Lord shiva, also known as the destroyer of evil, is a very significant deity in the Hinduism. He has many religious destinations dedicated to him. One of the most prominent out of them all is the Amarnath temple. Located in Jammu and Kashmir, Amarnath temple attracts millions of devotees every year. It is one of the most popular Hindu pilgrimages in the country.
The amarnath temple, situated at an approximate height of 12,760 feet from the ground, houses the lingam, of lord shiva, which is entirely and naturally made up of ice. Every year, around the shravani mela, held in July-august, devotees from all over the world, travel to the Amarnath temple, seeking darshan and blessings.
Legend has it; that the amaranth caves were the destination chosen by shiva, to share the secrets of life and death with maa parvati. To answer her questions about life, death and immortality, lord shiva decided to narrate to her the story, “amar katha”. For this to happen, lord shiva looked for a lonely place where the only person who could listen to the story, was maa parvati. Finally, shiva decided on the Amarnath caves. On the commute to the Amarnath caves, lord shiva left all his belongings. On reaching the Amarnath temple, lord shiva took a Samadhi on deer skin and made sure no one else could hear the amar katha by having the area surrounding the cave set on fire. Inspite of his best efforts, a pegion egg remained within the cave, under the deer skin he sat on. If the belief holds true, the pilgrims can still see that pair of pigeons, who became immortal after listening to the amar katha, roaming around the Amarnath temple.
Situated in a Himalayan glacial valley, the Amarnath temple is believed to be the most holy Hindu shrine. It has four ice formations, which are considered the structures of various Hindu gods. The largest structure is seen as that of lord Shiva. On its left, is the figurine known to be Ganesha. Similar figures representing maa Parvati and Bhairava are on the right of the ice lingam of lord shiva.
The amazing ice figurines in the Amarnath temple usually wax in between May to august and eventually wane after that. Shiv lingam, the ice figurine of lord shiva is formed when the water that drips from the roof freezes on the ground. The spiritualists explain the expanding and shrinking of the lingam as a result of different phases of moon, although no scientific evidence or explanation has ever been put forward to justify this belief. The lingam is at the peak of its height growth on sharavan that is full moon, which is also believed to be the auspicious day when lord shiva first entered the Amarnath temple.
Believed to be as old as five thousand years, the Amarnath temple has been mentioned in numerous Hindu writings and texts. Although the exact story behind the discovery of the cave is a mystery, there are several legends attached to the enchanting Amarnath temple. One of these stories suggests, a Muslim Sheppard met a saint who gave him a bag full of coal, which, when he reached home, turned into gold. Bewildered the Sheppard went in search of the saint, but instead found the Amarnath cave. After this new spread, the Amarnath temple started to be believed sacred and instilled faith among all the villagers.
Various devotees opt for different means of commute from pahalgam to the Amarnath temple. Nowadays even helicopter can be availed, but only till panchtarni. From this point on, your options are narrowed down to trekking up to the Amarnath temple, or take a pony or palki on hire. All these aside, there are many devotees who actually take up the entire journey on foot. Although the path to the Amarnath temple is filled with the beautiful Himalayan valley and natural beauty so enchanting it puts a spell on you, the journey is no child’s play. The trek is a little difficult, as the weather can be a bit unpredictable. The climate can be extreme and shortages of oxygen have been very well known to have happened. On the other hand, the pahalgam route has a plus. The rest house facilities available are pretty convenient. During the commute to the Amarnath temple, you will encounter many tea and snacks stalls, along with free meal stalls also known as bhandaras. It is always advisable to not carry a lot of baggage and load, as it will only cause a lot of inconvenience, and will make an already difficult trek, even more strenuous.
The journey to the Amarnath temple can prove to be a little trickier for those who are not in perfect physical health or children. Thus, they are advised against making the trip. As the journey will eventually require you to rest, there are various tents or housings being set up by the local people, available for hire. It would be good to carry food items which are filled with calories, chocolates for instance, which will act as a barrier against the merciless cold, and also help in regaining the energy which will be lost in the way.
While trekking to the Amarnath temple, extreme caution is required. The help or aid from the BSF or army men can always be availed. Army men are also spread all through the commute for the safety and welfare of the devotees.
Each year during the month of sharavan, the Amarnath temple hoists yatra (commutes) for almost five lack pilgrims from all over the world. The trek being so difficult and challenging, is still always crowded with devoted travelers. The five day journey to Amarnath temple often includes rains and even snowfalls. In some cases, the temperature drop has been almost five degree Celsius. . It is only the faith of seeking something more than just the material possessions that carries the devotees through the severe weather conditions for a darshan of lord Shiva’s lingam.