Mysterious Cave of Amarnath
Samsar Chand Kaul
after God began with the dawn of creation. This search has assumed various
forms, some seekers have concentrated on the teachings of the great prophets of
religions, and others have gone on pilgrimages to the birth places of saints and
prophets and visited localities where the different gospels were preached.
Thereby they seek inspiration to help them in their quest.
The grandeur of Northern India lies in its
glorious mountain ranges . . . the Himalayas. It is on these ramparts of Nature
that the prosperity of India depends. Shri Krishna says in the Bhagwat Gita, `I
am the Himalayas among mountains.' The Indians look upon them as the abode of
celestial beings. It is said that in the caves of Himalayas live sages who have
been in meditation for hundreds of years. They occasionally reveal themselves in
disguise to pilgrims. Among the many holy places in the side-valleys of these
mountains, two Kidar Nath towards the south and Amar Nath in the interior of
Kashmir Himalaya's stand out prominently.There are also a number of mountain
peaks which are dedicated to certain gods or goddesses. The most sacred spots in
Tibet on the further side of the Indian border are Mount Kailas and the
Manasarowar lake where adepts in spiritual lore are supposed to be living in
their subtle bodies. These Masters are ever ready to guide the travllers on the
spiritual path. I think one of the reasons why men go to these places is to see
the Hand of the Creation in scenes of Nature's impressive grandeur. As these
places are not easy of access, and as they are thousands of feet above the
sea-level, beyond the dust and din of the world, man's soul gets elevated at the
sight of their sublime beauty and thus he is brought closer to the object of his
There are special days fixed according to the
lunar calendar to visit these sacred places. The pilgrims assemble on a certain
date in a certain place and start together. Such a rule is applicable only to
those places which lie in mountains and the going is difficult. The Government
provide facilities as far as possible everywhere for pilgrims.
The most famous of these pilgrimages is the Cave
of Amar Nath which is an All-India Holy Place. People visit it from every corner
of India. Mention of it occurs twice in the Rajatarangini (the history of
Kashmir), first where the King Ram Deva is stated to have imprisoned the debauch
King Sukh Deva and to have drowned him in the Lidder (Lambodheri) among the
mountains of Amar Nath about 1,000 B.C., and a second time where King Sandimati
(34 B.C. to 17 A.D.) is described as visiting the ice-lingam.
shows that this sacred spot was known to the people
in very early times. One can only guess as to how
this cave was discovered. The villagers of the
Kashmir Valley generally send their flocks under a
shepherd's care to the pastures in summer. Each
shepherd has his own pasture which he inherits from
his father. The word Pahalgam means 'a village of
shepherds'. While grazing his flock round the
pastures of Pantsatarni, some shepherd may have lost
some members of his flock. In search of these he may
have climbed the mountain and found this cave with
the Shiva-lingam in it and communicated the news to
his brothers who in turn must have made it known to
others. The Maliks as the guides to the cave are now
called, have a share in the offerings to the deity.
Formerly, in absence of tangas and lorries the whole
journey from Srinagar was done on foot. There were a
large number of springs, places and streams in the
way where the pilgrims had to bathe, and drink
water. Since the introduction of wheeled conveyances
many of these places have been abandoned being out
of the way, and much time is thus saved. For the
information of the reader I give a detailed list of
places which a pilgrim is expected to visit for a
bath and other ceremonial purposes.
Route. According to the Amar Nath Mahatmya a pilgrim
is expected to bathe or drink water at the following
places before he enters the Holy Cave. As some of
the places are not accessible to wheeled conveyance,
they are not now visited by pilgrims.
: Shudashi Khetor, the modern Shurahyar about 2.5
miles from Srinagar. It is said that in ancient
times there was a stone staircase leading from this
place to the top of the Shankarachar. Lately a
temple has been built here.
: There must have been a temple here, but there is
no trace of it now.
: The old Panthdreshti about 1.5 miles from
Shurahyar. There is a temple in the middle of the
spring built by Meru the Prime Minister of King
Paratha (921-31 A.D.). Kak is of opinion that this
is the temple of Shiv Rilhanesvara erected by
Rilhana, the Prime Minister of Jayasimha, about the
year A.D. 1135.
