The famous poet of Kalhana was a contemporary of King Jayasimha of Kashmir, who reigned from 1129-1150 A.D. In his book, ‘Raja-Tarangini’, the chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir, he refers to the Yatra of Amarnath, which means that this Yatra was famous even during his times as well as to the lake constructed by the Susravasa Naga. The story of this Naga is very famous ands stated by Kalhana in the first Taranga.
Tradition says that in olden days the Valley, of Kashmir was a lake called ‘Sati-Saras’, named after Shiva’s consort, Goddess Parvati. The lake was infested by demons who, used to destroy human beings residing nearby. Sage Kashyap, the grandson of Brahma, destroyed the demons and their leader. Late he converted the lake into ‘Kashmir Mandala’ or Kashmir, as we know it today. In this lake there are temples to Chakrabhrit Vishnu and Vijayesa Shiva. The city is famous for learning, lofty buildings, saffron, frozen water and grapes.
In the northeast of Srinagar, about 1300 feet from sea-level is the famous Cave of Amarnath where Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of Linga-shaped ice-blocks made by the drops of water oozing naturally in the Cave. This sacred cave is not man-made but is an open-rugged door-less cave constructed by Nature.
The Yatra is considered very beneficial, sacred and capable of rewarding one with liberation. Pilgrimage to this place is quite difficult. Tradition also says, in every lunar month from the first of the bright half, the ice forms the Shiva-Linga and on the full-moon day the Shiva-Linga is complete in its form. From the first day of the dark half of each month, this Lings starts decreasing and on Amawasya (New Moon Day), the Linga vanishes completely. This process is recurring in nature. It is believed that Lord Shiva first appeared in this cave on the full day of Sravana. Hence, people specially visit it in the month of August for this specific day. Every year the procession starts on 5th of the bright of Sravana from Srinagar. It is performed on a large scale with devotees coming from all over the world. The pilgrims soon reach Pampur in southeast, as a group called Sangh. Pampur is famous for Saffron fields. The second stop is at Avantipur, third is Brijbihara. Then they pass via Anant Nag and the spring of Gautama Nag, arriving at Martand. The Dharmarth department of Kashmir Government helps pilgrims all through their voyage. The Martand Temple is styled here as ‘the architectural Lion on Kashmir’. From here the pilgrim parties reach to a Muslim shrine in Aishmukam. About 3 miles further north is Batkut. Then all reach Pahalgam, which is the confluence of the Liddar and Seshnag rivers. Here pilgrims take the sacred bath. From here to Amarnath there are four main stops, namely Chandanwadi, Wavjan, Panchatarni and finally the pious Amarnath Cave. The famous Seshnag Lake can be seen in Chandanwadi. It is believed to be as deep as Patala and the resort of Sesh Naga.
Pilgrims reach their destination on Sravan Purnima to worship the ice-image of Shiva-Linga in the cave, which is at a height of 12929 feet. The cave is 150 feet high and 90 feet broad. Except for a small area, the roof of the cave leaks. There are two holes in the northern wall for the water to flow. On the left side of the Linga there is another ice formation of Lord Ganesha and on the right side, of Goddess Parvati and Bhairava. Inside the main cave there is another smaller cave to the left of the Shiva-Linga, from which ‘Vibhuti’ of Amarnath is dug out and given to Pilgrims. This is found to contain calcium chloride and calcium sulphate. A very old tradition is the presence of Pigeons who are believed to be Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
In the Darshan of this cave, Lord Shiva is the highest ‘Tatwa’. There are 36 Tatwas. The Shakti of Lord Shiva by which he manifests himself in this universe is not different from him, which is the Shiva-Linga of Amarnath. This is also among one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Its Pilgrimage is considered the ultimate and the highest religious ‘Tirth’ among Hindus, just as Meeca pilgrimage is the ultimate for Muslims.