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The Holy Cave Shrine of Amarnathji

Tirtha of Amreshvara

By M.M. Munshi

At the head of Sind valley in Kashmir flanked on the north by Great Himalaya Range and Sachkkoch (Sasakot) mountains in the south is located the holy Tirtha of Amarnath ji cave "Amreshvara" (34 12' : 75 01') at an altitude of 12,720 ft. (3878 mts) where Suaymbhu (self created ) only ice linga in the world has been worshiped since early historic if not prehistoric times. The earliest references pertaining to Amarnath ji shrine are found in Brngisasamhita, Nilmat Purana, Kalhana's Rajtarangini and mahatmayas of Amreshvara Kalpa and Amarnotha.

According to Bhrngisasamhita Mahakala (Angel of Death) approached the devtas and told them that they would have to die. The devtas were troubled at this threat and proceeded to the abode of Swami Surgi (Lord Shiva) and entreated his protection. Shiva appeared to them with bright countenance, showered upon them great favour and enquired about the cause of their distress. The devtas represented that Mahakala was about to destroy them and they dreaded his power upon which Shiva with his great mercy and kindness .. raised his plated hair and out flowed Amuravati ‑ the stream of immortality by which the devtas were freed from the persecution of Mahakala. Shiva himself turned into Raslingum (Immortal Emblem) of ice and hence began the pilgrimage and prayers at Amreshvara.

The other legend pertaining to the formation of ice linga is that Shiva's consort Parvati was eager to learn the secrets of life and immortality. She prayed to her lord to reveal the same to her. While sporting over the Himalayas Shiva rested in a cave and revealed the secrets of life and immorality to Parvati and got himself converted to an ice linga. A pair of snow pigeons also resting in the cave overheard Shiva's discourse and also became immortal. According to Bhringish Samhita a person who bathes in the waters of Amurvet (Aumravati) and rubs himself with ashes gets Moksha. A person who performs Amarnathji Yatra after performing ablutions along the traditional route gets the same boons as one gets from Ashva medha Yaga. A pilgrim who performs ablutions at the sangam (confluence) of Amarveth with Panjtarangni (Panjtarni) in Kalyug gets pardon for crores of sins. Pilgrimage to Amarnathji is considered several times more auspicious then the Pilgrimage to Kashi and Triveni.

How Amarnathji shrine could have originally discovered I cannot do better than quote from the life of Swami Vivekananda "I can well imagine how this cave was first discovered. A party of shepherds, one summer day must have lost their flocks and wandered here in search of them. What must have been their feeling as they found themselves unexpectedly before this unmelting ice lingam of White camphor with the vault itself dripping offerings of water over it for centuries unseen by mortal eyes. When they came home they whispered to other shepherds in the valleys how they had suddenly come upon Mahadeva."

A number of authors have stated that hill station of Pahalgam is a derivative from Bailgam named after Lord Shiva's mount Nandi Who while proceeding to sojourn of Amarnathji cave was left at Pahalgam. It seems to be height of imagination of the authors. I cannot throw much light as to where Mahadeva left his mount but can certainly point out that Pahalgam is a distortion of Phelgom (shepherd's village). Had Pahalgam been named after Lord Shiva's mount a Sanskrit or at most a Kashmiri word like Nandi, Brishabh or vraesh would have been used and not a Hindi term like bail.

