The holy cave of Amaranth is located at 145km east of Srinagar in Kashmir at the height of approximately 4,000 meters. The cave is 150 feet high and 90 feet long. Devoted to Lord Shiva, the temple has three ice formations. The biggest figure is considered as that of Shiva, while the respectively.
Amarnath cave temple is one among the most worshiped Hindu pilgrimage places in India. Lacs of devotees visit this holy place every year through tough terrain to get a glimpse of these miraculous ice formations that changes size as the moon waxes and wanes.
Myths of Discovery of the Temple
The temple is said to be 5,000 years old. There are two myths described in the ancient texts, though its true story of discovery is still unknown.
One myth says that once Buta Malik (a Muslim shepherd) met a saint on his way to home who handed him a bag full of coal. On reaching home he found the coal turned into gold and was overwhelmed with joy. He went back in search of the saint to thank him for his generosity but instead discovered the cave and the Shiv Lingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva) inside it. After, the villagers heard about this miracle, the cave became the centre of devotion for the pilgrims.
According to the other myth, Kashyap Rishi channelized the water through number of rivers and rivulets, of the big lake under which the valley of Kashmir was located. It is believed that he came to visit Himalayas in those days and was the first person blessed to have darshans the holy cave. Since then Amarnath became the abode of Shiva and a central place of pilgrimage.
Importance of the Temple
The legend of significance of the cave is followed by the narrative that it was the Amarnath Cave chosen by Lord Shiva for narrating the secrets of immortality and creation of the universe to Maa Parvati Ji. It is believed that centuries ago Maa Parvati asked Lord Shiva the reason for wearing the beads of heads (Mund Mala) to which he answered that whenever you are born, I add one more head in my beads. His reply made her question the reason for her mortality and his immortality. Bhole Shankar replied that it is due to Amar katha. On his way to the cave he left all his earthy belongings at different places (Bull, Moon, Snake, etc).
While narrating the story, Maa Parvati felt asleep but a pair of pigeons heard the whole narrative and thus became immortal. The pair of pigeons is spotted in this era too.
Time to visit and how to reach
The Amaranth Temple (yatra) opens in the month of Sharavan (July-August) when the ice melts down a little and the image of Shiva in the form of ice Lingam forms naturally.
The registration is done by Tourist Officials and can be done online or at various centers.Helicopter services are available from Pahalgam and Baltal. From there pilgrims can either trek up to the cave or hire a pony or palki. Many people undertake the complete journey from Pahalgam to Amarnath on feet.
The journey to the Amarnath cave is arduous with highly uncertain weather conditions. Pilgrims are advised to keep woolens handy as the temperature fall to -5 degrees sometimes. The possible facilities are provided by the security and assistance department. The journey is both neither easy nor comfortable therefore people who are physically unfit and children are advised not to undertake the trek.