Linga is truly Shiva. All is revealed by Siva who is the very essence of Consciousness and Knowledge. Nothing can reveal Him. Thus, the Linga is the sole, Self-shining reality. Shiva is Consciousness Unmanifest.
The Amarnath Cave has a special significance in the Hindu religion. The Shiva Lingam at the Amarnath shrine is a Swayambhu lingam, which waxes and wanes with the Moon's cycle.
Location & Route
Amarnath is a Hindu shrine located in located in Lidder Valley, Anantnag district of the Kashmir, India. The cave is situated about 168 km from Anantnag city, the district headquarters, 141 km (88 mi) from Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir.
The pilgrims travel in a group in the month of sharavan (July–August) from Srinagar. Two routes of the pilgrimage are popular. One route is from Jammu – Pahalgam – Chandanwari - Pissu Top - Sheshnag - Panchtarni - Amarnath cave. Another route is from Jammu - Baltal - Domail - Barari – Sangam - Amarnath cave.
The shrine is a big natural cave of about 45 meters (150 ft.) in height, 30 meters (100 ft.) wide and 60 meters (200 ft.) in length. It is surrounded by glaciers, snowy mountains and is covered with snow most of the year, except for a short period of time in summer when it is open to pilgrims.
The lingam is a natural stalagmite formation located at the Amarnath Mountain which has a peak of 5,186 metres (17,014 ft), and inside a 40 m (130 ft) high cave at an elevation of 3,888 m (12,756 ft).
There are two holes in the northern wall of the cave from which water trickles out and freezes into ice almost immediately. One of the holes is bigger and below that a huge linga of snow is formed. This is the famous Amaranath - linga. On its left and right sides there are two more formations of ice, known respectively as Ganesha and Parvati. The cave faces south and the rays of the sun do not fall directly on the linga.
Pilgrimage to holy places is an integral part of the religious observances in Hinduism. Though the number of such places is extremely large, only a few have attained great celebrity over the centuries. The Amaranath (Shiva) cave in Kashmir is one such place. Its importance and antiquity were well-known even by the twelfth century since Kalhaṇa’s Raja- tarangini mentions it.
Visiting the cave-temple on the Shravaṇ Purnima day (July-August) is considered extremely auspicious since, according to the historical lore, Shiva appeared in this cave on this day. He made the gods immortal by feeding them with amṛta or nectar. Hence it is named as Amaranath, ‘Lord of the immortals’.
Amarnath finds mention in Rigveda, Skanda Purana, Mahabharata and many other ancient texts. Research works throw ample light on the history/origins of the Amarnath pilgrimage. Some of the most relevant ancient texts, historical histories and research works in this regard are: Nilmata Purana, written in the sixth century; Bhrigu Samhita and Amarnatha Mahamatya, which are said to have been composed before the sixth century.
Bhrigu's Amarnath Mahatmya identifies a number of locations on the pilgrimage on the way to the Amarnath cave: Shurahyar, Shivpora, Pandrethan, Pampore, Javati, Awantipur, Barsu, Jaubror, Belihar, Wagahama, Chakreshwar (Tsakdar), Hari Chandar, Sthalwat (Thajwor), Suryai Gohwat (Sriguphvara), Lambodari, Sirham, Bodrus, Bala Khelyan, Ganish, Mammaleshwar, Bhrigupati Kshetra, Nila Ganga, Pissu Hill, Shesh Nag, Wavjan, Panchtarni, Amravati. On the return journey Mamleshwar and Naudal are crossed.
According to legend, Sage Bhrigu was the first to have discovered Amarnath. A long time ago, it is believed that the Valley of Kashmir was submerged underwater, and Sage Kashyapa drained it through a series of rivers and rivulets. As a result, when the waters drained, Bhrigu was the first to have darshan of Shiva at Amarnath.
As per legend, once Maa Parvati asked Shiva that when He started wearing the beads of heads. To this question, Lord Shiva replied whenever Parvati was born. Parvati then queried: why are you immortal and I keep on dying again and again? Lord Shiva said that this is due to the Amar Katha. Parvati insisted to hear that Amar Katha and after convincing Lord for a long time, Lord Shiva decided to narrate that story to her.
To narrate the story, Lord Shiva started looking for an absolutely lonely place so that no living being can hear that Amar Katha except for Parvati. He finally found the Amarnath Cave. Lord Shiva had chosen this cave to describe the secrets of immortality and formation of the universe to Maa Parvati.
After this, Lord Shiva entered this holy Amarnath Cave with Parvati. It is believed that he sat himself on the deer Skin and took a samadhi. To further make sure that not even a single living being could hear the secret Amar Katha, He created a rudra named Kalagni and ordered him to set fire around the cave so that everything living around that place could be destroyed. He then started narrating the story of immortality to Parvati. But in spite of all these efforts, one egg remained protected under the deer skin on which the Lord was sitting. A pair of pigeons were born out of that egg and supposedly became immortal. Pilgrims can still see the pigeon pair while going towards the Amarnath Cave.
It is believed that Shiva left Nandi, the bull, at Pahalgam (Bail Gaon). At Chandanwari, he released the Moon from his hair (Jata). On the banks of Lake Sheshnag, he released his snake. At Mahagunas Parvat (Mahaganesh Mountain), he left his son Ganesha. At Panjtarni, Shiva left behind the five elements - Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Sky. As a symbol of sacrificing the earthly world, Shiva performed the Tandava Dance. Then, finally, Shiva entered the Amarnath Cave along with Parvati and both of them manifested into a Lingam made of ice. Shiva became the lingam of ice and Parvati became the yoni of rock.
Although the existence of the Holy Cave has been mentioned in the Puranas, the popular story narrated by people about the re-discovery of this Holy Cave is of a shepherd Buta Malik. Story goes like this: a saint gave Buta Malik a bag full of Coal. On reaching his home when he opened the bag, to his utter surprise the bag was full of gold coins. This overwhelmed him with joy. He ran to thank the Saint. But the Saint had disappeared. Instead, he found The Holy Cave and the Ice Shiv Lingam there. He announced this discovery to the Villagers. Then onwards this became a sacred place of Pilgrimage.