Physiography

The mountain ranges in the area include Antargiri‑Mahahimavanta (Great Himalaya Range) trending north‑west south‑east Isolating Maha Sindhu (Indus) basin [represented by Suru River] from that of Vitasta (Jhelum) basin [represented by Lidari (Lidar) and Sindu (Sind) rivers] and Chandrabhaga (Chenab) basin [ represented by Batkot and Marwah rivers]. Saribal a south westerly spur of the Great Himalaya Range isolates Chenab from Jhelum basin. Another spur Sachkash (Sasakot) of the Great Himalayas Range bifurcating near Mushran forms a water parting between Sind and Lidar rivers. The Sachkask follows a westerly course and is traversed by Sind river at Drun Nar or Hangsatu just downstream of Sonamarg forming a narrow gorge beyond which it is known as Sogput or north Kashmir Range isolating Kishenganga valley from the Kashmir Valley. In ancient scriptures this range has been referred as Bhratagiri. The triangular mass of mountains; bounded on the north by Sind valley, on the east and south by Lidar valley and on the west by main valley of Kashmir with peaks of Gashbrar (Kolahi), Mahadev, and Sureshvari the latter two overlooking the Dal lake with lakes of Tarsar, Marsar and Hodsar has no modern name but was known in ancient times as Dudavana. A numbers of pilgrims and authors in the past and recent times have wrongly referred the snow beds and snow fields at Chandanwari, Panjtarangini (Panjtarni) and Amravati as glaciers. These snow beds (Shendob) are nothing but fresh snow accumulated in depressions or narrow glens by snowfall, snow creep and avalanches and drift snow in winter. A Glacier (Handar in Kashmiri) is a solid mass of ice moving down the slope along the valleys with an average velocity of 1 to 3 feet per day. However the vertical U-shaped profiles of almost all the valleys in the upper reaches of Kashmir; including Sind and Lidar and their tributaries have been carved by glaciers during the Pleistocene times . The glaciers have retreated to higher levels, some have totally disappeared while a few still exist at Kolahi, Koenjar, in the SE of Sheeshnag, Nehnar opposite Amarnath Nar Machoi near Zojilla, Harnmukh and upper reaches of Sind valley near Mushran. In During the Pleistocene times glaciers extended to much lower levels down stream of Pahalgam and Gagganjir in Lidar and Sind valleys respectively.

Routes

The holy Amarnathji Shrine though located in the Sind valley besides a small tributary of Sind River called Amarveth or Amuravati (Amarnath Nar) has been approached traditionally from the Lidhari (Lidar) valley. According to Amreshvara Kalpa and Brngashsamita some of the important places where pilgrims had to perform ablutions while on pilgrimage were … Shudashi Khetra (Shurayar), Puranadisthana (Pandrethan) , Javati ‑Tsakanaga (Zewan), Padmapura (Pampore), Barsu (Barus), Avantiporika (Awantipur), Chakardara (Tsakdar), Vijeshvara (Vijbror), Anantnaag, (Anantnag), Mach Bhawan, (Mattan), Ganeshbal (Ganeshpora), Mamleshwar (Mamal) 7300 ft (2,225 m), Nilganga, Chandanwari Chidananda 99,220 ft (2,011 m), Shushramnaga (Sheeshnag) 11,330 ft (3,454 m), Panjtarangini (Panjtarni) 12,611 ft (3,845 m) and Amuravati. Between Sheeshnag and Panjtarni the pilgrims cross the pass of Vayurjana or Mahagunus (Vowjan) 13,835 ft (4,217 m). Beyond Panjtarni pilgrims used to proceed to the holy cave along a very steep route over the Bhairav Bal and then descend into Amuravati (Amarnath Nar) just opposite the cave shrine. This was a very dangerous route and many pilgrims while descending have slipped to death. Not only that many sadus used to commit suicide on the steep slopes of Bairav bal. Consequently a new track between Panjtarni and Amarnathji Cave that follows the spur of the Bhairav bal downstream with gentler slope round the shoulder till it reaches the top of the spur and gradually descends into the Amarnath nar was constructed by an engineer named Sant Singh after whom it called as Sant Singh Top. The Sind valley route bifurcating from Srinagar-Leh Highway is shorter to the two was used in the past in early summers. It used to become very difficult and sometimes impossible during late summers due to melting of snow bridges over the Sind river between Baltal and Amarnath Shrine. But with the construction of the bridal path initially built by the army and border roads organization this route has become negotiable throughout the summers. Another track branching off from the Kishtwar Suru route via Marwah Wardwan Batkol Valley [along which the redouble Wazir Zorawar Siingh passed several times with his forces between 1834 to 1841 during the Dogra conquest of Ladakh, Baltistan and western Tibet.] enters the Lidar valley via Galol Gali between Sheesh nag and Mahagnus. Amarnathji shrine is also directly approachable by a foot track from Zogilla Pass which passes below the Amburnath Peak. The least known route from Suru via Seeki Pantsal Pass is the most difficult one and has hardly been used by pilgrims.

