Jammu & Kashmir Baba Amarnath Cave Temple
|Location||Pahalgam, Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir, India|
|Built by||Natural Formation|
|Also known as||Amarnath Gufa Temple, Baba Amarnath Barfani, Shivlinga Amarnath Shiva|
|Important Festivals||Shravani Mela, Teej Festival|
|Attraction||Cave of Holy Baba|
The Cave of Amarnath is a well known shrine in hindu religion, which is situated in Jammu & Kashmir and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located at about a distance of 141 Kms from Srinagar, at 3888 ms from capital of J & K and is possible to be reached by passing through Pahalgam Town. Snowy mountains cover the region of the cave, which is itself covered by snow in most seasons, except for a small period in summer, during which devotees can travel to the shrine. There is a pilgrimage undertaken annually by millions of hindu devotees to Amarnath Cave, who have to pass through tough mountain terrain, to have a view of the ice stalagmite which has been formed in this place.
Inside of amaranth cave which is 40 m high, there is a formation of ice stalagmite, due to the water freezing while dropping from the cave’s roof and there is also a vertical growth from floor of the cave. This is thought to be a Shiva Linga by hindu worshippers. From the period of May to August, the snow melts and it waxes so that water keeps on seeping through the rocks. There is also a belief that the lingam increases in size with moon reaching at its highest position in summer and then shrinks, even though scientific evidences are not found.
As per the observations of a legend in hindu culture, the importance of the cave is associated with the explanation of life’s importance to his wife Parvati, and there are two more formations in ice which represent Ganesha and Parvati.
Many people visit Amarnath Caves because they want to have a glimpse of the lingam made of ice stalagmite.
Since time immemorial, Amarnath Caves have become a place of worship, which is evident from references to this cave in Aryaraja performing puja for a lingam also made from ice in Kashmir. The name of the book is Rajatarangini, where there is reference to Amarnath or Amareshwara. Another belief holds that Suryamathi queen used to gift banalingas, trishuls and various other emblems of sacred importance to this temple around 11th century. A reference known as Rajavalipataka written by Prjayabhatta also contains references about visiting Amarnath cave. Plenty of other resources also have references to this cave pilgrimage.
Discovery of Holy Cave
After the middle ages were over, people forgot about the cave. But in 15th century, it was discovered by a shepherd and there came up various other stories about this cave’s discovery. According to one of these stories, Buta Malik who was a shepherd received a coal bag from a holy man. On reaching his home, he looked into the bag and found coins instead of coal. When he returned overjoyed to the place where holy man was found, he instead discovered a lingam and cave.
How to Reach
Nearest airport to Amarnath Cave is at Srinagar, which in itself is a beautiful valley with lots of world famous sightseeing places like Nagina Lake, Dal Lake, Mughal Gardens, Shankaracharya Temple and others. Among the tourist places, this is highly sought after, known by some as paradise on earth. It is also known as summer capital of the country. From delhi and jammu, daily flights reach Srinagar, with some weekday flights reaching the place from Amritsar and Chandigarh.
Nearest railway station is that in jammu, which is considered as winter capital of J & K. this is a beautiful place with lots of temples, giving it the name of City of Temples. Various old temples can be visited such as Mahadev Mandir, Raghunath Temple and few others. There are good connections to many other cities of India.
Good road communication is present between jammu and Srinagar, with many buses and taxis plying on this road, which can be used to travel on the journey towards Amarnath Cave.
It is being considered that hindu God Shiva gave an insight of life and eternity in front of his consort Goddess Parvati. There are two more formations in ice, representing Goddess parvati and their son, Ganesha.
Significance of the Temple
Shiva Lingam in Amarnath is considered one among the holy trinity, where Lord Shiva is thought of as a god who is living. There are vedic myths, rituals, and hymns found in rig veda, which evoke and testify the presence of Lord Shiva since time of world’s beginning. According to legends, it is thought that Lord Shiva told his wife Goddess Parvati about various secretes related to creation inside this cave. Annual yatra is undertaken every year to this cave, which is located at height of about 14000 ft and the yatra is managed by State Government of J & K, mostly during months of July and August. Devotees visiting the holy shrine are let to conduct darshan from the time of Ashard Purnimashi till the period of Shravan Purnimashi, which extends to about a month or so.
