Kashmir has, since times immemorial, been the abode of gods and agoddesses. The most sacred and famous one is the holy cave ofShree Amarnath, the Eternal Lord, which is situated at a height of 13,000 ft. from the sea level. It is about 45 kms. from Pahalgam, the famous tourist resort of Kashmir.
The origin of the pilgrimage is described in a Sanskrit book "Bringesha Samhita
".Herein is stated that rishi Bringesha told his disciples the importance of the
Amarnath cave and instructed them to go to the holy cave and have darshan of the
sacred ice-lingam. The pilgrims, however, were harassed by the Rakhashas. Thereupon,
the rishi Bringesha prayed to Lord Shiva. The Lord gifted the rishi a scepter to
ensure safe journey. This has ever since been the symbol of protection. to the caravan
of the pilgrims and now it is called Chhari Mubarak. The traditional Yatra (pilgrimage)
generally arrives at the cave every year at Rakhsha Bandhan Purnima (full moon),
which occurs near the last week of August. The Chhari is accompanied by a large
number of pilgrims and sadhus chanting mantras.
Description of the Cave
The cave is quite large. Its entrance is about forty yards horizontally and in height it is about 75 feet and is sloping 80 feet deep down inside the mountain. In the cave is an ice-lingam of about five feet high and at the top it forms a cone. This obviously symbolizes Lord Shiva and to the left of the lingam is a small ice block which stands for Lord Ganesha and to the left of the latter is a small ice formation representing goddess Parvati. These ice formations are formed during, the summer days and wax and wane along-with the moon. On the full moon day they are complete in form whereas on moonless days they altogether vanish.
Significance of 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 also worshipped for internal strength to carry on good deeds. As Guru Gobind Singh pray "Deh Shiva Var Mohe Ahey ,Shubh Karman Te Kabhun Na Tarun ,Na Darun Arson Jab Jaye Laroon, Nischey Kar Apni Jeet Karoon."( O! Shiva bless me that I could never desist from Good deeds, I shall never fear if I have to fight Evil , I Shall be victorious with certainty ."
Shiva is a living God. The most Sacred and ancient books of India, the Rig Veda narrates His presence in the hymns. Vedic myths, rituals and even astronomy testifies to His existence from the dawn of time .The Mohindaro 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 Amarnath Cave has special significance . This is The Cave which was chosen by Bhole Shankar for narrating the secretsof immortality and creation of Universe to Maa Parvati ji . The story goes like this. Centuries ago Maa Parvati asked Shiv ji to let her know why and when He started wearing the beads of heads ( Mund Mala). Bhole Shankar replied when ever you are born I add one more head in my beads . Maa Parvati 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 ." Bhole Shankar replied that it is due to Amar Katha ."
Maa Parvati insisted that she may be told that secret. For long Shiva ji continued postponing . Finally on consistent demand from Maa Parvati He made up his mind to tell the immortal secret . He started for lonely place where no living being could listen it . He choose Amarnath Cave . In preparation to that He left His Nandi ( The Bull which He used to ride ) at Pahalgam (Bail gaon) . At Chandanwari He released Moon from his hairs (Jataon). At the banks of Lake Sheshnag He released the snakes . He decided to leave his Son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat (Mahaganesh Hill ) . At Panjtarni, Shivji left the Five Elements behind (Earth , Water, Air , Fire and Sky) which make living being . He is the Lord of these elements. It is believed that as a symbol of sacrificing the earthly world , Shivaji and Maa Parvati had Tandav Dance .
After leaving behind all these, Bhole Shankar enters the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati Maa . Lord Shiva takes his Samadhi on the Deer Skin and concentrate . To ensure that no living being is able to hear the Immortal Tale , He created Rudra 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 Maa Parvati . But as a matter of chance one egg which was lying beneath the Deer skin remained protected . It is believed to be non living and more over it was protected by Shiva -Parvati Asan (Bed) . The pair of pigeons which were born out of this egg became immortal having listened 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 phallic symbol of Shiva).
Importance of the Cave
Lakhs of great men and
common men, both old and young, have undertaken the hazardous and exhausting trekking
to the cave for centuries. Most notable among them are Swami Vivekananda
who visited the holy cave in 1898, Swami Ramatirtha and, above all, Swami Shankaracharva,
the great saint who journeyed from the south to have darshan of the ice lingam.
About Swami Vivekananda's pilgrimage to the holy cave, Margaret Noble, better known
as Sister Nivedita, gives interesting details in her "Notes on the Wanderings of
Swami Vivekananda". She says that the Swami was much moved inside the cave so that
his whole body shook and he swooned with intense emotion. Sister Nivedita also writes
that "the place was vast, huge enough to hold a Cathedral and the great ice-Shiva
was in a niche of the deepest shadow, sacred as if throwned on its base. The Swami,
she says, told her that he had a strange mystical experience in the cave. Lord Shiva
himself appeared before him and he granted him the boon that he would die whenever