An unique abode of Lord Shiva; here, he is represented by an ice stalagmite- resembling Shiva Linga.
This Shiva Linga changes its size and even color based on the cycle of the Moon; it increase in size during full moon period and otherwise. The Linga reaches the peak size during the summer.
The cave temple is about 12,500 feet’s above the sea level. The pilgrims normally have to take an arduous trek to reach the temple from Pahalgam (about 35 kilometers away by the traditional trekking route). But presently there is an option for helicopter shifting for those who can afford it; go for the traditional one if you can afford it health wise!!
Significance of this cave temple is that it is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva revealed the secrets of life and eternity to his consort Goddess Parvati. The story is that Goddess Parvati enquired about the mystery behind the phenomena of life and death and how he (Lord Shiva) becomes immortal. Initially, Lord Shiva evaded the question as he does not want to disclose the secret to anybody. After much persistence Lord Shiva agreed to reveal the secret to Parvati at Amarnath cave.
Before doing that, Lord Shiva took many precautions to prevent the leaking of the secret to any living thing on earth. So, on his way to Amarnath, he left his Nandi (the bull) at Bailgaon near Pahalgam, he left moon that resides on his head at Jataon, he left snakes that he carries on his head at Seshnag lake near Pahalgam and finally the five elements (Earth, fire, water, air and ether)- the essential elements for the creation of any living thing at Panchtarna.
As an extra precaution, he ordered his aide Kalgani to set fire around the Amarnath cave so that any living creature was burnt. Amidst this high security, the legend tells us that, Lord Shiva revealed the secret of life and death to Goddess Parvati at the holy Amarnath cave; sitting on a deer skin.
Interestingly, the legend continues to tell us that even after taking this much precaution, a live egg of a deer lying beneath the deer skin (where Lord Shiva sat) heard the divine secret. The two deers came out of that egg became immortal (imagine an egg escaping the precautions of the Lord Shiva himself!!).
Pahalgam (about 96 kilometers from Srinagar) is the base camp for the Amarnath Pilgrimage. Popular trekking route starts from Pahalgam to Amarnath via Chandanwari, Pissutop, Sheshnag and Panchtarni.
Alternatively, pilgrims can opt for a lengthier route from Jammu.