Perched at an altitude of 4175 m above sea level, Amarnath is one of the most revered pilgrimage sites, located at a distance of 145 km from Srinagar. Tucked away in the mighty Himalayas, Amarnath enshrines a natural Shivling, made of ice.
History of Amarnath
The destination has derived its name from Amar, which means Immortal and Nath, which means God. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Amarnath is among the most sacred pilgrim sites in the entire subcontinent.
According to a legend, Lord Shiva was asked by Parvati to tell her the secret of immortality. He resisted for a long time; however, her constant insistence led to reveal this secret to her. For knowing the mysteries behind the creation, they both travelled to an isolated location in the Himalayas. In order to keep the mystery of creation as a secret from any form of life on earth, he chose this isolated place.
On his way to the Himalayas, Shiva left his bull, Nandi, at Pahalgaon and his moon at Chandanwari. Lord Ganesha, his son, was left at Mahagunas Hill and the snakes were left at Sheshnag. At Panchtarni, Lord Shiva finally left all the five elements and then accompanied Parvati inside the cave.
To ensure that no living creature heard the secret of immortality, Lord Shiva created a fire to destroy any sort of life present within the cave. After this, he started narrating the secret to Goddess Parvati.
However, two pigeon's eggs, which were hidden beneath the deerskin of Lord Shiva, remained unharmed by the fire. From these eggs, a pair of pigeons were born, who overheard the secret of immortality. Even now, pilgrims visiting the destination can see a pair of pigeons nesting here. In addition, the devotees believe that these pigeons were born again and again and made the cave their perpetual abode.
The earliest mention of this holy destination can be traced back to the 6th century Sanskrit text, Nilamata Purana. In this Purana, the cultural and ritualistic life of the early inhabitants of Kashmir has been described in detail.
The history of Amarnath dates back to the times of Aryaraja, which extends between 34 BCE and 17 CE. Aryaraja used to spend the summer in the destination worshipping an ice lingam. At that time, this lingam was located in the region, which was beyond the forests.
In addition, the place also finds its mention in the Rajatarangini, where it was named as Amareshwara. Later, between the years 1420 and 1470, Sultan Zain'l-abidin travelled to Amarnath and constructed a canal, which is now known as Shah Kol.
Amaranth can be visited from May to September but the best time to visit is between the months of July and August. The average temperature during the summer season is 15⁰ Celsius. But since it is at a high altitude the weather can change anytime. So it is best to be prepared for dramatic changes in weather with woollens and rain gear. Summer is also the time when the annual Amarnath Yatra is held. Winters are very cold and see a lot of snow fall. November to March/April is usually snow covered.
Travelling to Amarnath
Amaranth is reachable by air and rail. The nearest airport is Srinagar and the nearest international airport is at New Delhi. Srinagar has regular connections to Delhi and Jammu. Delhi has frequent connections to most cities within the country as well as outside. The nearest railway station is at Jammu.
Accommodation options in Amarnath
Amarnath is at an altitude of 4175 m above sea level, no hotels or rest houses are found here. Amarnath Yatris (pilgrims) can avail accommodation in the form tents arranged.