History of Pilgrimage

Like the mention of glaciers along the Amarnathji route, the history of Amarnathji has also been wrongly documented. Numerous writers m the recent past have maintained that Amarnathji shrine was lost for a very longtime, some lost theorists like Pervez Dewan have gone as wild to claim that Shrine had been lost for thousands of years, others like Chrangoo O.N. have stated for a few hundred years, till it was rediscovered by Maliks of Batkot according to some by 1753‑1775 and according to others by about 1600 AD quoting old Kashmiri Pandits and Maliks of Batkot without any authentic documentary evidence. Some like Lt. Gen (Retd) S.K. Sinha the former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir have tried to give credit to the Maliks of Batakot for having originally discovered the holy cave.

According to Kalhana's Rajtarangni, Tarang II, Samdimat (Aryaraja) 34 BC‑17 AD a great devotee of Shiva who rose from the position of a minister to ruler of Kashmir "used to worship a Linga of Snow above the forests, which is not to be found anywhere in the whole world during the delightful Kashmir summers." He abandoned his kingdom and retired to Nandikshetra (Nandkul) in Sind valley and joined a hermitage where he was welcomed by old sages.

Kalhana in Tarang I of Rajtarangini narrates the legend of Naga Suravas who bestowed his daughter Chandealekha upon a Brahman youth [who had helped the Naga in partaking part of the harvest from the fields] King Nara who's domain flourished around Chakardara (Tsakdar) near Vijeshvara

(Vijbror) cast an evil eye on the young brahmin's Naga wife, which aroused the wrath of Naga Suravas resulting in death of Nara and destruction of the latter’s kingdom. After completing the frightful carnage the Naga carved place for himself and his zamtur (son-in-law) at the present location of Shusram naga (Sheeshnag). Kalhana says "Is seen to this day [i.e. 1148‑49 AD] by pilgrims proceeding to Amreshvara]. Slightly upstream of Sheesh nag towards Koenjnar glacier is located a small lake Zamtirsaras (Zamtirnag) the residence of brahman son-in-law transformed into a Naga. The full translation of the verse 267 Book I of Kalhana's Rajtarangini reproduced below leaves no doubt about the continuation of the pilgrimage to Amarnathji during the middle of 12th century.

"The lake of dazzling whiteness [resembling a sea of Milk which he created for himself as residence on a far off mountain, is to the present day seen by people on the pilgrimage to Amreshvara" [Stein’s Translation]

The fact that King Zainulabdin [1420‑70 AD] the pious muslim ruler of Kashmir, besides visiting a number of Hindu shrines, also visited Amarnathji cave , has been documented by his chronicler Jonaraja, mention of Amarnathji Shrine has also beenmade by Abu Fazal in Ain Akbari.

According to the Rajavalipataka begun by Prjayabhatta and completed by Skuka there is a clear reference to the Amreshvara pilgrimage. In response to the query of Emperor Akbar Yusuf Khan the Mughal Governor of Kashmir has described the Amreashvara pilgrimage in full detail.

Ali Mardan Khan the Mughul governor of Kashmir during Emperor Shahjehan's rule had derivishly commented on the so-called madness and religious eccentricism of streams of faithful bare-footed, ill-clad winding their way, in rain and snow, through slush and treacherous paths, to behold what was not a God in a cave. It is believed that he dreamed of Mashevara (Shiva) and changed from a cyprical to a firm believer and composed the following beautiful Persian poetry in praise of Mashevaraa (Lord Shiva)

Huma Asle Masheshwar Bood, Sahab ShaheKi Man Deedam

In the dead of the night what I saw with my own eyes was indeed the lord of the lords the Masheevar.

Ajab Sanyasaye deedam , Namo Narayana Guftam, Ba khake paye Boosdom,

The sight of the strange Sanyasi prompted me to chant Namo Narayana as I lay prostate at his feet

Manam Marde Musalmonam, Ali Khanam Hameedanam , Khuda Ban da parwar bood!

The verse has been recited by me a devout muslim Ali Mardan Khan can say with certainty saw divinity unfolding before myself.

