The history of Amarnath caves, dates for the yatra, mythological story behind the cave, the reason for its popularity and the scientific reason behind shivling formation – everything you need to know about the ‘Amarnath’, meaning the immortal lord.
The place is held in very high regards by Hindus and the journey is considered a noble task to undertake in one’s lifetime. It also happens to be an arduous trek with narrow track at many points, and so also fits well into the narrative of facing hardships before reaching the sweeter goal.
The History of Amarnath Caves
It is believed that back in the time when Gods used to dwell the Earth, Parvati insisted Shiva to tell her the secrets of creation and immortality. Shiva took her to a place in a cave deep inside Himalayas where nobody could listed to them, and no mortal could get the secret of a non-expiring life. There, he told her the ‘Amar Katha’.
Fast forward to 18th century, the Amarnath cave was found by a shepherd named Buta Malik, who entered the cave when his flock strayed inside. There he found a sage who handed him a bag of coal, which turned out be a bag of gold when he reached home. He ran back to the cave and instead found the Shivling.
Amarnath Yatra Dates
The yatra is undertaken by devotees every year in summer. Though the exact dates are released by the Amarnath Shrine Board every year, they usually fall between June-August and give devotees a window of a little more than a month to visit the Amarnath caves. People trek and take helicopters to reach the cave.
The Story of The Shivling
Here’s how the story goes. Shiva’s wife Parvati was a reincarnation of Sati, who killed herself by throwing herself on the sacrificial fire after her father objected to her marriage to Shiva. Following this, and before her rebirth as Parvati, Shiva went into mourning and lived as a sage in forests with other sages. During this time, the wives of a few sages started taking interest in Shiva, enraged by which the sages sent a gigantic tiger after Shiva. He dealt with them with ease and wore the tiger skin from then on. The sages then cursed Shiva’s manhood. The phallus fell off and caused earthquakes, scaring the sages and they asked for forgiveness. That marked the genesis of the symbolic Shivling.
In another story, once Shiva was making love to his devi, when other Gods had to come to meet to talk about an urgent matter. They could see the God but did not have the courage to disturb him. They could see the two bodies melting into one other, and stood there in awe of the sacred energy they felt, but nobody dared to disturb Shiva. They did end up cursing him though, that from then on nobody will remember any other form of Shiva except for this symbol of creating life. Though we do see the human form of Shiva at some places, the Shivling is the most predominant form of worship.
Originally, the Vedas did not talk about idol worship and temples and worshiping a God was more about meditation and spirituality. The most predominant way in which Shiva is worshiped today is through the image of a linga surrounded by a yoni, meaning a man and a woman producing life. The Shivling signifies the force of creation and, it indeed sounds ironic that a culture once steeped deep into spirituality and with an understanding of life, birth and creation, will house people today far detached and incapable of grasping and accepting the realities of it. There are several kinds of stories and no matter what you believe in, we hope that when you worship a Shivling, you know what you are paying homage to.
Amarnath Shivling: Scientific Reason
Amarnath sees snow for most part of the year, except for the summer months when things clear out a bit. Inside the 40m high Amarnath cave, a stalagmite is formed when the snow on top of the cave melts, the droplets seep inside the cave but those water drops refreeze on their way to ground because of freezing temperature of the air around inside the cave. As more snow melts, the formation rises in size and shape. The structure starts diminishing again when colder months set in as the outside snow stops melting. Similar large stalagmites are seen at other places too like Slovakia and Austria.
But the mythology is much cooler to say. 😉