‘Ekam sat’ means ‘there is one Being’. It is the popular verse of Rigveda. As per this verse, God has three deities to carry on the tasks of the entire world. This is called Holy Trinity: Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the perpetuator of life and Shiva is the destroyer of evil, purifier and harbringer of good. In Rig Veda, Lord Shiva has also been mentioned as Rudra. According to Yajurveda, Lord Shiva has been described as an ascetic warrior who wears deer skin’s robe and carries a trishul in his hand. Lord Shiva is considered as a living God. He has three places of His residence – first and the foremost is Kailash Parvat, second one is Lohit Giri under which flows the Brahamputra and third one is Muzwan Parvat. Lord Shiva has been mentioned in the hymns of Rig Veda. Even in ancient India, Lord Shiva was worshiped and it is evident from the Mohinjodaro and Harappa findings.
Read: Amarnath Yatra 2016
One of the prominent religious destinations dedicated to Lord Shiva is the holy Amarnath Cave that is located in Jammu and Kashmir. Each year, lakhs of Hindu devotees visit the cave to pay obeisance to the ice Shiv lingam, a form of Lord Shiva that is formed inside the cave. Shiv lingam is formed when the water drips from the roof gets accumulated and start to freeze on the floor. According to Hindu religious belief, the size of Shiva lingam at Amarnath Cave increases and decreases with the different phases of the moon. But there is no scientific evidence to support this belief. Along with Shiva lingam, two more ice formations exist in the cave that are believed to be of Maa Parvati and their son Ganesha.
The Amarnath Cave has a special significance in the Hindu religion. As per legend, Lord Shiva had chosen this cave to describe the secrets of immortality and formation of the universe to Maa Parvati.
Once Maa Parvati asked Lord Shiva that when He started wearing the beads of heads. On this, Lord Shiva replied whenever you were born. Maa Parvati asked – why are you immortal and I keep on dying again and again? Lord Shiva said that this is due to the Amar Katha. Maa Parvati insisted to hear that Amar Katha and after convincing Lord for a long time, Lord Shiva decided to narrate that story to Maa Parvati.
To narrate the story, Lord Shiva started looking for an absolutely lonely place so that no living being can hear that Amar Katha except for Maa Parvati. He finally found the Amarnath Cave. To reach there, He left all his belonging on the way like His bull Nandi at Pahalgam, His Moon at Chandanwari, His snakes at the banks of Lake Sheshnag, His son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat and at Panjtarni, He left his Five Elements (Earth, Fire, Water, Air and Sky).
After this, Lord Shiva entered in this holy Amarnath Cave with Maa Parvati. Lord Shiva sat on the Deer Skin and took a samadhi. To further make sure that not even a single living being could hear the secret Amar Katha, He created a rudra named Kalagni and ordered him to set fire around the cave so that everything living around that place could be destroyed. He then started narrating the story of immortality to Maa Parvati. But in spite of all these efforts, one egg remained protected under the deer skin on which the Lord was sitting. But it was considered as non-living. A pair of pigeons was born out of that egg and supposedly became immortal. Pilgrims can still see the pigeon pair while going towards the Amarnath Cave.
Amarnath Yatra Route
Devotees visit Amarnath Cave close to the festival of Shravani Mela that is held between July-August.
From Pahalgam – A traditional route
To reach Amarnath Cave, one has to reach Pahalgam either from Jammu (315 Km) or from Srinagar (96km). Take a bus or taxi from Jammu to reach Pahalgam or reach Srinagar by air and from there take a car, bus or taxi. From Pahalgam, devotees have to reach Chandanwari (16 km)and this distance can also be covered by using road transport. Pilgrims can either camp at Pahalgam or Chandanwari.
From Chandanwari, pilgrims climb the height to reach Pissu Top that is believed to be formed by the dead bodies of Rakshas who were killed by Lord Shiva.
To reach at Sheshnag, pilgrims follow a steep incline. The entire route has untouched wild scenery with cascading stream on one side. The place got its name from the Seven Peaks. The shape of the peaks resemble that of the head of the mythical snake.
From Sheshnag one has to cover the steep height of 4.6 km to reach Panchtarni. This is the last camp to the Holy Amarnath Cave. Cold winds might lead to cracks on skin. Also at such an altitude one feels short of oxygen.
From Panchtarni, the Amarnath Cave is located at a distance of just 6 km. As there is no place to stay, so pilgrims have to start their journey early in the morning so that you can come back to the base camp on time. The entire route is very beautiful.
From Baltal – A new route
There is another route to Amarnath cave from Baltal that is located at 14 km from the Amarnath caves. The distance of Baltal from Jammu is 400 km that can be covered by taxi or bus. From there, pilgrims can either take ponies or travel by foot to cover the route from Baltal to Amarnath. Though this route is much narrower and steeper than from Pahalgam, it can be completed in one day with Baltal as base camp. If you want to complete the journey in one day then you can hire a helicopter from Pahalgam to Panchtarni.