Amarnath Yatra:A Divine Deistination

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605773-111There 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) 22
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 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 .
The Legend about the importance of Amarnath Cave is as follows :-
This is The Cave which was chosen by Bhole Shankar for narrating the secrets of 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 whenever 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 phalic ymbol of Shiva).
Discovery of Holy Cave
The Amaranth Cave was discovered by a Muslim shepherd of Batakot, Buta Malik, when he lost his flock and found that it had strayed into the sacred spot some 150 years ago. There is a documentry proof of this discovery. Even today his family receives some part of the alms offered by pilgrims. On the other hand, to prove that the holy cave and the ice lingam were known to the people since very ancient times and have been continuously and regularly visited by pilgrims not only from Kashmir but also from different parts of India. While the earliest reference to Amarnath can be seen in the Nilamata Purana (v.1324), a 6th century Sanskrit text which depicts the religious and cultural life of early Kashmiris and gives Kashmir’s own creation myth, the pilgrimage to the holy cave has been described with full topographical details in the Bhringish Samhita and the Amarnatha Mahatmya, both ancient texts said to have been composed even earlier. References to Amarnath, known have also been made in historical chronicles like the Rajatarangini and its sequels and several Western travellers’ accounts also leaving no doubt about the fact that the holy cave has been known to people for centuries. The original name of the tirtha, as given in the ancient texts, is of course Amareshwara, Amarnath being a name given later to it. Giving the legend of the Naga Sushruvas, who in his fury burnt to ashes the kingdom of King Nara when he tried to abduct his daughter already married to a Brahmin youth, and after the carnage took his abode in the lake now known as Sheshnag (Kashmiri Sushramnag), Kalahana writes:
“The lake of dazzling whiteness [resembling] a sea of milk (Sheshnag), which he created [for himself as residence] on a far off mountain, is to the present day seen by the people on the pilgrimage to Amareshwara.”(Rajatarangini, Book I v. 267.Translation: M. A. Stein). This makes it very clear that pilgrims continued to visit the holy Amarnath cave in the 12th century, for Kalhana wrote his chronicle in the years 1148-49.
At another place in the Rajatarangini (Book II v. 138), Kalhana says that King Samdhimat Aryaraja (34 BCE-17CE) used to spend “the most delightful Kashmir summer” in worshiping a linga formed of snow “in the regions above the forests”. This too appears to be a reference to the ice linga at Amarnath. There is yet another reference to Amareshwara or Amarnath in the Rajatarangini (Book VII v.183). According to Kalhana, Queen Suryamati, the wife of King Ananta (1028-1063), “granted under her husband’s name agraharas at Amareshwara, and arranged for the consecration of trishulas, banalingas and other [sacred emblems]”.
In his Chronicle of Kashmir, a sequel to Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, Jonaraja relates that that Sultan Zainu’l-abidin (1420-1470) paid a visit to the sacred tirtha of Amarnath while constructing a canal on the left bank of the river Lidder (vv.1232-1234) . The canal is now known as Shah Kol.
In the Fourth Chronicle named Rajavalipataka, which was begun by Prjayabhatta and completed by Shuka, there is a clear and detailed reference to the pilgrimage to the sacred site (v.841,vv. 847-849). According to it, in a reply to Akbar’s query about Kashmir Yusuf Khan, the Mughal governor of Kashmir at that time, described among other things the Amarnath Yatra in full detail. His description shows that the not only was the pilgrimage in vogue in Akbar’s time – Akbar annexed Kashmir in 1586 – but the phenomenon of waxing and waning of the ice linga was also well known.
Amareshwar (Amarnath) was a famous pilgrimage place in the time of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan also. In his eulogy of Shah Jahan’s father-in-law Asif Khan, titled “Asaf Vilas”, the famous Sanskrit scholar and aesthete Panditraj Jagannath makes clear mention of Amareshwara (Amarnath) while describing the Mughal garden Nishat laid out by Asif Khan. The King of gods Indra himself, he says, comes here to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva”. As we well know Francois Bernier, a French physician accompanied Emperor Aurangzeb during his visit to Kashmir in 1663. In his book “Travels in Mughal Empire” he writes while giving an account the places he visited in Kashmir that he was “pursuing journey to a grotto full of wonderful congelations, two days journey from Sangsafed” when he “received intelligence that my Nawab felt very impatient and uneasy on account of my long absence”. The “grotto” he refers to is obviously the Amarnath cave as the editor of the second edition of the English translation of the book, Vincient A. Smith makes clear in his introduction. He writes: “The grotto full of wonderful congelations is the Amarnath cave, where blocks of ice, stalagmites formed by dripping water from the roof are worshipped by many Hindus who resort here as images of Shiva…..”
Another traveler, Vigne, in his book “Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardu” writes about the pilgrimage to the sacred spot in detail, clearly mentioning that “the ceremony at the cave of Amarnath takes place on the 15th of the Hindoo month of Sawan” and that “not only Hindoos of every rank and caste can be seen collecting together and traveling up the valley of Liddar towards the celebrated cave……” Vigne visited Kashmir after his return from Ladakh in 1840-41 and published his book in 1842. His book makes it very clear that the Amarnath Yatra drew pilgrims from the whole of India in his time and was undertaken with great enthusiasm.
Again, the great Sikh Guru Arjan Dev is said to have granted land in Amritsar for the ceremonial departure of Chari, the holy mace of Lord Shiva which marks the beginning of the Yatra to the Holy Cave .
In 1819, the year in which the Afghan rule came to an end in Kashmir, Pandit Hardas Tiku “founded the Chhawni Anmarnath at Ram Bagh in Srinagar where the Sadhus from the plains assembled and where he gave them free rations for the journey, both ways from his own private resources”, as the noted Kashmiri naturalist Pandit Samsar Chand Kaul has pointed out in his booklet titled “The Mysterious cave of Amarnath”.
Not only this, Amarnath is deeply enshrined in the Kashmiri folklore also as stories like that of Soda Wony clearly show. One can, therefore, conclude without any doubt that the Amaranth Yatra has been going on continuously for centuries along the traditional route of the Lidder valley and not a century and a half affair. May be during the Afghan rule when religious persecution of the Kashmiri Hindus was at its height and they were not allowed to visit their places of worship the pilgrimage was discontinued for about fifty or sixty years and during this period the flock of some shepherd may have strayed into the holy cave, but that in no way makes it of a recent origin or a show window of so-called Kashmiriat.
The temple is reported to be about 5,000 years old and was mentioned in ancient Hindu texts. The exact manner of discovery of the cave is not known.
The Amarnath Yatra, according to Hindu belief, begins on Ashadha Purnima (day of the Full Moon in the Hindu Month of Ashadha) and ends on Shravana Purnima (day of the full moon in the Hindu month of Shravana).

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