The Holy Shrine of Amarnath, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is located in a cave on the most challenging of mountainous in Kashmir, India, at an altitude of 12,756 ft, about 141 km from Srinagar. It is situated at the farther end of the Lidder Valley. It can be reached either through Pahalgam, Chandanwari, Sheshnag Panchatarani Route or the Baltal Route, via Sonmarg (the latter being more arduous and difficult but shorter).
The Amarnath Yatra, normally begins on Ashadha Purnima (day of the Full moon in the Month of Ashadha of the Indian Calendar) and ends on Shravana Purnima (day of the full moon in the month of Shravan of the Indian Calendar).
The Shrine of Amarnath Ji is considered to be one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. The ice stalagmite formed inside the cave, is the image of Lord Shiva and is surrounded by and covered with snow most of the year except for a short period of about 45 days in summer when it is open for pilgrims. Thousands of devotees (of all religions) who make an annual pilgrimage to the Cave braving icy winds, rain and climbing forbidding terrain to see the ice stalagmite formed inside the cave. The experience is both breath taking and humbling.
The temple is reported to be about 5,000 years old and was mentioned in ancient Hindu texts. The exact manner of discovery of the cave in modern times is not known. Folklore has it that discovery of this Holy Cave was by a Gujjar (shepherd) Buta Malik, in the 15th Century after it was out of public gaze since the middle ages, may be to avoid the wrath of intolerant rulers/Kings/Emperors of the period.
Contributed By: Dr. Amitava Mukharjee
(He is the most renowned world economist on poverty alleviation and empowerment today. He has long association with United Nations for launching their initiatives on fight against hunger and providing micro assistance to most marginalised societies. He is a great scholar and has been teaching in University of London and Stanford University. He has travelled over 130 Countries and written numerous books. Deeply religious he has visited various holy shrines. We bring you glimpses of his travelogue.)