Among the many shrines of Lord Shiva, the cave of Amarnath is a world-famous destination. The Shivalinga made of ice in the cave is the symbol of people’s faith and trust. The beginning of the journey till this cave has numerous stops in between that are extremely beautiful and increases ones faith in Lord Shiva even more.
The legendary importance of Amarnath’s cave is related to the secret of immortality told to Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati. When Lord Shiva was insisted by his wife to reveal the secret of immortality, he decided to proceed towards the cave. On his way to the cave he did a few things,which were great according to his devotees. Because of these few things, the entire way to the cave became blissful.
Actually, in order to reveal the secret of amarakatha, Lord Shiva left his son, vehicle, etc. in various isolated places, which is why all these places seem like tirtha sthalas.There are two ways for Amarnath journey – Pahalgam and Sonmarg Baltal. According to the legends, Lord Shiva took the Pahalgam route to reach the cave.
19 Avatars of Lord Shiva
Shiva is present everywhere! As Adi Shankaracharya said, “Forgive me, Oh Shiva, my three great sins! I came on a pilgrimage to Kashi forgetting that you are omnipresent. In thinking about you, I forgot that You are beyond thought. In praying to you, I forgot that You are beyond words.” To sustain law and balance of nature Lord Shiva took many avatars in various yugas. In Shiva Mahapurana there is a mention of these avatars. Here are a few:
- Piplaad Avatar
- Veerabhadra Avatar
- Bhairava Avatar
- Sharabha Avatar
- Grihapati Avatar
- Rishabha Avatar
- Yatinath Avatar
- Krishna Darshan Avatar
- Bhikshuvarya Avatar
- Sureshwar Avatar
- Keerat Avatar
When Lord Shiva took Parvati to the cave to tell her the amar katha, he first left his vahana, Nandi, at this location. This place was later called as Pahalgam. It is 96 kms from Srinagar and is surrounded by mountain peaks.
The next place after Pahalgam is Chandanbadi. It is 16 kms from Pahalgam. According to beliefs, Lord Shiva did a very unique thing here. Also known as Chandramauli, Lord Shiva sacrificed the moon from his head here. The moon then waited for Lord Shiva to return here. This is how the name of this place became Chandanbadi.
Slightly ahead of Chandanbadi is Pissu Top. The importance of this place is related to the darshan of Amarnath. According to this, for the darshan of Amarnath, a huge fight between the Gods and demons occurred. That time with the help of Lord Shiva, the Devas defeated the demons. With the dead bodies of the demons a mountain was formed. From then this place is known as Pissu Top.
After Pissu Top the next destination is Sheshnag. Lord Shiva had dropped the snake from his neck here. There is a lake of blue water here, which proves that this is the place of Sheshnag. It is 12 kms from Chandanbadi
It is around 4 to 5 kms from Sheshnag. It is at an altitude of 14,000 feet. It is believed that Lord Shiva had left his beloved son Ganesha here. This place has several waterfalls and scenic overlooks. The winters are extremely cold here.
It is 6 kms from Mahagunas Mountain. It is at an altitude of 12,500 feet. It is believed that Lord Shankara sacrificed the five Panchabhutas here, i.e. space, air, water, fire and earth. Here there is the confluence of five rivers. It is believed that the five rivers flowing here come out from the tangles of Lord Shiva’s hair.
This is the final destination of the journey. The cave is situated at an altitude of 13,500 feet. The path of 3 kms to the cave is covered with snow. After crossing the river of ice, the cave is finally seen. The cave is about 100 feet long and 150 feet wide. In this cave the ice Shivalinga is formed. In this cave Lord Shiva told the secret of immortality to Mother Parvati.