Amarnath Yatra is one of the four major pilgrimages in India, and throngs of devotees traverse the southern Himalayas of Kashmir to the Sacred Cave Shrine of Shri Amarnathji every year. The temple is open for devotees only during the summer, in the month of July to August.
The annual trip to the Amarnath Ice Sanctuary is an important part of the Hindu religion. Regardless of their age, large groups of families travel through the challenging mountainous terrain to pay homage to the Shiva Linga.
Who found Amarnath Cave?
There is a dispute about the origin of the pilgrimage to the sacred cave of Shri Amarnath. One section states that the “cave was long lost…until it was ‘rediscovered’ in 1775.” There are others who say that the cave was “rediscovered in 1600”.
There is another section, which was recently (2008) claimed to have been “discovered” in 1860 by a herdsman, named Juma Malik, also called Aadam Malik and Buta Malik, from the village of Batakot in the Pahalgam area of Kashmir. This section has given the impression that it was none other than Juma Malik, who “discovered” the cave, “when during his pilgrimage, with his flocks in the mountains, he accidentally stumbled upon it.”
The tradition of this pilgrimage has been around for a long time and now it has become one of the most revered and sacred places, but what is the story behind this cave? Who discovered it?
Although the existence of the Sacred Cave has been mentioned in the Puranas, it is believed that the importance of this revered shrine lost its place in the memory of the people of the Middle Ages and was completely forgotten.
There are many ancient texts, historical histories and research works that throw ample light on the history/origins of the Amarnath pilgrimage. Some of the most relevant ancient texts, historical histories and research works in this regard are: Nilmata Purana, written in the sixth century; Bhrigu Samhita and Amarnatha Mahamatya, which are said to have been composed before the sixth century; Kalhana’s original historical work Rajatarangini, written during 1148–49; Jonaraja’s Zaina Rajatarangini and Suka’s Rajatarangini and Pragyabhata’s Rajavali Pitaka; Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari (Volume III); French physician Francois Bernier Travels in Mughal Empire; A Gazetteer of Kashmir by Charles Alison Bates; Moorcraft William and George Trebex Travels in the Himalayan provinces of Hindustan and the Punjab, in Ladakh and Kashmir, in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz and Bokhara; Nilmata Purana of Veda Kumari, Volume I; and Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin of Kashmir’s N K Zutshi.
Maharishi Bhrigu first saw Lord Amarnath
The Amarnath cave was first discovered by Maharishi Bhrigu. The Kashmir Valley is said to have been submerged in water for a long time. Kashyap Muni carried the water through rivers and streams. Maharishi Bhrigu was on his way to the Himalayas when he saw the Amarnath cave. He was the first person to have darshan of the holy lingam, Lord Amarnath. Since then, people visit the Amarnath cave to worship Lord Shiva and seek his blessings.
Buta Malik re-discovers Amarnath cave
Another version which talks about the discovery of the Amarnath cave by a Gurjar shepherd named Buta Malik. According to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine website, Buta Malik rediscovered the Amarnath cave in the 15th century. Legend says that Buta Malik was given a bag of coal by a sage.
On reaching home, the shepherd opened the bag and to his surprise, it was a bag full of gold coins! Overjoyed, he ran back to meet Rishi to thank him. To his complete astonishment, the sage had disappeared and instead, he found the holy cave and the ice Shiva Lingam. He announced this discovery to the villagers and thus the holy journey to Amarnath began once again.
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