Every year, pilgrimage to Amaranath Shrine deep inside Himalayas is undertaken by Saivaita-s and others. Number of pilgrims have been burgeoning steadily year after year, concurrently with improvement and augmentation of various facilities for a very large number of them.
Amaranath is a huge cave with dimensions of 150 x 90 feet situated 145 km east of Sri Nagar in the state of J&K. Glacial valley that holds the cave, is at an altitude of 4,000 mtrs. from sea level. Every year there is formation of four ice Linga-s inside the cave symbolizing four Deities with the largest one being that of Siva. On the left side of the Siva Lingam is seated Ganadhipati Ganesa and on His right side, deities of Devi Parwati and Bhagavana Kala Bhairava. These figurines are ice stalagmites waxing during May to August, thereafter gradually disappear. Siva Lingama follows lunar phases of mini-max size peaking between 6 to 12 feet on the day of full moon day of Sravana i.e. Raksa Bandhan Legend has it that Siva Lingam first appeared in the mystical cave on the auspicious day of Raksa Bandhan only.
The temple is said to be at least 5,000 years old though Himalayana ranges are ancient by millennia and finds mention in ancient Sanatana scriptures too.
Kalhana’s Rajatrangini mentions Saivite King of Kashmir Samadimat used to worship there. Bhringesa Samhita describes Puja-s performed on way to the Cave at Anantanaya (Anantanaga), Maca Bhavan (Mattan), Ganesabala (Ganesapura), Mamalesvara (Mamala), Candanawari, Susaramanagara (Sesanaga), Pancatarangiri(Pancatarini) and Amarawati. Nilamat Purana mentions holy trail to Amaranatha shrine, history / geography / folktales / religious festivities of Kashmir. Details about Amaresvara confirm, Amaranatha Yatra used to be organised during 6th century. It is very irrationally sought to be established by devious Leftists and Islamists with a hidden agenda that the holy shrine was discovered by a Muslim shepherd in 1850. In the month of Sravana every year, pilgrimage is organized by the State government for lakhs of pilgrims to undertake the arduous journey. The journey back and forth is fraught with uncertainties caused by severe, unpredictable weather and a very difficult terrain to negotiate. Rain, snowfall and landslides are quite common with temperature sometimes plunging to Minus Five.
As mentioned in scriptures, Siva revealed cosmic reality of immortality to Devi Parwati at Amaranath cave only after being questioned by Her about His Munda Mala i.e. Garland of Human Skulls that He sports on His Person, to which He adds one more whenever Devi Parwati incarnates. The site of evocation of profound mysticism was selected by Him only owing to it’s serenity and solitude. On His way, he left behind His Vahana i.e. vehicle of Nandi at Bailgaon, now known as Pahalgam, symbolizing mind full of desires being relinquished. At the next destination of Candanawari, He relinquished His Lunar Crescent and Jata i.e. dreadlock, symbolizing discriminative intellect. Further on, on the banks of Lake Sesa Naga, He released all serpents on His person, symbolizing egoism. Then He left behind His son Ganadhipati Ganesa at Mahaganesa Hill, also known as Mahaguna Parwata. At Pancatarini, Mahadeva Siva left behind all five Mahabhuta-s of Akasa, Agni, Vayu, Jala and Prthvi. Then He entered into the cave accompanied by Devi Parwati, went into intense Samadhi. To ensure absolute solitude, He created Kalagni Rudra and ordered Him to eliminate every animate creature in and around the Holy Cave. However, an egg lying in a tiny pit beneath His Asana of deer-skin, survived to listen to the tale of immortality. Two pigeons that were born later, were rendered immortal having been privy to the ultimate mysticism and wisdom. A couple of pigeons are often spotted on the Holy Shrine by pilgrims even in that weather of sub-zero temperature.
