The controversy over the alleged “man-made” lingam at Amarnath might block the holy mace of Lord Shiva — the essence of the pilgrimage — from reaching the Himalayan cave shrine. Pilgrims will not get to see the “symbol of the lord” if a judicial probe is ordered into it.
“The proposal is under consideration,” said Mahant Depinder Giri, custodian of the holy mace — Charri Mubarak — told the Hindustan Times over telephone from Srinagar.
If the mace does not reach the shrine, it will take away the sanctity of the pilgrimage and set a precedent as this is the first time a priest — closely associated with the shrine and its rituals — is contemplating such a move. Every year, a group of sadhus led by Mahant Depinder Giri carries the mace or the holy staff to Amarnath to mark the conclusion of the yatra. The pilgrimage starts with the bhoomi pujan at Pahalgam on Asharad or the Guru Purnima and ends on Raksha Bandhan day or the Sharvan Purnima. The arrival of the mace marks the end of the festival. This year, auspicious full moon — marking the beginning of the yatra — falls on July 11.
The Mahant has demanded a judicial probe by the Supreme Court sitting judge into allegations that the shivling had been “artificially” created. Explaining why he felt that the lingam had been touched up, the mahant said, “Television channels have shown footage shot of pollution, synthetic sheets, bits of thermocol, marks of shoes and traces of dirt on the snow lingam.” Giri said he would soon go to Hardwar and Varanasi to consult the religious heads as to how to go about the process of stalling the journey of the mace, if the allegations were found true.
The Jammu and Kashmir state pollution control board has come under attack from religious organizations for “polluting” the shrine. National president of Amarnath Yatra Welfare Organisation Rajinder Sharma said, “It is a matter faith, not economy. The government has played with the sentiments of the devotees.” According to Giri, the pollution board has made a “mockery of the yatra.” He said the pilgrimage would lose its religious legitimacy if the mace did not reach the shrine. The mahant has been performing the ritual for more than 50 years. The state government has opened the Pahalgam and Baltal routes on June 1.