Is there more to the melting of the Shivalingam at the Amarnath shrine in south Kashmir than global warming?
Deepinder Giri, who carries the holy mace of Lord Shiva to the shrine on Raksha Bandhan every year, believes the meltdown is man-made. With more than 25,000 pilgrims visiting the shrine before the official onset of the annual yatra on July 1 and with security personnel having easy access to the shrine — some of them are said to have even embraced the Shivalingam — he says the phenomenon is but natural. And he blames the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board for this. “The board has allowed human interference with the natural forming of the Shivalingam by allowing pilgrims, community kitchens and helicopters landing close to the shrine. It all affects the Shivalingam.”
The Shivalingam stood 12-feet-high on June 9 but had all but melted by July 1. Last year, it did not form at all, which was attributed to the recession of the Amarnath glacier and global warming.
The board maintains “global warming” is to blame. “Global warming has taken its toll on the Shivalingam,” says the board’s CEO Arun Kumar. But he does not rule out other factors: “There are elements opposed to the pilgrimage.”
On pilgrims making it to the shrine before the commencement of the yatra, Arun Kumar says the board neither has registration in its hands nor the power to stop people moving towards the shrine. But the board did start helicopter services to the shrine on June 22 and religious preacher Murari Bapu and 600 of his disciples were airlifted. “The board cannot absolve itself of its responsibility,” a senior police official says.
Even supporters of the board, like Vishwa Hindu Parishad state chief Rama Kant Dubey, have started asking questions. “The board must answer why there is early melting of Shivalingam."