are one of the most famous shrines in Hinduism, dedicated to the god Shiva, located in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Amarnath Cave Pilgrimage is an annual pilgrimage being made to Amarnath cave by thousands of Hindu devotees on challenging mountainous terrain.
The cave is surrounded by snowy mountains. The cave itself is covered with snow most time of the year except for a short period of time in summer when it is open for pilgrims.
The Amaranth Cave was discovered by a Muslim shepherd of Batakot, Buta Malik,when he lost his flock and found that it had strayed into the sacred spot some 150 years ago. There is no documentary proof of this so-called discovery, the story having probably been concocted to give credit to Muslims for having started the most popular Hindu pilgrimage of Kashmir.
There is ample and conclusive historical evidence, on the other hand, to prove that the holy cave and the ice lingam were known to the people since very ancient times and have been continuously and regularly visited by pilgrims not only from Kashmir but also from different parts of India.
“While the earliest reference to Amarnath can be seen in the Nilamata Purana (v.1324), a 6th century Sanskrit text which depicts the religious and cultural life of early Kashmiris and gives Kashmir’s own creation myth, the pilgrimage to the holy cave has been described with full topographical details in the Bhringish Samhita and the Amarnatha Mahatmya, both ancient texts said to have been composed even earlier.”
Bringesh Samhita is a compendium of the Mahatamayas of all the prominent & well known tirthas (holy places) of Kashmir compiled by Bringesh, a scholar of eminence. In Kashmir, we have a galaxy of three persons bearing the same name of Brigesh. One was agana, an attendant of Shiva, the other was a sage & the third a scholar of eminence. Bringesh, the gana, being an unworldly recluse could not have any cultivated interest in writing & compiling the Mahatamayas. The research scholars hold that initial task of compiling Mahatmayas was taken up by Bringesh who was a known sage & the date for it is supposed to be 5thcentury A.D. The third Brignesh given to scholarship & scholarly pursuits is supposed to have aptly culminated the work as begun by the second Bringeseh in 12th century A.D.4. The entire work is unfortunately lost & the manuscript available in the Ranbir Library, Jammu, is a truncated version &hence falls short of providing multi-dimensional & authentic informationabout the culture & mores of ancient Kashmir including the topography of the region.
The Bringesh Samhita relates that Mahakala threatened the gods (devas) with death &destruction & they in all trepidation called on Lord Shiva & humblyentreated Him to protect them from Mahakala’s menacing threat of decimation. Shiva in all mercifulness freed them from Mahakala’s threat by showering uponthem the boon of immortality. Again to seek Shiva’s support & protectiongods (devas) could not see Him as He was deeply immersed in His devotional& meditative practices. In absolute distress the gods (devas) lifted theirhands to supplicate Him to appear before them. Shiva, the merciful, appeared inthe formation of an icy-lingam & this is the genesis of the Holy Lingam& subsequent pilgrimage to the holy cave of ‘amresh’ or ‘Amarnath’.
Amarnath Mahatamya gives a full & elaborate account of the pilgrimage to the Holy Cave of Amarnath. It details out all the holy spots enroute to the Holy cave. It does not only mention the religious merit that a pilgrim earns by bathing & cleansing praxes at various holy spots, but also gives an authentic & credible account of their topography & geographical position. Amarnath Mahatamya has its essential base in the Adi-Purana establishing its original position as a Purana. It was regarded as a standard Mahatamya giving lucid details & exact descriptions in concordance with well recognised literary practices. The Amarnath Mahatamya certainly has a religious & legendary complexion, yet it is a mine of information on the cultural ethos of Kashmir in those hoary days of yore & also the socially-oriented behavioural indices of aboriginal Hindus of Kashmir.
Importance of Amarnath Temple
Amarnath cave temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. An enshrined image of ice naturally formed in a cylindrical form which resembles Lord Shiva-Linga, begins to take its shape on the first day of the bright half of the month and reaches its full size on the full moon day (Poornima). After getting its fullest shape, it begins to wane and disappear on the new moon day. According to the tradition, the largest ice formation is considered as Lord Shiva Linga, one on the left side of the linga is an ice formation of Lord Ganesha, and on the right are formations of Parvati and Bhairava. The Amarnath temple is around 46 kms from Pahalgam in Jammu and Kashmir and 4500mtrs above the sea level. The time of pilgrimage to this holy shrine is between July and August. The guard of the absolute, lord Shiva, the destroyer, is present in the form of ice Lingam in this cave located at a more remote end of the valley of Lidder. This lingam is made naturally of a stalagmite of ice which awakes and weakens with the moon.
This cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888m (12,756 Ft), about 141 Km from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The Central Reserve Police Force & Indian Armies and Indian Paramilitary Forces maintain a strong presence in the region due to security concerns.
The climatic conditions are very uncertain. Rain or snowfall may take place at any time or place during the Amarnath 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. Clothing, etc. for pilgrims: Woolen clothes, stockings and trousers, jacket, raincoat, umbrella, waterproof shoes, flash light, walking stick, cap, gloves.
Instructions For the Pilgrims to Amarnath:
1. You shall be physically and mentally fit to perform the journey as the Yatra involves trekking at an altitude of 1,4000ft. A medical certificate proving that you are physically capable will be good and advisable.
2. Since the place is located at high altitude, heavy wollens including sweaters, woollen thermal body warmers, trousers, monkey caps, mufflers and any other cold fighting apparels. Other items needed to be carried are wind cheaters, raincoats, sleeping bags, blankets, water proof shoes with sufficient grips, small water proof tents, torch with sufficient batteries and walking sticks.
3. Try to carry dry eatable stocks with you viz. biscuits, Sugar, Candies, chocolates, milk powder, assorted dry fruits, pickles, honey, lemons and tinned foods and other items suiting your taste.
4. Registered ponywalla, porter, dandyman may only be hired. They are available for prefixed tarrifs.
5. Ponies carrying luggage and eatables should remain with you all the time. At no point of time should you get out of touch with them. This is to avoid inconvenience.
Travel Information :
By air : Srinagar is the nearest airport which is just 140 km away. Direct flights are available only from New Delhi. Both Indian Airlines and Jet Airways fly to Srinagar. The airport is about 14 km from the city centre. Flights from Delhi to Srinagar via Jammu.
By Train : Jammu Tawi is the nearest railway station and is connected to all the major cities and states. All major Indian states are connected to Jammu via rail. Train bookings usually have to be made at least a month ahead, specially during the month of the yatra.
By Bus : Jammu is well-connected to places in north India by National Highway 1A and other major all-weather roads. Buses and jeeps are available for Pahalgam or Srinagar. You can make reservations for vehicles at the Tourist Reception Centres in any of these places. There is no motorable road to the cave. A bus takes you to Chandanwari from Pahalgam (16 km) through a dusty course, which is steep and narrow and barely allows for two-way traffic.