Of all the Shiv Dhams in India, none can match Amarnath Dham for its unique mythology and mystique. Pilgrims may visit Somnath, Kedarnath, Mallikarjuna Swamy, Mahakaleshwar and Omkareshwar temples but the Yatra to Amarnath is something else. It is tough yet spiritually fulfilling. Unlike other Shiv Dham where the Linga is mainly of stone, here at Amarnath you have an Ice Lingam in a cave. Amarnath is rich in mythology and it has a religious significance for devotees of Lord Shiva.
The Holy Cave
The holy cave is the abode of Lord Shiva the God of destroyer and healer. The shrine is said to be 5,000 yrs old. Lord Amarnath is in the form of naturally formed an ice lingam. Which is believed to wax and wane with the moon. On the full moon day the lingam is approx 6 ft high. Approximate 400,000 faithful devotees make their Yatra to Amarnath every year during the festival of Shravani Mela in June to August. This is the cave where Lord Shiva explained the secret of Immortality to his wife Parvati.
It is believed the cave and surrounding areas lay submerged in a big lake for centuries. Sage Kashyap is believed to have drained the water and exposed the cave. Sage Bhrigu is believed to have visited the Amarnath cave and he spread the knowledge to people. Another story is about a shepherd Buta Malik who was tending his flock in this area when a Sadhu gave him a bag full of charcoal. He went home and opened the bag to find it full of gold coins. He returned to the spot but could not find the Sadhu but discovered the cave with its ice Lingam and ever since then people have been visiting this cave for the Lord’s blessings.
According to legend Parvati became curious as to why Lord Shiva adorned himself with a necklace of skulls to which he replied that each skull represented her rebirth. Parvati was curious to know why she was mortal and why Shiva was immortal. He promised to reveal the secret but only inside a cave so that no other living being could overhear them. He took her to the Amarnath cave, leaving behind the Moon, the snakes from his hair, his Bull and all the five elements. He then ordered Kalagni to destroy everything in the neighborhood and then related the story but a pair of pigeons overheard him and became immortal. It is said you can see a pair of pigeons at the cave and they are the same ones that overheard Lord Shiva.
While the pilgrimage is tough, pilgrims are helped on the way by charitable institutions and people who offer food and shelter along the way.