Francois Bernier the French physician who accompanied Emperor Auranzeb to Kashmir in 1663 after visiting Trisandya, Verinag, Achabal, Wular lake, Harmukh, etc. was two days march from some place in Sind valley to a magnificent cave full of Wonderful cogealations (frozen things) apparently Amarnathji cave. The relevant pars of the Bernier's book "Travels in Mughal Empire" is reproduced here:

"I was pursuing journey to a Grotta (cave) full of wonderful congailations, (frozen things) two days journey from Sangsafed when I received intelligence that my Nawab felt very impatient and uneasy on account of my long absence."

Vincent A. Smith who has edited the 2nd edition of Bernier's book has observed "The Grotta full of wonderful congelations is the Amarnath cave where blocks of ice, stalagmites formed by dripping water from the roof are worshipped by the Hindoos who resort here as images of Shiva, glaciers surround the which is considerably south of …."

Vigne in his book "Travels in Kashmir , Ladakh and Iskardu (1842)" says "Ceremony at the cave of Umurnath takes place on the 15th of Sawan 28th July …      not only Hindoos of Kashmir but those from Hindoostan of every rank and cast can be seen collecting and traveling up the valley of Lidar towards the celebrated cave which from his description must have been the place which Bernier intended to visit but was prevented." Vigne himself after returning from Ladakh and Tibet in 1839‑40 during the rule of Maharaja Sher Singh son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab attempted to visit Amarnathji cave along the traditional route via Sheeshnag, in late season but was forced to return from Vowjan due to bad weather. He has given a beautiful description of the pilgrimage, gathered from others, which indicated that pilgrimage was in good vogue before 1840‑41. From his narrative we can also conclude that pilgrims from the plains of the sub-continent outside Kashmir visited Amarnathji Shrine in great numbers. From this it is clear that Amarnath has been in regular memory, the yatra has been continuously undertaken not only by Kashmiris but Hindus from other parts of the sub-continent. Even if it is assumed that the that the holy shrine was rediscovered by Maliks of Butkot, for which no authentic proof is available, it can be easily surmised that it was not lost for thousands or hundreds of years. The pilgrimage may have been disrupted due to political upheavals or natural calamities, persecution of hindus during muslim rule in Kashmir for a period of few decades. No community loses its collective memory in few decades. Lawrence in his book "Valley of Kashmir" maintains that pilgrims proceeding to Amarnath were joined by brahmans of Mattan and further up at Batkot the Maliks used to take charge of the pilgrimage. According to him the Maliks were supposed to keep the track in order, guide escort the pilgrims, carry sick ones, and ensure nothing was stolen and as result received one-third of the offerings at the Amarnathji Shrine. The other shares used to go to Brahmans of Mattan and Mahants of Amritsar who still lead the pilgrimage with Chari Mubarak to Amarnathji cave since the Sikh rule in Kashmir. Lawrence does not mention anywhere that the share of the offerings was paid to Maliks in lieu of having discovered/ rediscovered the Shrine. There is no mention of the receipt of rasum rahdari received from pilgrims nor grants from State Government for the services rendered by Maliks. Apparently the share of offerings was paid to Maliks for the services rendered.

It has baffled the Kashmiri Pandits to be told that this yatra, holy cave was lost for quite a long time , some lost theorists like Pervez Dewan have gone as wild to claim that Amarnathji yatra had been lost for thousands of years others have said for hundreds of years until it was rediscovered by Maliks. Historically both look fantastic. There is no mention of yatra ever having been banned. It is not possible to opine that Zain‑ul‑abdin or Akbar or their decedents would have done that. Afghans took over from Mughals in 1753 and ruled Kashmir for 66 years. It is here that whole story of lost and found is hinged. Off late the former governor of J8K state Lt. Gen. (Retd.) S.K. Slnha for political and parochial reasons joined the band wagon and has gone to the extent of giving statements that Amarnathji Shrine was not rediscovered but discovered and maintained by Maliks for a long time. As chairman of SASB he was planning to construct a Dwar (gateway) in front of the cave shrine and get an inscription carved on a plaque that it was discovered by Maliks of Aishmukam/Batkut.

