Shri Amarnath Ji
Out of all Hindu deities, Lord Shiva is extremely popular not only amongst Indians but also amongst the people of other nationalities. To get closer to their revered God, who appears on this earth in the unique form of an Ice Lingam, millions of devotees trek through the daunting mountains to Shri Amarnathji Shrine in South Kashmir every year in the summer months to pay obeisance. The Shrine is managed by the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), which was constituted by an Act of the Jammu & Kashmir State Legislature in 2000 with His Excellency the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir as its ex-officio Chairman. The Amarnathji Shrine Board is responsible for the better management of the Shri Amarnathji Yatra, up-gradation of facilities for holy pilgrims, and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Assisted by a Chief Executive Officer who is a senior IAS officer and eight distinguished Board Members, the board is constantly working towards making this journey the most cherished one.
Role of the Board:
The following roles and responsibilities have been assigned to Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) as per section 16 of the Act:
· To arrange for the proper performance of worship at the Holy Shrine.
· To make arrangements for the safe custody of the funds, valuable and jewelry and for the preservation of the Board Fund.
· To undertake developmental activities concerning the areas of the shrine and its surroundings.
· To make provision for the payment of suitable emoluments to the salaried staff.
·To make suitable arrangements for the imparting of religious instruction and general education to the pilgrims.
·To undertake for the benefit of worshippers and pilgrims:
The construction of buildings for their accommodation
The construction of sanitary works; and
The improvement of means of communication
·To make provision of medical relief for worshippers and pilgrims
· To do all such things as may be incidental and conducive to the efficient management, maintenance and administration of the Holy Shrine and the Board Funds and for the convenience of the pilgrims.
About the holy Shrine.
Behind the discovery of the Holy Shrine lies an interesting story. Centuries ago Maa Parvati asked Shivji to let her know why and when he started wearing the beads of heads (Mund Mala), to which Bhole Shankar replied, “whenever you are born I add more heads to my bead”. Parvati said, “I die again and again, but you are Immortal. Please tell me the reason behind this”. "Bhole Shankar replied that for this you will have to listen to the Amar Katha"
Shiv agreed to narrate the detailed story to Maa Parvati. He started for a lonely place where no living being could listen to the immortal secret and ultimately chose Amarnath Cave. In the hush-hush, he left his Nandi (the Bull which He used to ride) at Pahalgam. At Chandanwari, he released Moon (Chand) from his hair (Jata). At the banks of Lake Sheshnag, he released the snakes. He decided to leave his Son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat. At Panjtarni, Shivji left the Five Elements behind (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Sky) which give birth to life and of which he is the Lord. After leaving behind all these, Bhole Shankar entered the Holy Amarnath Cave along with Parvati Maa and took his Samadhi. To ensure that no living being is able to hear the Immortal Tale, he created Kalagni and ordered him to spread fire to eliminate every living thing in and around the Holy Cave. After this he started narrating the secret of immortality to Maa Parvati. But as a matter of chance a pair of pigeons overhead the story and became immortal.
Many pilgrims report seeing the pair of pigeons at the Holy Shrine even today and are amazed as to how these birds survive in such a cold and high altitude area.
The Holy Cave
Situated in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, Amarnath Shrine stands at 3,888m, 46 Km from Pahalgam and 14 Kms from Baltal. Though the original pilgrimages subscribe that the yatra (journey) be undertaken from Srinagar, the more common practice is to begin the journey at Chandanwari, and cover the distance to Amarnathji and back in five days. Pahalgam is 96 km from Srinagar.
Amarnathji is considered to be one of the major Hindu Dhams. The holy cave is the abode of Lord Shiva. The guardian of the absolute, Lord Shiva, the destroyer, is enshrined in the form of an ice-lingam in this cave. This lingam is formed naturally, which is believed to wax and wane with the moon.
Discovery of Holy Cave
Although the existence of the Holy Cave has been mentioned in the Puranas, the popular story narrated by people about the re-discovery of this Holy Cave is of a shepherd Buta Malik. The story goes like this: a saint gave Buta Malik a bag full of Coal. On reaching his home when he opened the bag, to his utter surprise the bag was full of gold coins. This overwhelmed him with joy. He ran to thank the Saint. But the Saint had disappeared. Instead, he found The Holy Cave and the Ice Shiv Lingam therein. He announced this discovery to the Villagers. Then onwards this became a sacred place of Pilgrimage.
The Eternal Shiva
The ancient epics narrate another story. The valley of Kashmir was underwater. It was a big lake. Kashyap Rishi drained the water through a number of rivers and rivulets. In those days Bhrigu Rishi came that way on a visit to The Himalayas. He was the first to have Darshan of this Holy Cave. When people heard of the Lingam, Amarnath for them became Shiva's abode and a Centre of pilgrimage.
Since then Lacs of devotees perform the pilgrimage through tough terrain and achieve eternal happiness. The Trek to Amarnath, in the month of Shravan (July-August) has the devout flock to this incredible shrine, where the image of Shiva, in the form of a Lingam, is formed naturally of an Ice Stalagmite, which is believed to wax and wane with the Moon's cycle. By its side are fascinating, two more Ice Lingams, that of Maa Parvati and of their son, Ganesha.
for more information visit to http://www.shriamarnathjishrine.com/holy_shrine.html