The Cave of Amarnath was among the places selected by Lord Shiva to explain theories of creation and immortality to Parvati, who was his consort. She was of the query as to how he started to wear beads made with heads. In answer to this question, Lord Shiva answered that whenever Parvati was born, he used to add another head to the beads. On such an answer, parvati queried that why was she born again and again, while Lord Shiva was living ever. In reply, he answered that such a phenomenon was because of Amar Katha.
On regular insistence and continually avoiding the answer to such a question by Maa Parvati, Lord Shiva gave in one day and decided to tell the truth behind the secret of immortality. He wanted to reveal all the secrets to Parvati, but didn’t want anyone else to listen due to which he chose Amarnath Cave.
When going for this purpose, he left his ride Nandi in Pahalgam, which is also known as Bail gaon. On the way, at Chandanwari, the moon was released by him from his hairs while the snakes were released at the banks of Lake Seshanag. Ganesh was left in the Mahagunas parvat. And finally at Panjtarni, five elements of air, water, earth, sky and fire were left behind. It is also believed that at this juncture, in order to sacrifice various matters of earthly world, Shiva and parvati did a Tandav Dance. Then only Bholenath and Maa Parvati entered into the Holy Shrine of Amarnath Cave. After that, Lord Shiva Went into Samadhi by sitting over a skin of deer and concentrated in such a manner that his tale wouldn’t be heard by any living creature in and around the holy cave of Amaranth. Then he created Kalagni named Rudra and asked to spread fire all around, so that every living creature would be destroyed. And then he narrated the story of his immortality secret. But there was a bird’s egg, which was lying under the deer skin was not harmed by the fire. Then the pigeon pair which was born out of this egg were said to have become immortal as they had heard the immortality secret.
It is believed by many devotees that they have seen this pigeon pair when they were travelling through the challenging route to the amaranth Cave
Weather and time to Visit
Climate in the region of Amarnath Cave and the path leading up to it is quite difficult and uncertain with snowfall and rain happening any time, sometimes without warning. Abrupt changes in temperature is common, with sun and rain being interchanged in a very short time. Sometimes in winter, temperature goes down below -5 deg C.
Amaranth Cave yatra is usually undertaken during the months from July to August, which is the month of Sharavan, when lakhs of devotees take the difficult path to have a view of the lingam made from ice stalagmite, which waxes and wanes through the different cycles of the moon.
Arrangement for accomdoations are done near the shrine by means of tents with beds, blanket, mattresses, pillow and bedsheets. Sharing meals are also provided at Sheshnag, Panchtarni, Chinaware and Baltal.
People can avail hotel accommodations at halts in pahalgam and in Srinagar on houseboats, as per their tour plans.
People can avail transportations with 6-8 passengers in non A/C tata sumo, which also takes them for sightseeing.
Devotees need to get registration before they go into the region near the holy shrine for which Amarnath Yatra registration is required to be done.
Registration as well as booking for going on Amarnath Yatra is possible to be done from various other cities outside jammu & Kashmir
Tips for Devotees
People going on the trip to Amarnath Caves will have to trek for about 4 hours from Pahalgam to Chandanwari along high mountains. Then they have to cover distance of 5-6 hrs from Chandanwadi to Sheshnag. The next stop is at Panchtarni starting from Sheshnag, which takes about 6 hours of walking and finally reach Baba Amarnath from Panchtarni that is about 5 hours journey
Along these treks, a number of difficulties can be faced by people with climate forces playing a big role due to its unpredictable changes. Sometimes temperature can go down to as much as -5 deg C, for which travelers must be highly cautious
Rules and Rituals of the Temple
Improving physical well being – Since the yatra to Amarnath Cave requires walking for long distance, people should be prepared before hand with regular walking practices for 4-5 kms per day, by a month before the yatra is undertaken so that the body gets accustomed for such rough journey.
Body should also be massaged on a daily basis with mustard oil and bathing in luke warm water so that one will have flexible body which will not get tired easily. This is also beneficial for reducing any harm to the body due to the quickly changing weather.
Breathing efficiency has to be increased – this will allow pilgrims to have better supply of oxygen to the body and yoga exercises such as Pranayam should also be practiced.