Chari Mubarak

It is believed that when the Satisar (Kashmir Valley) was drained of its water by Balram at the instance of Lord Vishnu for destruction of the monster Jaldoba it became populated through the efforts of sage Kashyapa and Nag Raja Takhek. It so happened that Bragesh Reshi was roaming through the Himalayas saw and gave clue of the cave shrine of Amreshvara and a detailed account of the tirthas along the route to be followed while approaching the cave shrine. It is also believed that after some time the Daityas got the upper hand and the place felt into oblivion. Thereupon Brangish Ji again reappeared and told that he had propitiated Swami Surgi (Mahadeva) and procured from him Scepter which he had entrusted to Nag Raja Takhek. They should obtain the Scepter (Chhari) from Nagraja which should lead the yatris proceeding in a body from Srinagar to the cave shrine.

Rediscovery

Besides Lawrence, earlier travelers and authors in Kashmir have also not mentioned anything about rediscovery of cave by Maliks. It is not difficult to conclude that Cave Shrine could not have been lost during during a short span of few decades during which the yatra might not have seen the traditional pomp and show and may have remained a low‑key affair in view of the adverse political climate. The theory that the Maliks having "discovered" or "rediscovered” the Amarnathji Cave in or around 1775 AD is also constrained by the by the adversity of time. At time Kashmir was ruled by Afghans (1753‑1819) who persecuted Kashmiris in general and Hindus in particular. Afghans would not have taken kindly to Maliks or anybody else, claiming to have rediscovered any Hindu or Buddhist shrine. Such a discovery/ rediscovery even if made would have been kept under wraps. It is highly improbable to presume that pilgrimage to Amarnathji Shrine could have been resumed during the Afghan rule for reasons already stated. Moreover during the Afghan rule all the passes/routes with the exception of Pakhli (Baramula‑Muzafrabad) which they needed for communication with Kabul were closed for traffic and hardly any hindus from the plains could have entered Kashmir and reached Amarnathji. According to Chrungoo O.N. the Amarnathji cave was rediscovered by Malik of Batkut by about 1600 AD, i.e. during the rule of Emperor Akbar, that pilgrimage again remained in abeyance during the Afghan rule (1753‑1819) and was resumed only after Raja Gulab Singh arrived on the scene i.e. 1846. Maliks themselves claim that they discovered the cave shrine by 1775 and Parvez Dewan in his article "Discovery of Lord Shiva's cave temple" in the Daily Excelsior Jammu of 9th Sep 2001 also states that the rediscovery of Cave temple was made some times between 1750‑75. All these claims are contradictory and cannot be accepted as factual. As already indicated that pilgrims from all parts of the country in great numbers proceeded to Amarnath during the Sikh rule (1819‑46) long before Gulab Singh appeared on the scene. All of the lost theorists are silent as to when the holy shrine was lost and have contradicted each other as to when it was rediscovered and also about the person who rediscovered the shrine.

Maliks

In order to arrive at a logical conclusion we have to understand the history and background of the institution of Maliks. According to Baron Von hugel, Malik is a title of honour and distinction given to successors of Davarpatis, Margesas (lattar called Magres) holding charge of watch cum military stations on feudal basis on the important passes/routes entering and leaving Kashmir, by the independent sultans of Kashmir, and also to other clans like Chaks, Rainas, and Dars etc. for their loyal services. After the annexation of Kashmir by Mughals in 1586 AD most of the Maliks of Raina, Magrey, Chak and other clans who had fought against the former were hunted out, killed and banished from Kashmir. Some of them retreated to remote and inaccessible hills and valleys to escape persecution. But those who latter submitted themselves before Akbar and took the oath of loyalty were allowed to resume the duties of guarding the routes, administration and even judiciary.

With the advent of Dogra rule in 1846, the opening of all the routes entering and leaving Kashmir and gradual establishment of police posts at vulnerable places, the ancestral occupation of Maliks came to an end. Since the latter part of 19th century Maliks had to contend themselves with guiding, escorting the pilgrims to Amarnathji, Haramukh, probably to Sharda in Kishenganga valley and other places of pilgrimage. The allotment of a part of offerings as at Amarnathji Shrine could have been in lieu of these services. Since all the arrangements, including maintenance of track, erection of sheds enroute, medical care and police protection for pilgrims are now made by the government of the day, and lately by Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board and several voluntary non-government organization, the receipt of one-third of the offerings by the Maliks is a historical relic, comparable to now abolished Jagirdaris, and privy purses. Further research would have to be carried out as to how old was the settlement of Maliks at Batkut as it is not located on an important route through which no invasions could have been attempted or trade carried out.