: This was the favourite haunt of Rajank Acharyas
the present Razdan family. It is 5.5 miles from
Pandrethan. It was here that Shri Lalishwari lived.
There is a spot here which is called Lalatrag.
: The modern Zewan. It is 7 miles from Srinagar. The
road is metalled. There is a spring here dedicated
to Vasak Nag. There are regular buses running now.
: It means sweet water, the modern Petwan.
: It is known as Seda Khetor, the modern Avantipor.
There are at this place old temples built by King
Avantivarman (855-88. A.C.).
: There is a stream flowing through the village
called Rudara Ganga.
: There must have been a temple here in olden times.
: The old Mahawaras.
Known as Hari Ganish.
: Known as Belyar. This was known as Lakhmi Khetor.
: The place is known as Hastikaran.
: The modern Tsakodar. This is a plateau on the
right bank of the Vitasta near Bijbihara. It is 28
miles from Srinagar.
Tirth : The
Tsander : It
is the southern ghat of the Bijbihara stone temple.
It contains a huge stone lingam.
: The modern Thajwor. It is 2.75 Miles from
Bijbehara and here water drips from the southern
side of the plateau through maiden-hair on the
: The modern Sriguphvara. It is 4.75 miles from
: A stream in which the pilgrims have to bathe.
: Here is a spring called Surya Ganga where worship
: The place is sacred to Ganpat whose worship
removes all obstacles.
Bodrus : The
place is now called Hayi.
Ashram : The
Woter Nag Ganga flows by this Spot. It is 2 miles
: Here the people bathe in the stream. The place is
3.5 miles from Tsatrus Bodrus and is reached by a
Known as Vishna Khetor, the modern Bala Khellan.
Bal : 10.5
miles from Sallar. Here Ganish is worshipped. It is
on the right bank of the Lidder below Pahalgam.
: On the right bank of the Lidder is a spring
and an old temple containing a Shiva Lingam at this
place which is about a mile from Pahalgam. It is
said that when Shiva removed His seat from Thojwara
to Mamalishwar, Ganish who was his door-keeper did
not allow devas to visit Him. Hence the name of the
village Mamal - don't go.
occasion Indra sought permission to visit Shiva.
Ganish did not allow him. So there followed a
quarrel, Ganish became furious and thirsty. He drank
the river which became dry. Shiva while playing at
his tabor poked the stomach of Ganish with it and
out flowed the stream again, hence Lambodari.
opinion the source of the Lidder is the Kolahoi
glacier. A stream joins it at Lidderwat which is the
corrupt form of Lambodar wat-a rock dedicated to
Ganish who is also named Lambodar and it is from
here that the river was named Lambodari the modern
Lidder. This must have been a place of pilgrimage in
the olden times. An affluent from Tarsar enters the
river at this place.
Khetra : It
is a spring in Pahalgam. It is said that Vishnu was
pleased with the worship of Brago whom He embraced.
Brago perspired, which gave rise to a spring. This
spring is behind the village.
Ganga : It
is about 3 miles from Pahalgam. Close by the foot of
Pisu Hill was the tirth of Sthanishwar where
pilgrims had to bathe. One day Shiva kissed the eyes
of Parvati to which antimony had been applied. He
washed her eyes in water which turned dark-blue,
hence Nila Ganga. There was a great fight between
the Devas and the Daityas. The Devas did not allow
the Daityas to see Shiva. The Daityas were defeated
and ground down to tiny bits. Hence Pisu Hill.
Nag : A
certain Daitya's body was entirely made of wind. He
became very powerful. He troubled the Devas every
way. They all entreated Shiva to rid them of the
monster. Shiva told them that he was his disciple,
and that they should approach Vishnu, which they
did. Vishnu sent his Wahan, Sheshi Nag who sucked
all the wind from the Daitya's body and the Daitya
was killed. Pilgrims bathe in the lake.
: Some of the Daityas still concealed themselves in
the lakes around the place. These lakes, were dried
and the Daityas were killed. Hence Hoka Sar (dried
lake). The Deva's were told to build small houses of
stones as a shelter against the wind. Hence pilgrims
also make toy sheds of stones.
