Overview :Amarnath is a cave in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that houses the famous, naturally formed, ice Shiv Ling, it is one of the holiest places in Hinduism and is a very popular pilgrimage destination. Every year thousands make an arduous trek, up the Himalayas, to witness the ice Shiv Ling. Though the cave itself is large, the temple within it is merely a small set up with railings and platforms for people to witness the Shiv Ling and is open to pilgrims only for a shot period every year.“Amar” in Sanskrit means undying and “Nath” means lord, Amarnath is the name for the immortal one—Lord Shiva. The famous Amarnath Yatra, that takes people up every year, starts with Ashadha Purnima, or the full moon day during the month of Ashadha, and is over on Shravana Purnima, or the full moon day in Shravana.The J& K government organizes this trek and allocates dates after checking weather conditions. Amarnath is situated at an altitude of 12,756 ft, and is 141 km from Srinagar.About the temple :Amarnath is believed to be a 5000 year old holy spot. Though in modern times it was Buta Malik who discovered the cave, Amarnath cave was always a famous pilgrimage site even before this discovery. There is ample reference to this cave in ancient texts for us to believe that the cave was popular even since ancient times. Bhringish Samhita and the Amarnatha Mahatmya are one of earliest texts to mention the Amarnath cave, in fact they mention it rather in detail giving a full topographical description. In Nilamata Purana, a 6th century Sanskrit text, yet again there is mention of the Amarnath Cave. The spot is also described in the famous Rajtarangini and several other Western travelogues, including one by Francois Bernier. In some of the earlier texts the spot is referred to as Amareshwara. Kalhana, refers to the snow Shiv Ling while talking of King Samdhimat's Kashmir summer. Kalhana describes how the king spent “the most delightful Kashmir summer” worshipping a ling formed by snow.About the deity :Lord Shiva as “Amar-Nath” is the chief deity here. He at this spot is also variously known as Amarnath, Bhole Shankar and Bhole Nath. There are also smaller Shiv Lings, one for Parvati and Ganesha each, near the main Shiva Ling. Within the 40m high cave, the Linga is created as a result frozen water drops that trickled down from the roof of the cave. The frozen drops fall one on top of each other and grows upwards from the cave floor, creating the Shiva Linga shaped ice.Legend :Amarnath cave is said to be the location where Lord Shiva told Parvati, his consort, the secrets of immortality and about the creation of the Universe. It is said that when Parvati wanted to know the reason behind the Munda Mala, the garland of heads, Shiva told her that for every new birth she took, he added a new head to the garland. Intrigued Parvati asked Shiva why she was mortal while he, Shiva, remained immortal. It was then that Shiva told her about the “Amar Katha”, the story of immortality. And to tell the story Shiva chose the Amarnath Cave.The story was a secret and Shiva had to ensure that no one got to hear it except Parvati. So to ensure secrecy Shiva took a few measures. At the entrance of the cave, Shiva instructed Nandi to stand guard, at Chandanwari he released the Moon from his 'jata', his hair, on the banks of the Lake Sheshnag he released the snakes, he left Ganesha at Mahaganesh Parvat, at Panchtarni he left the the Panch or Five elements—earth, water, air, fire and sky. When all this was done, Shiva, together with Parvati, danced the Tandav, instructing Kalagni to spread fire that would eliminate all living things in the vicinity, while the dance was on.With all precautions taken, Shiva settled down inside the cave to narrate the “Amar Katha”. Now, though Shiva had taken all possible measures to ensure secrecy he did not check under the deer skin on which he and Parvati sat during the narration. And as luck would have it, underneath the deer skin was a pair of pigeon's eggs. Because the eggs were there during the narration of the “Amar Katha” the pigeons that were born of the eggs, became immortal. Interestingly many recount seeing pigeons even today in the vicinity of the cave.Other Information :CAVE DISCOVERYIt is mainstream opinion that the cave was discovered by a Gujjar shepherd, a Muslim by the name of Buta Malik. Story goes that Buta Malik while grazing his sheep in the mountains was handed a bag of coal by a saint. When Buta Malik took the bag home and opened it to light a fire, he found the bag to contain gold instead of coal. Overwhelmed and with gratitude Buta Malik ran to the spot where he had seen the saint last and searched. Only the saint was not to be found. It is while searching for the saint that Buta Malik stumbled upon the Amarnath Cave.Significance :The Amaranth cave yatra is one of the most famous Hindu pilgrimage among the devotees. The devotees visit the holy site during the 45-day seasons which occurs during the festival of Shravani Mela in the month of July-August.How to get there or Accessibility :AIR: The closest airport to Amarnath is Srinagar, located at a distance of around 95 km from Pahalgam, the base camp for Amarnath Yatra.RAIL: The nearest railhead to Amarnath is Jammu, located at a distance of around 315 km from Pahalgam, the base camp for Amarnath Yatra.ROAD: It is possible to travel to Amarnath by bus or taxi. Taxis and buses are available for travel from Jammu to Pahalgam (a total distance of 315 km)
Devotees visit this temple to seek fulfillment of the following:-
- Relief from diseases
- Purchase of vehicles
- Gain Knowledge
Kailaasarana Shiva Chandramouli Phaneendra Maathaa Mukutee Zalaalee Kaarunya Sindhu Bhava Dukha Haaree Thujaveena Shambho Maja Kona Taaree
Meaning -Oh Lord Shiva who is seated on Mount Kailash, where the moon decorates his forehead and the king of serpents crown his head, who is merciful and removes delusion, You alone can protect me. I surrender to thee.
Aum Trayambakam Yajaamahey Sugandhim Pusti Vardhanam Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaath Mrutyor Muksheeya Maamritaat
Meaning -We worship the fragrant Lord Shiva, who has 3 eyes and who cultivates all beings. May He free me from death, for immortality, as even a cucumber is separated from its bond with the vine.