Prof. Chrangoo in his article has stated that "some people interested in anthropological or geological studies have said that it is an encrustation of lime, chalcedony and archeological research by Pandit Anand Koul has revealed otherwise. It is true that some observations made by people about Amarnathji shrine are not factual including the one in "Tirtha" published by CMC Ltd. that Amarnathji is an ice covered linga. Similarly chalcedony is a variety of Silica with waxy luster and cannot get assimilated by ice or water under any circumstances. However the Ice Linga is an ice stalagmite and may contain dissolved bicarbonate of Calcium (lime) which cannot be visually seen. Anthropology is the science of physiological, psychological and racial study of man while as Archeology deals with things used or made by man from pre-historic to medieval times both having absolutely no scope for research at Amarnathji cave. A news item under the caption "Another Cave Shiva Temple in upper Pahalgam" appeared in the Daily Excelsior Jammu of 28th August 2001 stating that another cave not far away the Amarnath Cave, had been discovered. The news report reiterated that old Amarnathji cave was discovered by Maliks in 1775 and ruins near the newly discovered temple at Hapatgund were built by a Dogra Governor of Kashmir during Maharaja Ranjit Singh's rule a Shiva temple at the spot in 18th Century. Firstly the presumption of a Dogra governor having built a temple during the 18th century is the height of imagination of the Excelsior correspondent as none of the governors of Kashmir during the Sikh rule was a Dogra, moreover Sikhs ruled Kashmir between 1819‑46 i.e. 19th century and not 18th century. As already discussed Amarnathji Shrine was known centuries before 1775.

Return halt

Pervez Dewan has hypothesized that newly rediscovered Shiva cave temple near Hapatgund could have been a base camp for Amarnath yatra. The postulation does not stand scrutiny, as the new cave is not located on the traditional rout , along which lie a number of tirthas at which performance of ablutions was a must for a meritful yatra. According to Bhrngisasamhita Vigne (1842) and Gates 1872 the pilgrims had to approach Amarnathji cave from Panjtarni, Bhairobal and after having Darshan returned passing down the Amurveth upto its sangam (confluence) with Sind river from where they found a way back to Pahalgam from a different route [from the one they arrived], crossed the watershed between Sind and Lidar rivers by a pass west of Scahkaach (Sasakot) peak and passing Hatiara Talav (where scores of pilgrims have perished by slipping over steep slopes of loose debris), and eventually reached Astanmarg and Zanin. Swami Vivekananda also returned along this route and described it as "Celebrated Lake of Death". This route was abandoned in early 20th Century for being the most dangerous one. The Hapatgund cave temple which lies along this route could have been a halting place on the return journey. Regarding the newly discovered temple at Hapatgund the identification of top knot on the head and serpent coiled round the neck of the idol, and presumably a trisul and a yoni shaped tank some distance from the caves leaves no doubt that caves house an ancient Shiva Temple. Since the idols according to Pervez Dewan are in situ i.e. rocks in original position, not transported by natural or human agencies and presence of such a large number of Shivlings in a limited space and their damage by water indicate the possibility of the idols and Shivlings being natural stalagmites formed by percolation of Calcium bicarbonate bearing water and subsequently sculptured by man.

Wind action can carve rock shelters that too in arid regions, and not caves especially in areas under review which receive moderate to high snowfall and rain. Neither the caves nor the rocks inside can be carved by wind but mostly by percolation of carbon dioxide laden water and occasionally by jointing and fracturing. The sculpturing carving of idols inside the pre‑existing Caves and construction of Yoni shaped tank might have been possibly done as a token of thanks giving by pilgrims returning from a successful yatra of Amarnathji. A number of smatter temples built at Wangat in Sind valley pilgrims, after returning from Haramukh shows that such indeed, was the practice.

Present Status

Despite the turmoil of militancy prevailing for more than a decade, Amarnathji continues one of the most popular Tirthas of Kashmir and lacks of pilgrims from all parts of the country visit the shrine in spite of the fact that a few of them have fallen victim to militant’s attacks. The number of aspirants for pilgrimage has always been more than the government does allow for security reasons.