: This is believed to represent plaited hair (jata)
of Shiva from which the Ganga flows. It is said that
Shiva told one of his Rudhragans to beat the drum
every evening. He forgot to do so one evening.
Thereupon he was cursed and turned into a mountain
which is now known as Bairau Bal.
: On the other side of the Bairau Bal is Garbagar
popularly known as Garba Yatra. Nandi complained to
Shiva that he could not stop the rush of Devas
coming to visit him. He ordered Nandi to get a huge
rock and make a hole through it, so that every one
desirous of visiting him would have to pass through
that hole while Nandi would be standing near the
: All living beings besought Shiva to disclose a
method which would render them immortal. Thereupon
Shiva rinsed His plaited hair (jata) and out flowed
the Amaravati-the stream of immortality. Some of the
drops fell here and there giving birth to some of
the gods, while himself he turned into Sudhaling
(immortal emblem) in a corner of the cave. Every one
being satisfied praised Shiva.
: The confluence of the Amaravati with the
Pantsatarni is the place where a pilgrim has to
perform Shrada (a ceremony for the dead). He is
required to make a pedestal of barley flour with
four golden nails struck in the four corners and a
pure pearl set in the middle which should be given
in charity to a Brahman who is supposed to be
Shiva's form. When returning from Pahalgam the
pilgrims revisit Mamalishwar and bathe in the nine
springs of Naudal.
Ganga : This
is the last place where a pilgrim has to bathe. This
is a spring near Nishat Bagh.
Saheb :2 In
the Bragish Sahita it is said that after Reshi
Kashap Ji reclaimed the Kashmir Valley from the
waters it became populated through the agency of Nag
Raja Takhek. It so happened once that Bragish Reshi
roaming through the Himalayas arrived here. It was
he who gave a clue of the cave of Amar Nath Ji to
the people. He gave them a detailed account of the
Tirthas and the places on the route to the cave.
some decades the Daityas had the upper hand here and
this place fell into oblivion, and the people forgot
all about the route. Thereupon Bragish ji
reappeared. He told the people that he had
propitiated Bhagwan Mahadiv from whom he had
obtained a sceptre which he had entrusted to Nag Raj
Takhek. They should go and get this sceptre from Nag
Raj, and while ruler of the country shall make
arrangements for the Pilgrims who should start in a
body from Srinagar with the holy sceptre in front.
There would be no hindrance nor any trouble on the
way. The sceptre called the Chhari Sahib wielded at
present by the Mahant under the supervision of the
Dharmartha Department has led the procession of
pilgrims ever since.
A.C. Pandit Har Dass Tiku founded the Chhawani Amar
Nath at Rambagh where the Sadhus from the plains
assembled and where he gave them free rations for
the journey, both ways from his own private
resources. This cost him about two lakhs.
Mahants who wield the divine command of holy place
have always been the carriers of two holy sceptres
which symbolise that command. Wherever a Mahant
visits a place and takes his seat with ceremony a
man holding one of the sceptres stands on his right
and the other on his left.
whole Amar Nath pilgrimage procession is conducted
under the auspices of the Chhari Sahib. No pilgrim
is allowed to go ahead of the Chhari, which is
guarded by the Dharmartha Department, Kashmir. I am
told that the Chhari in Srinagar was first wielded
by Mahant Atwargir near the present Shital Nath
buildings. After some time Mahant Sarswatigir
visited Kashmir and stayed at the spot Dashnami
Akhara. He erected a platform and some buildings and
began to entertain Sadhus who came from the plains
to Amar Nath. He took the Chhari from Atwargir.
meantime Shivratananand Saraswati improved the Durga
Nag Ashram to such an extent that most of the Sadhus
bound for the pilgrimage stayed in his ashram and
were much cared for and warmly entertained. He put
forth the plea that the Chhari must belong to his
ashram as he was the Shankarcharia of the place.
Thereupon started a dispute over the Chhari
Shivratananand Saraswati marched to the Amar Nath
pilgrimage. A compromise was made between the two
claimants and Mahant Saraswatigir considered
Shivratananand a Sadak chela. The latter then
naturally became the wielder of Chhari Sahib. Under
his command the arrangements for the sadhus were
excellent. There were enough tents and pilgrims were
much cared for. But a section of the Sadhus of the
place was not satisfied with the agreement. They
protested to the Government and made demonstrations.
