It was wonderful to see photos in the newspapers today of Hindu pilgrims making their way up mountain trails in the disputed Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir for the annual yatra or pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave, where Shiva is honored in the form of a natural ice stalagmite that is regarded as a symbol of the god’s phallus. The 2002 yatra had been marred by sectarian violence that left nine pilrgims dead (see WW4 REPORT #46). This year, the only problems have been logistical (heavy snowfall, overbooked flights for those who chose helicopter rather than the traditional 80-mile trek from Srinagar).
The yatra kicked off from Srinagar with a Sufi music festival, where J&K Gov. SK Sinha presided, hailing Amarnath yatra as “the most secular pilgrimage in the world, which symbolizes the pluralistic ethos of Kashmir, known as Kashmiriyat.” He made special note that the cave, revered by Hindus, was discovered by a Muslim according to local folklore. (J&K government news release, June 22)
The Kashmiri Overseas Association page on Amarnath briefly tells the story of how a Muslim shepherd named Buta Malik was given a bag of coal by a Hindu sadhu (mendicant holy man) which miraculously turned to gold. Searching in the mountains for the sadhu to thank him, he instead found the cave. The site is still maintained by the Muslim Malik family to this day, even as it is revered by Hindus.
So viva Kashmiriyat! Nice to know of one place in the world where things seem (even if tentatively) to be going from bad to better rather than bad to worse.
See also TempleNet‘s page on Amarnath.
See our last post on Kashmir.