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One of the holy trinity, Shiva is a living god. The most sacred and most ancient book of India, the Rig Veda evokes his presence in its hymns. Vedic myths, ritual and even astronomy testify to his existence from the dawn of time. But Shiva, the destroyer, the mendicant, is undefinable: he is the great yogi, the guardian of the absolute. His actions are the themes of the myths in which his nature unfolds.


This is The Cave which was chosen by God (Lord Shiva) for narrating the secrets of immortality and creation of Universe to his wife the Mother Goddess. The story goes like this. Centuries ago the Mother Goddess asked her husband Lord Shiva (God) to let her know why and when he started wearing the beads of skulls around his neck.(Mund Mala). God (Lord Shiva) replied, "Whenever you are born I add one more skull in my beads". The Mother Goddess 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". God (Lord Shiva) replied that he has to reveal everything about himself and his existence as he is the only immortal (Amar) and everlasting (Sthanu). This secret teaching about God's (Lord Shiva's) form and characteristics is called the Immortal Story or Amar Katha. The Mother Goddess insisted that she may be told that secret story. For long God (Lord Shiva) continued postponing. Finally on consistent demand from the Mother Goddess, he made up his mind to tell the immortal secret. He started for a lonely place where no living being could listen it. He chose the Amarnath Cave located in Kashmir. In preparation to that He left his mount Nandi ( The Bull which He used to ride ) at Pahalgam (Bail gaon). At Chandanwari he removed the Crescent Moon from his matted locks of hair(Jata). At the banks of Lake Sheshnag he released the snakes from his body. He decided to leave his Son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat (Mahaganesh Hill ). At Panjtarni, God (Lord Shiva) left the Five Elements behind (Earth , Water, Air , Fire and Space) which are the building blocks of all animate and inanimate beings. He is the Lord of all these elements. It is believed that as a symbol of sacrificing the earthly world , God (Lord Shiva) and the Mother Goddess did Tandav Dance. After leaving behind all these, God (Lord Shiva) enters the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Mother Goddess. God (Lord Shiva) takes his seat (Samadhi) on the Deer Skin and concentrates. To ensure that no living being is able to hear the Immortal Tale, he created Rudra (The God of Destruction) 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 the Mother Goddess. But as a matter of chance a pair of eggs of a pigeon which were lying beneath the Deer skin remained protected. It is believed to be non living and more over it was protected by God and Goddess Asan (Bed). The pair of pigeons which were born out of these eggs became immortal having listened to 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 symbol of God (Lord Shiva).

Yet another legend has it that when Kashap Reshi drained the Kashmir valley of water (it was believed to have been a vast lake), the cave and the lingam were discovered by Bregish Reshi who was travelling the Himalayas. When people heard of the lingam, Amarnath for them became Shiva’s abode and a centre of pilgrimage.

According to an ancient tale, there was once a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik who was given a sack of coal by a Sadhu. Upon reaching home he discovered that the sack, in fact, contained gold. Overjoyed and overcome Buta Malik rushed back to look for the sadhu and thank him, but on the spot of their meeting discovered a cave, and eventually this became a place of pilgrimage for all believers. To date, a percentage of the donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendants of Malik, and the remaining to the trust which manages the shrine.

The Trek

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, and which waxes and wanes with the moon. By its side are, fascinatingly, two more ice-lingams, that of Parvati, and of their son, Ganesha.

Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder valley, Amarnath stands at 3,888 m and is 46 Km from Pahalgam and 141 Km from Srinagar. Though the original pilgrimages subscribes that the yatra be undertaken from Srinagar, the more common practise is to begin journey at Chandanwari, and cover the distance to Amarnath and back in five days. Pahalgam is 96 km from Srinagar.

The trek from Chandanwari to Amarnath cave is on an ancient peregrine route. The 30-km distance is covered in two days, with night halts at Sheshnag (Wawjan) and Panchtarni. The distance from Pahalgam to Chandanwari (16 km) now be covered by vehicular transport, and the trail runs along the Lidder river. Pilgrims camp at Pahalgam or Chandanwari on the first night out.


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