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Amarnath Ji – The Holy Abode of Lord Shiva
About Amarnath Ji
Located within the snow covered peaks of the majestic Himalayas, at a height of 3,888 m, is the holy shrine of Amarnath Ji. The cave, which features Shiva lingam that is reconstructed annually in a natural manner from snow, is one of the most sacred and revered Hindu shrines. The shrine remains closed for most part of the year as the area remains covered with snow, except for a brief period during summer. This is the time, when the annual Amaranth Yatra is organized and the holy shrine is thronged by innumerable Hindu devotees from across the globe.

The Mystery of the Lingam
The most important feature of the Holy Amarnath Shrine is the majestic Shiv Lingam which is formed by the freezing droplets of water that keeps on dripping from the roof of the cave. Generally, the height of the lingam can range anywhere between 0 to 14 ft, depending on the prevalent weather conditions. Many Hindus also believe that the growth and reduction of the Shiva Lingam is directly related to the waxing and waning of the moon during the Hindu festival period falling between the months of May and August.

The Legend of the Cave
The name of the holy shrine of Amarnath is a combination of two Hindi words, Amar, meaning immortal and Nath meaning God.  According to Hindu mythology, it is the place where Lord Shiva revealed the secrets of creation and immortality to Goddess Parvati. This secluded place was chosen by Lord Shiva in order to maintain the secrecy of the truth. It is said that before entering the cave with Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva left all his possessions outside and these included the five elements of nature. To further ensure the maintenance of secrecy, Lord Shiva built a fire within the cave to destroy any life forms, before he started revealing the secrets to Parvati. However, despite all his efforts, two doves, who had been mating within the recesses of the cave, overheard everything. It is said that since that time, the two doves continue to live inside the cave as they became immortal after overhearing the heavenly conversation. Numerous devotees, visiting the shrine have confirmed the presence of a pair of doves inside the holy cave.

How the Cave Was Discovered
There are several accounts about the discovery of the holy cave of Amarnath, but the most popular one is as follows. It is believed that although the cave existed since times immemorial, people stopped visiting it during the middle ages and hence it was soon forgotten. Later a Gujjar shepherd, by the name of Buta Malik, received a bag containing coal from a holy man wandering near the cave site. However, on reaching home, Buta Malik was surprised to find that the bag, rather than being full of coal, contained gold coins instead. Buta Malik overcame with joy and rushed back to spot where the holy man had met him, in order to thank him. But instead of finding the old man there, Buta Malik found the cave and the lingam. According to local legend, to this date the descendants of Buta Malik receive a percentage of the offerings collected at the cave.

The Annual Yatra
Undertaking the holy Amarnath Yatra is considered to be extremely important for most Hindus and especially the followers of Shaivism. Every year thousands of Hindus from all parts of India and the world come to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva, during annual Amaranth Yatra. The Yatra is organized around the Shravni Mela festival, which generally falls in the months of July- August and which is also the best time to visit this holy shrine.

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