Mahadeva Siva is also known as Tryambakesvara, Tripurantaka, Kalarudra, Nilakantha, Mrtyunjaya, Sarvesvara and Sadasiva. He is the Three Eyed One symbolizing Satyama i.e. Truth, Sivama i.e. virtue and Sundarama i.e. beauty. Siva Lingama is the symbol of infinite divine energy and potentialities.
Siva also has several symbols as measures of very unique attributes not associated with any other deity. These are –
Lunar Crescent Moon signifies mind and the wiry crescent, a very tiny fraction of that is held by Him. Siva is characterized by absence of Mana i.e. mind yet a very small quantity of that is required by virtue of which to cognize utter absence of mind !!! Hence it is represented in the manifest of a thin crescent.
Damaru Shape and contours of Damaru symbolize cosmic phenomenology of Prabhava i.e. creation through expansion and Pralaya i.e. dissolution through contraction. Both events occur continuously, alternately and infinitely. And that is all about existence as existence is eternally dynamic never static. Damaru is also a cosmic source and symbol of sound. Sound is nothing but rhythmic waves of energy.Universe is precisely the same and Siva’s Damaru eloquently symbolizes that.
Naga is the serpent that he carries around His throat. Siva is in a state of intense Samadhi which is aptly described as Param Cetana i.e. Absolute Consciousness yet endowed with complete absence of actions. Serpent around His neck symbolizes complete alertness albeit without action in the state of Samadhi with His eyes half-closed and immersed in infinite tranquility.
Trisula Three prongs of Trisula symbolize three Guna-s of Sattva, Raja and Tama. Sula of Trisula means agony that one is subjected to while journeying through the world of Maya. When Siva holds Trisula in His hand, it amply conveys His Supreme Existence having transcended three Guna-s and agonies caused thereby.
Ganga means wisdom, enlightenment. Since head is the symbol of wisdom, knowledge and enlightenment, Ganga is exhibited to be flowing out of Siva’s head. Had Ganga meant emotions / sentiments, the grand river would have been flowing out of His heart !! Wisdom is liberating, all pervasive, expanding, dynamically moving and purifying. So is Ganga, surging forward through the vast expanse of Bharata carrying all those characteristics within Herself.
Blue Body Blue is the colour of infinity. Anything that is vast / infinite, be it ocean or sky, is blue in complexion. And the infinite has no contours, no defined shape. So is Siva. He is infinite, devoid of shape, size or any other contour. He exists every where eternally.
Siva-Linga: Linga means mark of existence that announces presence of an entity. Siva–Linga is the mark of Universal Entity that is infinite, omni-existent, immutable and eternal. Siva–Linga is complete in it’s mark to declare the Universal Entity as it comprises of Siva and Sakti, both.
Siva marks Purusa and Sakti, Prakrti. From formless to form, from tranquility to activity, from Consciousness to absence of it, from stillness to dynamism, Siva–Linga represents all abundantly. Existence / Entity is binary and together they constitute entire Brahmanda. Siva–Linga amply symbolizes cosmicity of the Universal Entity.
Nandi is bull, mark of Dharma i.e. righteousness. Siva riding Nandi means the Universal Entity, the Infinite Consciousness, the Absolute One is ever associated with Dharma. In other words, so long as one is associated with Dharma, the Absolute Entity is with him.
Tandava is the cosmic dance of Siva whereby creation is undertaken i.e. Maya manifests itself into innumerable forms. Tandava dance also symbolizes dynamic aspect of the Universal Entity that Siva happens to be.
Kailasa Parwata Kailasa means abode of celebration and Parwata is mountain. Absolute Divinity that Siva is, is Celebration-Incarnate in that abode. He also dwells in Smasana i.e. cremation ground symbolizing void. Siva dwells in both abodes as He is Supreme Deity of both.
Om Namaha Sivaya is an abundantly powerful Mantra whose incessant recitation sanctifies oneself and entire ambiance. Siva is absolutely pure, brimming with dynamism and tranquility, His Mantra of Om Namaha Sivaya too, imparts those very effects upon the one who undertakes it’s Japa.