Who discovered Amarnath
By M.M. Munshi
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 17AD . (Kalhana’s Rajtarangini Book II . Verses 130-141).
Narrative 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 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.
It is 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
The fact that Zain-ul-abdin (1420-1470), pious Muslim
ruler of Kashmir
visited Amarnathji has been documented by his chronicler Jonaraja (Jona’s
Rajtarangini Bombay Edition).
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, 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.
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
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.
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 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.
None of 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.
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.
It could have been a low key affair during political
upheavals or after natural calamities or catastrophes but lost never.
The 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.
With the 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.
Lawrence 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.