amarnath Cave, the stalagmite is formed due to freezing of water drops that fall from the roof of the cave on to the floor and grows up vertically from the cave floor. The size of Shivling at Amarnath Cave increases and decreases with the different phases of the moon. But there is no scientific evidence to support this belief.
Legend behind Amarnath Yatra
Once Parvati asked Lord Shiva– “Since when have you been wearing the beads of heads.” On this, Lord Shiva replied – “every time you took birth”. Parvati asked again – “why are you immortal and I keep dying again and again?” Lord Shiva said that this is due to the Amar Katha. Parvati insisted to hear the Amar Katha and after convincing Lord for a long time, Lord Shiva decided to narrate that story to Parvati.
To narrate the story, Lord Shiva started looking for an absolutely lonely place so that no living being can hear the Amar Katha except for Parvati. He finally found the Amarnath Cave. To reach there, he left all his belongings on the way. Like his bull Nandi at Pahalgam, his Moon at Chandanwari, his snakes at the banks of Lake Sheshnag, his son Ganesha at MahagunasParvat and at Panjtarni, he left his Five Elements (Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Sky).
After this, Lord Shiva entered the cave with Parvati. Lord Shiva sat on the Deer skin and took a samadhi. To further make sure that not even a single living being could hear the secret Amar Katha, he created a rudra named Kalagni and ordered him to set fire around the cave so that everything living around that place could be destroyed. He then started narrating the story of immortality to Parvati. But in spite of all these efforts, anegg of a bird remained protected under the deer skin on which the Lord was sitting. But it was considered as non-living by the Lord. A pair of pigeons were born out of that egg and supposedly became immortal. Pilgrims can still see the pigeon pair while going towards the Amarnath Cave.The spiritual significance of the above is, that Shiva represents the Soul and Parvati the Body. The soul never dies and is immortal.
Discovery of Holy Cave
The story narrated by people about the discovery of this holy cave is of a 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 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 the Saint had disappeared . Instead, he found the cave and Shivling there. He announced the discovery of this to the villagers. Then onwards this has become the sacred place of pilgrimage. The ancient epics narrate another 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. When Bhrigu Rishi came that way on a visit to the Himalyas, he was the first to have darshan of the holy cave. When people heard of the Lingam, Amarnath for them , became Lord Shiva’s abode and a centre of pilgrimage . Since then lakhs of devotees perform the pilgrimage through tough terrain and avail eternal happiness.
The yatra is organised by the State Government in collaboration with the Shree Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). The Government agencies provide necessary facilities all along the route during the Yatra period. It is a proven fact that Amarnath Yatra leaves a spiritual impact on the mind of the pilgrims as they stride through the bewildering path to the sacred Lord Shiva on the apex the mountains and to see the greatness of God.