Amarnath Yatra resumes
The annual month-long Amarnath yatra has recommenced, after being suspended for two to three days on account of inclement weather on the pilgrimage route.
Amarnath is a mountain cave, situated on the narrow openings between the mountains of Lidder valley, at a height of 3,888 mts. Accessible only during the month of shravan (July-August), the cave is considered to be holy by Hindus. Why so?
According to one tale, a Muslim shepherd, Buta Malik, was given a sack of coal by a Sadhu. When he reached home, the sack contained gold. He rushed to thank the Sadhu, and discovered a cave at their meeting place. This later become a place of pilgrimage. Till date, the descendants of Buta Malik are given a percentage of donations - the rest goes to the trust managing the shrine.
According to another legend, it was in the caves of Amarnath that Lord Shiva (the destroyer in the Holy Trinity) narrated to Parvati, his consort, the secret of immortality and creation. Unknown to them, a pair of doves eavesdropped. Having learnt the secrets, they are reborn again and again, and have made this cave their eternal abode.
Yet another legend avers that when Rishi Kashyap drained Kashmir Valley, then a vast lake, of water, the cave was found.
Every year, in the month of July and August, an image of Lord Shiva, in the form of a lingam, is formed naturally as an ice stalagmite which waxes and wanes with the Moon's cycle. First a solid base is formed and then the lingam begins to rise on it. On Purnima it slowly acquires full form. According to the legends it is on that day, that Lord Shiva revealed the secrets of life to Parvati, the beautiful daughter of the Himalayas. By the side of the lingam, are two more ice stalagmites, representing Parvati and their son, Ganesha.
The yatra or trek to the cave can begin either from Srinagar or Pahalgam, 141 km or 45 km away, respectively. From Pahalgam, the journey to Amarnath is 5 days. On the way, there are three rest sites and many refreshment centres. The route winds through Mahagunis Pass, about 13800 feet above sea-level and snow-bound even in summer. After having a bath in the Panchtarani, a meeting point of 5 rivers and the last stop before the caves, devotees move towards the Amarnath Caves, just 6 km. ahead.