Kashmir, the major day for celebration in the month of Shravan is Shravan
Purnimashi (Shravan Poonim- in
Kashmiri-the last day of the bright half of the month). It is marked by a fast and worship of Shiva at home, with one meal
allowed at about 4 P.M. The main ingredients of the meal include cooked rice,
collard greens and kohlrabi.
poonim, for some, culminates with the darshan of Shiva after a hike to Amarnath
cave situated at about 13,000 ft above sea level in the snowy mountains of
southern Kashmir. The hike takes four to five days from the resort station of
Pahalgam and covers nearly 26 miles by treacherous paths up through heights and
glacier bridges to the cave. The pilgrim’s progress is punctuated by a few
well-placed nightly stop-overs a few miles apart. The stopover places are named:
Pahalgam, Chandanvari, Sheshnag, Mahagunas, and Panjtarni. This pilgrimage is
called Amarnath yatra. The aim of this yatra is the darshan of an ice lingam- a
column of ice formed by dripping water inside the cold cave.
has it that on the day of Shravan purnimashi, Shiva in seclusion with Parvati,
narrated the secret of immortality (Amar- in Sanskrit) to Her, hence the other
name of Shiva is 'Amarnath'- lord of immortality. Since Shiva wanted to be alone
with Parvati during this moment, He left Nandi (the Bull, His vehicle) at
Pahalgam. At the second stop, Chandanwari, He removed the moon. At the lake
shore Sheshnag the snakes around His neck came off. His son Ganesha was left off
at Mahagunas. The five tattwas’ were dropped off at Panjtarni (five basic
components of our body: loosely translated from their Sanskrit names as earth,
water, air, fire and space). Then reaching the cave site, He enlisted Rudra
Kalagni -the flame of time (a manifestation of Shiva) to burn down everything
around the cave site.
after nothing was allowed to survive, Shiva and Parvati, seemingly by
themselves, entered the Amarnath Cave. A legend has it that a pigeon- couple had
secreted themselves in there and eavesdropped on the conversation and thus
became beneficiaries of the secret formula of immortality. Another variation on
this is that an egg was left under the deerskin mat of Shiva and the couple
(apparently the egg gave birth to two) that came forth from there became
immortal. Nowadays, sighting a pair of pigeons at the cave site during the
pilgrimage is taken as an auspicious sign of success after the arduous trek.
the pilgrims would trek up to the cave in a procession lead by a sadhu-a holy
man-carrying the holy mace of Shiva. The holy mace is the Trishul-the trident of
Shiva- to protect pilgrims from any hazards along the way. The holy mace is
called Chhaddi Mubarak (Chaddi Maharaj) and is described as a gift from Shiva to
a Rishi who used to lead the pilgrimage a long time ago. Then there is the story
of an interaction between a saint at the cave site and the shepherd Buta Malik
who received what he thought to be a sack of coal from him, but turned out to be
gold. Because of the interaction with the saint, the incident had turned out to
be a source of ongoing steady income for the Malik family-they used to receive a
portion of all proceeds collected at the cave.
arduous nature of the traditional trek of the yatra demands dedication, and
persistence in the quest for solitude of Amarnath cave. It compels the pilgrims
to go through a process of forced contemplation about their place on this earth.
During this hike, the traditional stopovers used by the pilgrims follow those
undertaken by Shiva and Parvati to the cave while He shed His various adornments
and elements culminating in the knowledge of immortality at the cave site. In
philosophical interpretations, Shiva represents the eternal soul (parmatman) and
Parvati the perishable body (shareer) of an individual. The traditional
stopovers have esoteric connotations in meditative path of Kashmir Shaivism
embedded therein. The individual who goes through the process of meditation and
prayer, goes through a sequential de-attachment from desire’, lose the need of
analyzing each thought, and learn failings of the ego, and seek detachment from
that as well. Thus eventually the five elements (the five tatwas) of one’s own
body (Shareer) are in union with the soul (Atman) and rest of the universe, and
ready to perform the Tandava dance of Shiva at the cave site as a result of the
ecstatic achievement. However, the use of nontraditional routes, different dates
of darshan, and mechanisms now employed to reach to the cave in shorter amount
of time are seemingly eroding away at these features.
then, isn’t the life in the new real world also moving at a faster pace? And
would the progress to immortality also enter an accelerated pace: the ultimate
realization and promise of darshan of Amarnath! May the lord Shiva provide us
with clear thoughts and be with us at all times to protect and preserve us.
festival of Rakhi (a decorated wrist band) also occurs on the day of Shravan
Purnima. Rakhi is tied by a sister on a brother’s wrist to signify and
celebrate the bond of love between a sister and a brother. Rakhsha means
protection, hence the Rakhi signifies the willingness of a brother to help and
protect his sister at any cost. One can become a Rakhi brother to someone even
though they may be unrelated by blood after accepting a Rakhi. Legends in India
describe such Rakhi brothers and sisters with no restriction of religion. After
exodus, the festival has become more popular among Kashmiri Pandits.