Amarnath Yatra is started on 29 June -here are some historical and cultural proofs that prove Amarnath is an ancient Yatra.
Who discovered Amarnath?
A canard of some Muslim shepherd discovering Shri Amarnath cave is a hoax and the more a lie is repeated the more it becomes seen as the truth..here’s some facts..
It has been clearly documented in history that Amar Nath Shrine has been visited by pilgrims since ancient times including a ruler of Kashmir between 34 BC and 17 AD . (Kalhana’s Rajtarangini Book II . Verses 130-141). Narrative of Amarnath Mahatmyas and other related composite Mahatmyas in Bhrngi Samita (translated by Dr. Amar Nath Shastri on pages (156 to 225) proves beyond doubt that Amarnath Shrine was an important pilgrimage during 2nd and third AD century.
Mention of Amreshvara (Amarnath) in Nilamata Parana along with other tirthas of Kashmir also proves that Amarnath ji Shrine was well known during 5th – 6th century AD. Kalhana while referring to the legend of Sushram Naga (Sheeshnag) states that (Sheeshnag) and Zamtirnag are seen to this day by pilgrims proceeding to Amreshvara (Amarnathji) i.e. 1148-49 A.D. (the period of compilation to Kalhana’s Rajtarangini (Taranga I verse 267).
Muslim rule was established in Kashmir in 1339 and conversions to Islam started by the end of 14th century AD during the rule of Sikandar butshikan. How on earth Muslim shepherds/ Maliks could have discovered Amarnathji Shrine which was visited by pilgrims in early historic, if not prehistoric times????
Ali Mardan Khan the Mughul governor of Kashmir during the rule Emperor Shahjahan (1635-58 AD) has derisively commented on the so called madness and religious eccentricism of the streams of the faithfulls barefooted, ill clad winding their way in rain and snow through slush and tracheous routes to behold what was not a God in a cave. However, he dreamed of Mahesevara (Shiva) and changed from sceptic to a firm believer and compiled beautiful persian couplets in praise of Shiva.
The French physician Francis Bernier who visited Kashmir in the company of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1663 after visiting number of interesting places in Kashmir was about two days march from some place in Sind Valley to a grotta (Cave) full of wonderful congeliations (frozen things) apparently Amarnathji Cave was recalled by the emperor. Smith who has edited the 2nd edition of Bernier’s book has identified the cave as that of Amarnathji (Travels in Moghul Empire) by Francis Bernier.
Vigne in his book “Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardu”, 1842 says “The ceremony of the cave of Amarnath takes place on 15th of the Hindu month of Sawan…. Not only Hindus of Kashmir but those from Hindustan of every rank and caste can be seen collecting together and travelling up the valley of Lidar towards the celebrated cave which from his description must have been the place which Bernier intended to visit but was prevented. Vigne himself tried to visit Amarnath ji cave in late season of 1840 during the rule of Sikh Maharaja Sher Singh but was forced to return from Vawjan due to bad weather. From his narrative we can easily conclude that pilgrimage was in vogue before 1840 – 41 and pilgrims from the plains outside Kashmir Valley visited Amarnathji in great numbers. It has baffled the Kashmiri Pandits, to be told that this Yatra, holy cave was lost for quite a long time, some theorists like Pervez Dewan have gone on to claim that Amarnathji Yatra had been lost for thousands of years, others have been saying few hundreds of years, historically both look fantastic. There is no mention of Yatra having been banned. It is not possible to opine that Zain-ul-Din or Akbar or their descendants could have done that. Afghans took over from Mughals in 1753, they ruled Kashmir for 66 years. It is here that whole story of lost and found is hinged. None of the lost theorists is committal about the time the Yatra and holy cave got lost, about rediscovery of the Shrine they have given conflicting dates.
Accordingly to ON Chrungoo the Amarnathji Cave was rediscovered about 1600 AD and Yatra again remained in abeyance during the Afghan rule 1753 – 1819. Yatra was resumed only during the reign of Maharaja Gulab Singh (Pilgrimage to Amarnath Daily Excelsior 06.08.2000). Parvez Dewan in his article “Discovery of Lord Shiva’s temple” Daily Excelsior says that Amarnathji cave was rediscovered some time between 1750- 1775. Maliks themselves claim to have rediscovered the cave by 1775 i.e. Afghan rule which is constrained by the adversity of that time as Afghans who ruled Kashmir between 1753 – 1819 persecuted Kashmiris in general and Hindus in particular, would not have taken kindly to Maliks or anybody else for discovering or rediscovering a Hindu or a Buddhist Shrine.
Moreover theorists of lost and found have given contradictory names of the Muslim shepherd who rediscovered the shrine as Adam Malik, Buta Malik and Akram Malik. As the claims about timing names etc. are contradictory these cannot be accepted as factual. We have positive evidence from Vigne that pilgrimage was in full swing before Gulab Singh appeared on the scene. We have only few gaps of non-mention of the Yatra for few decades in the otherwise continuous Yatra. No community loses its collective memory in matter of few decades.
To this I would add that majority of Kashmiri Pandits were converted by force, it is recorded that Brahmins were not allowed to leave Kashmir while the other castes managed to leave, so it is very much possible that after the yatra was resumed in Gulab Singh reign after being paused during Afghan rule, its the muslim pandits who would have remembered – also in Bhagwat Kathas I have heard that Shiv ji was reciting the katha to parvati who went to sleep but a couple of white pigeons in the cave heard the whole katha and still come to the cave.
Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons