Amarnath cave is an auspicious cave shrine of Lord Shiva located high up on the Himalayas in the southern region of Jammu and Kashmir. Each year thousands of pilgrims set out on the holy Amarnath yatra in the month of Shravan or around July-August of the western calendar. One needs to trek to amaranth cave either via Pahalgam route or via Baltal route. From Pahalgam base camp one has to trek 43kms to reach Amarnath cave while the Baltal route offers a shorter trek of just 11kms. ‘Pratham Pujan’ ceremony marks the beginning of the holy Amarnath yatra each year.
Amaranth cave is cradled at an elevation of nearly 3888m above the sea level and towards the south face of sacred Amarnath Mountain in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ganderbal district. Furthermore, the cave shrine of Amarnath ji is housed within a very narrow gorge at the farthest end of Lidder River valley. The cave has an extremely calm, sacred and tranquil ambiance. However during the peak Yatra season, thousands of pilgrims flock at the holy cave and the ambiance resounds to the chanting of Shiva mantras. The cave is well known for its holy natural ice lingams.
The holy cave of Amarnath enshrines a naturally formed ice stalagmite lingam of Sri Amarnath ji who is none other than lord Shiva. It is believed that this ice lingam is formed due to the incessant dripping of water from the cave ceiling. Water, which drops to the ground, solidifies into ice due to the extremely cold ambiance around and thus the lingam grows vertically upwards. There are two other similar glistening white ice lingams, one symbolizing Goddess Parvati and the other, lord Ganesh. The ice lingams at the cave are said to wax as well as wane in congruence with the changing phases of the moon. The lingams are said to reach their fullest height and form on the Full Moon Shravan Purnima night. This year; i.e. 2016 Amarnath Yatra pilgrims will be able to visualize a 20 feet high holy icy lingam as per the latest news. The amaranth cave lingam is known by several names such as ‘Amresh’, ‘Rasa Lingam’, ‘Amreshwar’, ‘Siddhi Lingam’, ‘Shuddhi Lingam’, ‘Buddhi Lingam’ etc.
Amarnath Cave Discovery
There are many tales regarding the discovery of the cave. One such tale says that the cave which had been under the waters of a huge lake since many centuries was discovered when sage Kashyap drained out all the waters from the lake. Another tale tells that the Amarnath cave was visited by the sage Brigu in the ancient times and later he informed the world of the cave. The third story says that Buta Malik, a shepherd while attending to his herd of sheep came across an old person who handed over a bag full of charcoal to the shepherd. Later when the shepherd opened the bag after returning home to his utter surprise he found that the charcoal has been replaced by gleaming gold coins. He immediately returned to place where he had met that old stranger but found no one out there but in the process he discovered the holy cave of Amarnath.