After the demise of Shivratananand, the Chhari
passed into the hands of a Chela of Saraswatigir who
now wields it under the control of Dharmartha.
Chhari generally leaves on the 4th day of the bright
fortnight of Sawan. A state official is always
present to perform puja at Dashnami Akhara on the
eve of its departure. The carrier of this holy
sceptre must walk on foot. They visit Hari Parbat
and Shankarachar before departure. They go by stages
as pilgrims did of old but by a different route
by-passing the places of interest mentioned in Amar
Nath Mahatmya. The first halt is, at Pampor. At
Bijibehara all sadhus accompanying the Chhari are
given a dinner by the pujari of the temple.
Villagers call it `Gosain Mela', the fair of
hermits. Bijbehara to Anantnag-5 miles. Anantnag.
A great festival is celebrated for the townspeople
who come to see the sadhus. Anantnag-Bawan
4.5 miles. Here is the famous spring of Martand
where in the intercalry month or on vijaya saftami
shradhas are performed. Bawan to Aishimuqam
Pahalgam village there are sheds for pilgrims. All
pilgrims coming from various parts of India assemble
here and wait for the Chhari Sahib. They arrange
with contractors for ponies or coolies for their
luggage. It is necessary to have a tent and some
warm clothes. Religious-minded people abhor putting
on leather shoes. If leather shoes are used they
must be nailed. Formerly pilgrims generally used
grass shoes. They are most useful in going over
glaciers. In this journey however, there is only a
small bit in the Cave Glen. A water-proff coat is
very useful. A staff with an iron spike would prove
useful. It is also advisable to keep handy some
ready-made food. Cinnamon should be used along with
clad people from the plains having no conception of
the severe cold of the place, suffer a lot. The
Government makes excellent arrangements for the
convenience of pilgrims. A civil officer regulates
the whole affair. Medical aid is provided and
security measures are enforced. Some schools and
colleges despatch batches of scouts to look after
the weak. There is a regular bazaar held at the
stage. The shop-keepers, confectioners,
grain-dealers, vegetable-sellers sell their
commodities at a high price. The contractors arrange
for fuel. As the fuel is not available beyond Pisu
Hill (11,081 ft.) it is advisable that the coolies
or pony-men be instructed to carry one or two
bundles of wood. No wood except juniper is
procurable for the next two stages.
Government allots about ten thousand rupees for the
maintenance of the weak Sadhus and children and
makes every possible effort to give them comfort and
Public' Works Department looks after the upkeep of
the road and the bridges over the torrents. Lately
an excellent arrangement for the baths of men and
women has been made near the cave. Also an iron
railing has been erected round the Shivaling in the
night of the 11th day of the bright fortnight of
Sawan (July-August) all pilgrims assemble at
Pahalgam. They all are now in full equipment
including picturesque awnings of all sorts and
forming an artificial village march like the Aryan
of old, in a deeply devotional spirit, reciting the
praises of various gods and of goddesses,
introspeciing and meditating the inward vibrations
of their minds and this is the purpose of their
journey. The procession is best described by Swami
Vivekananda in the following words : 'The procession
of several thousands of pilgrims in the far-away
Cave of Amar Nath, nestled in a glacial gorge of the
Western Himalayas, through some of the most charming
scenery in the world, is fascinating in the extreme.
It strikes one with wonderment to observe the quiet
and orderly way in which a canvas town springs up in
some valley with incredible rapidity at each halting
place with its bazaars and broad streets running
through the middle and vanishing as quickly at the
break of dawn, when the whole army of gay pilgrims
are on their march once more for the day. Then again
the glow of the countless cooking-fires, the ashes
covered Sadhus under the canopy of their large geru
(orange) umbrellas pitched in the ground, sitting
and discussing or meditating before their dhunies
(fire), the Sanyasis of all orders in their various
garbs, the men and women with children from all
parts of the country in their characteristic
costumes, and their devout faces, the torches
shimmering at night fall, the blowing of
conch-shells and horns, the singing of hymns and
prayers in chorus, all these and many other romantic
sights and experiences of a pilgrimage, which can be
met with nowhere outside India, are the most
impressive and convey to some extent an idea of the
overmastering passion of the race for religion. Of
the psychological aspect and significance of such
pilgrimage, done on foot for days and days, much
could be written. Suffice it to say, that it is one
of those ancient institutions which have above all,
kept the fire of spirituality burning in the hearts
of the people. One sees here the very soul of the
Hindu nation laid bare in all its innate beauty and
sweetness of faith and devotion.
to Tsandanwari (9,200 ft.)