Conclusion

The only ice linga in the whole world at the Amreshyara (Amarnathji Cave) has been visited and worshipped by Pilgrims since early historic if not pre-historic times. Mere mention of the tirtha of Amreshvara in Nilmat Puran and Brngashsamhita indicates since when the cave shrine was known. There is conclusive historic evidence that pilgrims were regularly proceeding to the holy cave via Sheeshnag, Panjtarni during the middle of 12th century, 15th century via . the shrine was well known during the rule of Mughal emperors Akbar, Shahjehan and Auranzeb i.e. 17th century. There is no evidence to prove that the Amarnathji cave was lost for thousands or hundreds of years until it was rediscovered by Maliks of Batkut by 1600 or 1750‑75 AD.

The pilgrimage might have been disrupted during political upheavals or natural calamities not exceeding at the most a few decades at a time. Full pilgrimage was resumed after annexation of Kashmir by Sikhs since when the Giri Mahants of Amritsar have been associated with the Yatra. Maliks have been receiving one-third of the offerings at the shrine for keeping the track in order, guiding and escorting the pilgrims etc. rather than for discovering /rediscovering the shrine. SASB was doing a commendable job in arranging pre-fabricated shelters, tents, eco-friendly toilets and numerous other faculties. It was heart rendering to note that SASB was trying to set up Sharda Peth University in Kashmir. After witnessing the row over the allotment of Baltal land to SASB it is not possible to comment upon as to when the said university will come up. The shrine board however blundered in creating an artificial lingum in 2006. It is hoped that such things will not be repeated in future.

The newly discovered Lord Shiva's cave temple near Hapatgund was not a base camp for Amarnath Yatra but a halting place for the return journey. The cave temples are man made only to the extent of sculpturing of preexisting stalagmite.

Despite the disturbed conditions prevailing in Kashmir, pilgrims in large numbers still throng the shrine.

Bibliography

  1. Kalhana's Rajtarangini (Stein’s translation), 1900

  2. Kalhanas Rajtarangini (Ranjit Pandit's translation), 1935

  3. Nilmata Purana

  4. Brngisasamhita (Dr. Anant Ram Shastri's translation), 1986

  5. Amreshvar Kalpa    (Dr. Bhuler's collection)

  6. Mahatmaya of Amarnatha           Do

  7. Jonaraja's Rajtarangini (Bombay Edition), Patterson's translation, 1875

  8. Francois Bernier ‑ Travels in Mughal Empire (1656‑68) 2nd Edition Pub., 1891

  9. Montogomerie T.G. ‑ Memorandum on the Pergunnahs of Kashmir

  10. Montogomerie T.G. ‑ Routes in Western Himalayas

  11. Hugel Brown Charles ‑ Kashmir Und Das res dar Siek, 1840

  12. Vigne G.T. ‑ Travels in Kashmir, lskardu and Ladakh, 1842

  13. Bates C.E. ‑ Gazetter of Kashmir, 1873

  14. Hugel Baron Charles ‑ Travels in Kashmir and the Panjab, 1845

  15. Lawrence Walter R. ‑ Valley of Kashmir, 1895

  16. Hassan Shah Maulvi ‑ Tarik Hassan, 1898

  17. Parimu R.K. ‑ History of Muslim rule in Kashmir, 1969

  18. Chrungoo O.N. ‑ Pilgrimage to Amarnath, Daily Excelsior, 6th Aug. 2000

  19. Dewan Perevez ‑ Discovery of Lord Shiva's Cave Temple, Daily Excelsior, 9th Sep.2001

  20. Chrungoo O.N. Pilgrimage to Amreshvara, Daily Excelsior, 3rd Aug. 2003

  21. Munshi M. M. ‑ Heritage of Amarnath, Voice of Jammu & Kashmir, Nov. 2001

  22. Munshi M. M. ‑ Pilgrimage of Amreshvara, Daily Excelsior, 28th July 2002

  23. Munshi M. M. ‑ Tirtha of Amreshvara, Vitasta, Calcutta, Annual No XXXV, 2001‑02

  24. Munshi M. M. ‑ Amarnath Cave was never lost, Koshur Samachar, N. Delhi, June 2005

  25. Munshi M. M. ‑ Who Discovered Amarnath, Devia Times

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

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