Kashmir - An Ancient Shaivaite Centre
According to the legend, Shiva made the Gods immortal by providing them with the celestial nectar, and resided here upon their request. This boon of immortality lent the name Amarnath.
Kashmir was a great Shaivite center in the 1st millennium CE. Kashmiri Shaivism is referred to as "Trika Mata" and it dates back to the 8th century CE. The three components of Kashmiri Shaiva literature are "Agama Shastra", "Spanda Shastra" and the "Pratyabhijna Shastra". "Kalhana", a contemporary of King Jayasimha of Kashmir of the 12th century describes Kashmir as Parvati incarnate. Legend has it that there was once a lake by name Sati-Saras named after Shiva's consort Sati. Sage Kashyapa, the grandson of Bhrama, destroyed the demons residing over here. It is believed that Kashyapa then converted this lake into "Kashmira Mandala".
Tales Of the Cave Discovery
Legend has it that Lord Shiva recounted to Goddess Parvati the secret of creation in a cave in Amarnath. Unknown to them a pair of mating doves eavesdropped on this conversation and having learned the secret, are reborn again and again, and have made the cave their eternal abode. Many pilgrims report seeing the doves pair when they trek the arduous route to pay obeisance before the ice-lingam.
According to an ancient tale, there was once a Muslim Shepherd named Buta Malik who was given a sack of coal by a Sadhu (saint). Upon reaching home he discovered that the sack, in fact, contained Gold. Overjoyed and overcome, Buta Malik rushed back to look for Sadhu and thank him. But on the spot of their meeting discovered a cave, and eventually this became a place of pilgrimage for all believers. To date, a percentage of the donations made by pilgrims are given to the descendents of Malik, and the remaining to trust which manages the shrine.
Yet, another legend has it that when Kashyap Rishi drained the Kashmir valley of water the cave and lingam were discovered by Bregeish Rishi who was travelling the Himalayas. When people heard of lingam Amarnath for them it became Shiva's abode and a centre of pilgrimage.