Who discovered Amarnath ?
By M.M. Munshi
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 17AD
. (Kalhana’s Rajtarangini Book II . Verses 130-141).
of Amarnath Mahatmyas and other related composite Mahatmyas in BhrngiSamita
(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
Kashmir also proves
that Amarnath ji Shrine was well known during 5th - 6th century AD.
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).
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?
believed that Sikandar Butshikan after desecrating, damaging and destroying most
of the Hindu temples of Kashmir valley was proceeding to Amarnath ji cave for
the same purpose but turned back from Ganeshbal (Lidau Valley) and after
reaching Vijesvara (Bijbhera) repented his deeds.
that Zain-ul-abdin (1420-1470), pious Muslim ruler of Kashmir visited Amarnathji
has been documented by his chronicler Jonaraja (Jona’s Rajtarangini Bombay
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, illclad 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.
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
his book “Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh and Iskardu”, 1842 says “The ceremony of
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 traveling 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.
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 descendents 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.
the lost theorists is committal about the time the Yatra and hoiy 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.
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.
have been a low key affair during political upheavals or after natural
calamities or catastrophes but lost never.
concept of Shrine having been discovered / rediscovered by Maliks / Muslim
Shepherds has to be understood taking into account the History and background of
Maliks and not to be confused with that of Kashmiri Shepherds who were and are
still known as Pohuls or Choupans. According to Baron Von Hugel (1840) and R.K.
Parimoo (History of Muslim Rule in Kashmir).
Malik is a title of honour and distinction given to successors of Davarpatis,
Margesas (Later called Magres) holding charge of watch-cum-military stations on
feudal basis on the important routes and passes, entering and leaving Kashmir,
by the independent Sultans of Kashmir and also to other clans like Chaks, Rainas,
Dars for latter’s loyal service. After the annexation of Kashmir by Mughals in
1586 A.D. most of the Maliks, Rainas, Magreys and Chak clans etc. who had fought
against the former were hunted, killed and banished from Kashmir, some of them
escaped to remote and inaccessible hills and valleys to avoid persecution. But
those who later submitted themselves before Akbar and took the oath of loyalty
were allowed to resume the duty of guarding the routes, administration and even
judiciary. All routes except the Baramulla - Muzaffarabad route remained closed
during the Afghan rule.
advent of Dogra rule in 1846, opening up of all the routes and gradual
establishment of regular police posts at vulnerable places, the ancestral
occupation of Maliks came to an end. Since the latter part of 19th century the
Maliks had to content themselves with guiding and escorting the pilgrims to
Amarnath Ji, Harmukh, probably to Sharda in Kishenganga valley and other places
of Pilgrimage. The allotment of a part of offering , at the Amarnath shrine,
could have been in lieu of these services.
in Valley of Kashmir mentions that pilgrims to Amarnath were joined by Brahmins
at Mattan and further up at Batkot the Maliks used to take charge of the
pilgrimage. According to Lawrence Valley of Kashmir (1895) the Maliks were
supposed to keep the track in order, guide and escort the pilgrims and carry
sick ones and ensure that nothing was stolen, and received one third of the
offerings at the Amarnath Ji Shrine. The other two shares used to go to Pandits
of Mattan and Giri mahants of Amritsar who used to and still lead the pilgrimage
with Chari Mubarak. Lawrence does not mention any where that share of offerings
to Maliks was in lieu of their having ‘discovered/rediscovered’ the cave. There
is no mention of receipt of rasum rahdari from pilgrims nor grants from the
State Govt. for the services rendered by Maliks. Apparently the share seems to
have been received by Maliks for the services rendered. Neither Lawrence, Vigne,
Montogmery nor others have mentioned that Amarnath ji Cave was lost from memory
or was discovered-rediscovered by Maliks / Muslims Shepherds . The lost theory
is a wild conjecture that does not stand any test. The history of Amarnathji
pilgrimage to be depicted on the plaque at the war to be built in front of the
Shrine should be based on actual historical research from authetic documents and
not on hearsay for petty reasons. It may amount to distortion of history and
suppression of facts , to presume that Amarnathji Shrine was discovered by
Maliks/Muslim shepherds. It is prayed that distortion of history of the
Amarnathji Shrine should not be depicted on the Dewar or any other structure to
be built at or on way to the Shrine.