8.5 miles. The pilgrims rise early and in a long
string walk one after another. Some old ladies are
carried in palanquin. The palanquin-bearers sing in
chorus to avoid fatigue. Some rich people ride on
ponies, while most of the people walk. It is a good
pony-track which runs along the right bank of the
torrent. The mountain slopes are densely forested.
The flow of the blue waters rushing against the
rocks, making delightful pools and dashing cataracts
infuse new life into the onlookers. Occasionally
they hear the sweet music of the whistling thrush or
see the gorgeous plumage of the white-capped
redstart or a dipper diving in the swift torrent to
get its food. The shady path under the pines which
emit delicious fragrance lessens the fatigue of the
traveller. Some pilgrims take a little rest, against
a huge fir and with closed eyes meditate on the
beauties of the skilful works of the Author of the
Universe. Others open their thermos flasks and while
enjoying the beauties of Nature which abound in
these lovely spots take a cup of tea to exhilarate
themselves; while others again hold the hand of an
old man to help him to go ahead. In the way they
have to bathe at the Nila Ganga. Some pilgrims walk
straight on and halt at Tsandarwari and pitch their
tents there. It is a wise plan to be early at the
stage, to pitch the tent, make a drain round it and
get coolies to collect wood in good time. A small
hatchet is of much use. Ponies carrying luggage
should not be allowed to move away from oneself and
coolies should not lag behind.
are sheds at stages, but except during pilgrim
traffic they are not well cared for. It would be
desirable that the sheds at Pahalgam and Tsandanwari
be placed direct under the Public Works Department
and the sheds at Vaovajen and Pantsatarni entrusted
to shepherds living there for summer months. They
should be paid for that. In that case the sheds will
be kept clean, tidy and in good repair. I wish more
sheds were built for the comfort of the pilgrims.
stage presents a moderately difficult ascent. From
Tsandanwari to the foot of the Pisu Hill (11081 ft.)
is about 1.5 miles. There is a snow bed to pass
over. The ascent up the hill is somewhat steep. It
is better to make an early start, as with slow and
steady steps, the ascent can be easily negotiated.
When taking rest it is advisable to look below at
the same time not missing the glorious panorama of
densely forest-covered mountains and snowy peaks
about which eagles and vultures hover in circles to
find their food. Close at your feet, right and left,
are nature's gems of various colours-flowers peeping
from underneath trees and bushes till you reach the
top. You are now above the tree-belt (in the alpine
region). Take a little rest and have something to
eat. The going from here to Sheshiram Nag is easy.
In between about two miles from the top of the Pisu
Hill is Zoj pal a nice camping ground. The path goes
along the shore of Sheshiram Nag (11,730). The Nag
lies in a depression surrounded on one side by
mountains about 16,000 ft. high. There are two small
glaciers on the flanks of these mountains and the
water from these glaciers feeds the lake. The
silvery streaks of water flowing over the worn rocky
precipitous slopes move like the Shesh snake and
disappear into the lake. The pilgrims bathe here and
some of them prepare tea. The colour of the water is
lovely to look at. The lake on one side is silted
up. The stream from the lake has carved out a deep
ravine covered with birch trees. One finds beautiful
flowers peeping out of juniper bushes. Rhododendrons
are not scarce. The account of the lake given in the
first book of Rajatarangani and that occurring in
the Amar Nath Mahatmya do not agree. At sun down the
snow on mountains turns pink and its reflection in
the lake makes the beholder mute.
said that once upon a time there was a man named
Sodwani running a shop at Drugajen. To him children
of the village would come for a pinch of sugar
everyday. One day a boy asked him for a second pinch
because he said that there was another boy riding on
a bull coming to play with them. This statement
excited the curiosity of the shopkeeper who told him
to show him the boy. When the shop-keeper was taken
there, the children did show him the boy but he
could not see him. He entreated them to put in his
hand the tail of the bull. So at evening when the
boy went back, the shop-keeper caught hold of the
tail and over bush, rock and rough path he was
dragged. In the way, the boy told the shop-keeper
that was not the proper way for him to go. He should
come to Sheshiram Nag on Shivratri day and then he
would take him along with himself. It was not easy
for the shop-keeper to go such a distance and to a
place at such a height in mid-winter when the snow
lies very deep on the ground. However, he managed to
sell all his belongings, went of Pahalgam and
collected a large party to peasants. He paid them
lavishly and told them to guide him to Sheshi Nag.
In those days the path was very rough and snow
fairly deep. The winters in those days were very
severe. Somehow the peasants were able to guide him
and they reached Sheshiram Nag. There he saw Shiva
and Parvati waiting for him in a well furnished
shikara on the shore of the lake. They beckoned to
Sodwani to get into the boat. No sooner he went in,
than the boat disappeared.
ascent of 500 ft. will take you to the camping site
of Vavojen (12, 730 ft.) Due to its height above the
sea-level and the exposed nature of the place the
wind here is very strong. Hence the ropes of the
tents should be tightened firmly and the body wrapt
in warm clothes. The only available wood is juniper.
Mahant of Chhari does not permit any pilgrim to go
ahead of him. I remember that once we started at
early dawn for the next stage. The Mahant shouted,
`Who are you? Where are you going?' `We are
confectioners and are making for the next stage',
said we. `All right.'
lie, sorry to say, saved us from a papal bull. My
friends and I went straight to the cave. There we
saw some Public Works Department coolies and some
cowboys. The pilgrims build here toy huts of stone,
as a propitiation to the forces of Nature to save
them from the wind.
(12230 Ft.) to Pantsatarni - 8.25 Miles
14th day of the bright fortnight of Sawan
(July-August), the procession starts under the
leadership of Chhari Sahib. They ascend Ashad Daki
then Mahagunas which is a plateau where the herb of
the same name once used to grow. Physically
exhausted and tired, making halts at short
intervals, the pilgrims walk slowly when the gradual
descent of the path takes place from Hokasar and
Kalinar where the route from Pahalgam via Astanmarg
which is four miles shorter meets the main route.
From here two miles onward is Nagara Pal, a huge
boulder, up which the pilgrims scramble with two
pebbles in hand beating the rock as if beating a
drum to proclaim their arrival. Walking one mile and
a half they stand on the bank of the Pantsatarni
stream. They take off their clothes and bathe in all
its six or seven tributaries, the last being the
main and the largest one. The water of some
streamlets is pure because they rise from springs,
while others come from glacial sources and hence
contain minute sandy particles. When all these
streams unite they form a mighty river which it is
impossible to ford. If one had the time, it would be
worth while to explore the main stream. I remember
once camping here and suggesting to my friends to
explore the source of the main Pantsatarni stream,
but they were very anxious to see their friends at
Pahalgam and so did not agree.
whole region is rich in herbs. It is a pity that the
sheep and cattle graze everywhere in it, hence the
flowers cannot be much observed. The herbs can only
be recognized by their leaves. Here and there one
might find a flower which has escaped being nipped
by an animal. Even then some people conversant with
eastern medicines, get a lot.
their arrival the pilgrims hasten to pitch their
tents. Cooking fires are lighted; the smoke from the
green juniper bushes rises higher and higher in
streaks. There is hustle and bustle everywhere. The
ponymen are shouting for their ponies, the masters
are yelling at their coolies, the mothers are
looking for their children, the clients are
enquiring about their priests. Some people after
having tea, have a look at the landscape round the
valley. The sunset on the snowy peaks is marvellous.
