Imagine a superhero with infinite powers, the only one who knows the path to immortality. He, however, has to give in to his wife’s wish to know this secret. To keep the secret safe from any eavesdroppers, the superhero chooses a place safely distant from any life. En route, he lets go of all his companions; his ride, the bull at Pahalgam, the moon that adorns his hair at Chandanwari, the snakes around his neck at Sheshnag, the five basic elements at Panchatarini, his son Ganesh at Mahagunas Top, to finally reach a hidden cave. This fascinating story is the legend of Amarnath.
The cave where the superhero supposedly narrated the immortality lessons to his wife is none other than the “holy cave” of Amarnath, the superhero is Lord Shiva and his wife is of course Parvati. The Cave has become a revered destination for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.
Lord Shiva is known by many names and Amarnath is one of them. Nestled in the Himalayas at an altitude of 3,880, Amarnath Holy Cave is 141 km from Srinagar and 45 km from Pahalgam. The Holy Cave is considered to be the most sacred temple in India dedicated to Lord Amarnath.
The journey to this Holy Cave is known as the Amarnath Yatra that takes place each year during the month of July and August. It is during this time that the natural Shivalingam (made of ice) is formed in the cave attaining full form on the full moon day. By the side of the lingam, are two more ice stalagmites, representing Parvati and their son, Ganesha. The route to the Amarnath Caves is one of the toughest treks and cannot be done by the faint hearted. A proper medical checkup is required and only the ones that are considered fit are allowed to take the Amarnath Yatra.
Admission to the cave is regulated, and darshan of the Holy Trinity is a speedy affair, as there are number of pilgrims waiting to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam or the Shivalingam. The Darshan is accompanied by devotees singing bhajans, chanting incantations, and priests performing aarti and puja, summoning the blessing of Shiva, the divine, the pure, and the absolute.
As the route witnesses pilgrims only between these two months, it has helped in preserving the original beauty of the track. The route to Amarnath is remarkably unique and marvelously beautiful. And of course, the Sheshnag Lake is an added attraction en route. This mountain lake is surrounded by seven identical peaks that resemble the head of a mythical snake called Sheshnag.
The annual Yatra to Holy Amarnath Cave is organized by the Jammu & Kashmir State Government and the registration can be done from the many tourists offices located at Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Jammu and Srinagar.
The only time when the pilgrims can visit this holy shrine is during the month of Shravan (July and August). The dates may, however, vary depending on the weather conditions and according to Purnima (Raksha Bandhan) in the month of Shravan.
Interesting to know that while Lord Shiva was disclosing the secret of creation and immortality to his consort, Godess Parvati fell asleep and it was the two doves who overheard the secret. Having learnt the secret, the two doves attained immortality and have, since then, made the cave their eternal home!
The 45 km Yatra from Pahalgam can be covered in about four to five days. The route to the Holy Cave can be reached from Pahalgam via Chandanwari, Pissu Top, Sheshnag, Panchatarni, finally reaching the Holy Cave. There are some things which can’t be described but can only be experienced first-hand and Amarnath Yatra is surely one of them.
Team Veena World