The holy cave of Amarnath is surrounded by mountains of snow, only for a short time in a year. When the snow is removed from the cave during summer, it is opened for devotees. In this cave, not only Shivling but also two other snow lingas are formed in the form of Mata Parvati and Ganesha.
Amarnath found its mention in Mahabharata and Puranas as well. According to Hindu mythological beliefs, it is in this cave that Lord Shiva told Parvati about the secrets related to life, which two pigeons heard. Those two pigeons are still seen in this cave.
The story goes as follows: One day, Mata Parvati asked Bhole Shankar the reason behind wearing Munda Mala (beads of heads). Shiva mentioned that he adds one head to his beads every time she is born. Amused, Mata said, “why do I die, whereas you’re immortal?” Shiva credited the reason to ‘Amar Katha,’ which Parvati insisted on knowing. To fulfill her wish, Lord Shiva undertook the journey to reach Amarnath Caves for complete seclusion. This he did to ensure no other being could listen to the secret of immortality.
Pahalgam, where people head to reach the base camp, is where Lord Shiva left Nandi, his Vahana (vehicle). At Chandanwari, 16 km away from Pahalgam, he released Chandradev(Moon). Moving ahead, at Sheshnag lake - located at 11730 feet - he released all his snakes, followed by his son Ganesha at Mahagunas Parvat. At Panchtarni, Shiva let go of all the five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Sky, Air) responsible for the creation of life. After liberating himself of all, Shiva entered the Holy Cave with Maa Parvati. Invoking Kalagni, he ordered him to burn everything around to ensure no one could hear the tale. As fate would have it, a pair of pigeons overheard the story of immortality. Among locals and tourists, their sighting has often been reported.
The book Rajatrangini by Kalhana references Aryaraja, King of Kashmir. He used to worship Shivling, formed of ice stalagmite, around 300 BC. Other sources speak of Queen Suryamathi around the 11th century AD. She offered sacred emblems, including Trishul and Prasad, to this shrine.
For a long time, the shrine was forgotten, especially around the Middle Ages. The discovery and rediscovery of Amarnath Cave has various claims attached to it. The modern version claims a shepherd, Buta Malik. The folklore throws light on how he discovered the Holy Cave, after which the Yatra was resumed again.