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Amarnath Temple | History, Architecture and Facts of Amarnath

Appealing to the Adventurous Longing for a Glimpse of Stalagmite Shivalinga at Amarnath Temple

Among several temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Amarnath temple is regarded the most sacred one for it is a cave in a ravine in the Himalayas. Famously called Amarnath cave, the Shiva temple is situated in Jammu and Kashmir. The Amarnath mandir is positioned at an altitude of about 12,760 feet high. One among the holiest shrines, it is reached on foot during the summer when the temple is open.

You can reach the temple through Pahalgam, which is recognized as a hill station and a popular tourist destination. Most of the time the Amarnath cave is covered by snow, except during summer when pilgrims visit it to have a ‘darshan’ (sight) of Lord Shiva. With mountains around, people trek through the mountains daring the climate and the terrain to visit the temple every year. One of the 51 Shakti Peethas, the temple cave carries much significance owing to its age-old history.

Amarnath Temple

Amarnath Temple | Image Resource : i.pinimg.com

Fascinating History of Amarnath Temple

The legend says that the Amarnath Mandir was first discovered by Sage Bhrigu. It is believed that the Kashmir Valley was under water a long time ago and it was Sage Kashyap, who had the water drained through rivers, as well as creeks. Sage Bhrigu was the first to visit the cave and have the sight of Shivalinga (Lord Amarnath) when the water drained. People who heard about this visited the place.

There are stories that the local Gadaria community happened to visit the Amarnath cave and saw the glimpse of stalagmite in the form of Shivalinga. There is evidence of the location of the cave described by Francois Bernier, who was a French physician. He wrote in his book “Travels in Mughal Empire” about a grotto or cave with amazing congelation. The congelation he mentioned is the stalagmites formed due to congealing of water dripping from the roof of the rock. People worshipped this for it took the form of Shivalinga, which is an abstract representation of Lord Shiva.

Get to Know the Significance of Amarnath Temple

The Amarnath temple holds the glory of being the place which Shiva visited with his consort Parvati. The legend says that Goddess Parvati once asked God Shiva about the reason for wearing a garland of skulls (Mundamala). To this, Shiva replied that he wears it for her and every time she is born, he used to add a skull to the garland. This made Parvati surprised and confused, so she asked him why she dies every time, while he is immortal.

To this, Shiva answered that it is because of the Amar Katha. Parvati insisted Shiva to explain it. On her insistence, Shiva took her to a secluded place, where nobody could listen to him. While going, he left Nandi, the bull at Pahalgam and the crescent moon on his head at Chandanwari. He also left behind the snake that adorned his neck at the banks of Sheshnag and his son Ganesha at the Mahagunas mountain. Furthermore, he also left the five important elements of the universe, which are water, air, fire, earth and sky at Panjtarni for they are instrumental for the birth of new life.

He, along with Parvati, performed the tandav dance to symbolize sacrificing the earth. The place he chose to confide the secret of his immortality is the Amarnath cave. On reaching the cave, he closed his eyes and went into meditation. He called Rudra, also called Kalagni, and asked him to lit all around the cave with fire so that nobody could listen to what Shiva confides. Once he was sure of having no one nearby, he narrated the story of how the world came into being and he became immortal. Accidentally, there was an egg of a pigeon which laid protected beneath the skin of the deer on which Shiva was sitting. It is believed that two pigeons which were born out of this egg became immortal. The cave was rediscovered later and there are several stories behind it.

Some Facts about Amarnath Temple

Devotees visit the Amarnath temple in June and they go on a journey trekking the mountain for days to reach the cave and have the glimpse of Shivalinga made of snow. Here are some interesting facts about the Amarnath temple.

  1. The temple carries the significance of being one of the 51 Shakti Peethas and therefore, it is a holy shrine, where you can cleanse your sins by praying to Lord Shiva.

  2. This is the place where Shiva told the truth of his immortality to Goddess Parvati.

  3. There are people who say that they have seen a pair of pigeons braving the cold in the cave. They are believed to be immortal for having heard the story from Lord Shiva.

  4. The places, such as Pahalgam, Chandanbadi, Sheshnag, Mahagunas and Panjtarni carry a lot of significance for they are the places where Lord Shiva stopped during his journey to Amarnath.

  5. On the way to the cave, you have to go through Pissu Top. It is believed that this place had a pile of dead bodies of demons, who fought with Lord Shiva and perished.

  6. The Lake Sheshnag still has blue water that is quite cold.

  7. The Amarnath cave is 130 feet high and the Shivalinga, which is a stalagmite formed by the freezing of water drops that trip from the roof to the floor is seen growing vertically to look like a huge Shivalinga. During the period from May to August when the snow on the Himalayas melts, the Shivalinga waxes. Owing to the water that seeps into the rock, the Shivalinga slowly decreases and disappears.

  8. It is believed that the Shivalinga grows and then reduces and disappears due to the phases of the moon that become brighter during summer.

  9. You can see three Shiva Lingas, which are naturally formed and they represent Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesh.

  10. The Amarnath cave is said to be over 5000 years old.

Festivals at the Holy Amarnath Shrine

As for the festivals, the most significant event that is connected with this sacred Amarnath temple is the Amarnath yatra, which is also called a holy pilgrimage. It is a yearly event when the pilgrims start on a journey during the Shravani Mela festival during June to August. This 45-day season connects with the month of Shraavana. People perform or take part in the ‘pratham pujan’ before starting the Amarnath yatra.

Get to Know the Amarnath Temple Timings

Generally, the Amarnath pilgrimage is undertaken when the stalagmite Shivalinga is in the waxing phase and it reaches the apex during summer. The Amarnath yatra schedule is in the end of June or July and until August. Depending on the climate, the duration is fixed, where sometimes it is fixed for a shorter duration.

The pilgrimage to 12,760 feet high Amarnath temple starts with a trek of 43 kilometers on the mountainous terrain from the place called Nunwan, as well as Chandanwari base camps in Pahalgam. The long trek is undertaken by halting at Sheshnag and Panchtarni camps in the night. You can reach the temple after a few days. There is no timing for you to worship the Shivalinga anytime when you reach there.

It takes about five to six days to reach the Amarnath cave from Pahalgam. Of course, there is a shorter route that is just about 16 km long. Nevertheless, it is difficult to climb the steep gradient, which begins from Baltal and goes through the places like Domel, Barari and Sangam before you reach the temple.

How to Reach Amarnath Temple?

You can start your Amarnath temple journey from any of the two places like Pahalgam and Baltal. To reach these two places, there are buses operated by the Jammu state transport corporation and some private operators.

There are also helicopter services from Baltal and Pahalgam helipad. The route is Baltal/ Pahalgam to Panjtarni and back. From Panjtarni it is just 6 kilometers by trek to the Amarnath cave.

You have train services until Jammu from various parts of the country. There are also flight services to Srinagar International Airport, from where you need to catch a bus to reach Baltal/ Pahalgam. Pilgrims who are on Amarnath yatra are required to prepare themselves for they need to trek a long distance, which involves physical exhortation. You have to practice breathing and improve your physical fitness. It is advisable to carry a lot of food with high calories and warm water to keep you healthy.

There are a lot of tents and camps for the pilgrims to take rest during the journey. You can also hire ponies that help carry your wares during the journey.

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