to Cave (12,729 Ft.) 4 Miles
Purnamasi Sawan (July-August) the visit to the cave
takes place. The old route has been condemned by the
Government. The pilgrims used to climb the Bairau
Bal and going round the summit reached the cave
after descending the precipitous slope through Garba
Yatra. The cave is at a distance of two miles from
Present Route being easier, known as Sant Singh's
route has been adopted for years past by the
pilgrims. It is plain going for 2 miles and then
there are 2 miles of very gradual ascent, part of it
over a small glacier. Turning round the corner and
looking up the glen one discerns a large hole in the
mountains. That is the cave.
narrow defile leads up to this cave which is nestled
among mountains between 16,000 ft. and 17,000 ft.
above sea-level. This small valley must have been
scooped by glaciers which now have receded. A small
torrent drains the valley, while a streamlet
shimmers down from the top of the cave and joins the
torrent below. This spot where Nature's basic
material, rock and water are abundant, gives bliss
to millions of Hindus. Their eyes marvel at the
skilful hand of Nature, and this handiwork of hers
the mysterious cave, the destination of their long,
long journey. Their souls find peace. Every particle
of sand, every drop of water, every thing hereabouts
to them the emblem of Shiva a sign of peace. They
direct their thoughts to things spiritual in this
frame of mind they undress themselves. First they
wash themselves in this torrent; then they bathe in
the Amaravati and besmearing themselves with the
chalky sediment of the stream, become all while.
They put on new loin cloths and thus, so to say
draped in white from head to foot enter the cave, in
a way become for a moment one with the Supreme and
having no consciousness of the physical world.
with eyes closed in the bliss springing from inner
love' would that I attained to Shiva-consciousness
so that while I bowed to my own self as Shiva, I
would also worship a blade of grass as a
manifestation of the same Supreme Reality.
to physical consciousness they look around the
interior of the cave. Towards the north-eastern
corner they see Sudha* Lingam (immortal emblem) of
pure greenish-white ice in a recumbent position on a
natural pedestal (peth). The water drops from the
top of the cave fall on the pilgrims and in some
places the images of Ganesh Ji, Kumar Ji, and
Parvati are formed by these drops. The Mahant of the
Chhari Sahib sits close to the Pedestal with two
silver staves placed on either side of the Amar Nath
Lingam (immortal emblem). The pilgrims offer to the
deity, camphor, candles of clarified butter,
raisins, candy sugar, black pepper, clothes, silver
and gold ornaments. The recitations from the Vedas
and Tantras echo through the spacious cave and snow
pigeons which nest in the mountains make their
appearance at this juncture and fly froth their
peches. Seeing these birds the pilgrims clap their
hands and shout : `Ishwara Darshan Pa'ya re (we have
seen the manifestation of the Lord'). A part of the
offering of raisins, crystalized sugar and black
pepper they bring along with themselves in order to
distribute the same among their relatives and
friends. They also take silt from the Amaravati or
limy pebbles from the cave as Babuti for their
relatives and friends.
this highly spiritual atmosphere steps are now
retraced towards the material world. The descent to
the lower altitudes now begins. The pilgrims do not
go to Sangam where in olden times Shradhas were
performed in memory of dead ancestors. The pilgrims
return to their camps for breakfast (they eat only
one meal on this day) and precipitately begin the
downward march. It is a pity that people do not stay
here for some time. There is a sea of glaciers on
the north and east of the Amar Nath Range. Some of
the peaks are much higher than Kolahoi. Hence this
area is worth exploration. It is true that weather
conditions are uncertain in these altitudes. A cloud
passing from one mountain peak to another may bring
a shower of rain, may discharge a hail-storm or
envelop the valley in a snowy shroud. But such
conditions do not last long and when we are
well-equipped, a short stay at the place is well
worth the hardship of weather.
return journey via Astamnarg is prohibited by the
Government. The Sasokot is not safe in bad weather :
it is all sand and shale. So the pilgrims hasten
their downward journey to Tsandanwari and the next
day make for Pahalgam. It is said that the
pilgrimage to Amar Nath Ji is not complete until the
pilgrim washes himself in the nine springs of Naudal
(nine leaves), which is 22 miles from Pahalgam via
is believed to wax and wane according to the phases
of the moon.)
News Network (KNN), for providing this
contribution written by the legendary teacher Pt.
Samsar Chand Kaul.