Even the Gods cannot stop mother nature from her back on them. Scientists feel that a set of multiple factors — primarily heat — has “stunted the growth” of the shivlingam at the Amarnath cave in the Himalayas this year.
Scientists attribute the phenomenon to last year’s unusual rise in mercury, the October 8 temblor, heavy footfalls and the impact of global warming on the shrine. The verdict is unanimous: It was coming. All the factors would have eventually stalled the growth of the lingam even at that altitude.
The lingam, fed by the Amarnath glacier at Amarnath peak, is located at a height of 3,888 meters above the sea level.
Glaciologist MN Kaul, who has conducted extensive studies on Himalayan glaciers — especially on those within the vicinity of the shrine — feels that the unusually hot summer in Kashmir last year, combined with the October 8 earthquake and scanty snowfall prevented the formation of the lingam. Kaul, who has authored a book on Lidder Valley glaciers, said as against the annual average of 10 to 15 metres of snowfall in the area, the snow- level was only 5 metres last year.
The glacier and the snow on the roof of the cave shrine melted faster because of the unusual heat. Kaul said the October 8 earthquake may have plugged the water channels, preventing seepage into the shrine.
Explaining the process of the formation of the lingam, Abdul Rahim Shah, a scientist with the department of ecology and remote sensing, said, “What actually happens in the high-altitude areas, particularly in the limestone rocks, is that the temperature at the cracks between the layers of rocks remains below freezing point for the better part of the year. During summer, the snow starts melting and water seeps in through the fissures from the top of the cave. It trickles down in drops, which cools to form an icicle with a broad base and a flat top.” The expert says the process is the same as that of a burning candle, where the wax melts and solidifies at the base.
Former vice-president of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation M Ashraf, also the director general of Jammu and Kashmir tourism, said the “perennial snowline was meting rapidly because of the throng”.
To regulate the pilgrim flow, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah had commissioned two probes after an avalanche killed 200 yatris in 2000. The panels suggested that the duration of the yatra should not be more than a month and the number of pilgrims should not cross 3,500 on any given day.