pilgrimages is the oldest organized travel system, evolved
over time by Hindu sages and embodying the spirit
of wander, adventure and spirituality. One of the holy
trinity, Shiva is a living god. The most ancient and sacred
book of India, the Rig Veda evokes his presence in its
hymns. Vedic myths, ritual and even astronomy testify to his
existence from the dawn of time.
known to have made his home in the Himalayas. He built no
house nor shelter, not for himself or his bride. He was an
ascetic, and yet married; he could be both for "he was
the wild god sporting in the forest or taking his ease on a
Legend has it
that Shiva recounted to Parvati the secret of creation in
the Amarnathji cave. Unknown to them, a pair of mating
pigeons eavesdropped on this conversation and having learned
the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the
cave their eternal abode. Many pilgrims report seeing the
pigeons-pair when they trek the arduous route to pay
obeisance before the ice-lingam (the phallic symbol of
The trek to
Amarnathji, in the month of Shravan (July - August) has the
devout flock to this incredible shrine, where the image of
Shiva, in the form of a lingam, is formed naturally of an
ice - stalagmite, and which waxes and wanes with the moon.
By its side are, fascinatingly, two more ice - lingams, that
of Parvati and of their son, Ganesha.
an ancient tale, there was once a Muslim shepherd named Buta
Malik who was given a sack of coal by a sadhu. Upon reaching
home he discovered that the sack, in fact, contained gold.
Overjoyed and overcome, Buta Malik rushed back to look for
the sadhu and thank him, but on the spot of their meeting
discovered a cave, and eventually this became a place of
pilgrimage for all believers. To date, a percentage of the
donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendants of
Malik, and the remaining to the trust which manages the
legend has it that when Kashap Reshi drained the Kashmir
valley of water (it was believed to have been a vast lake),
the cave and the lingam were discovered by Bregish Reshi who
was travelling the Himalayas. When people heard of the
lingam, Amarnathji for them became Shiva's abode and a
centre of pilgrimage.
the legends and the history of Amarnathji's discovery, it is
today a very important centre of pilgrimage and though the
route is as difficult to negotiate as it is exciting, every
year, thousands of devotees come to pay homage before Shiva
in one of his famous Himalayan abodes.
Situated in a
narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder valley, Amarnathji
stands at 3,888 m and is 45 km from Pahalgam and 141 km from
Srinagar. Though the original pilgrimage subscribes that the
yatra be undertaken from Srinagar, the more common practice
is to begin the journey from Pahalgam, and cover the
distance to Amarnathji and back in four or five days.
Pahalgam is 96 km from Srinagar