Digital Rare Book:
On the Edge of the World
By Edmund Candler
Published by Cassell and Company, London - 1919
AMARNATH and Gangabal lie in the mountains at the back of Kashmir. Amarnath, the sacred cave, is twenty-three marches from Rawalpindi in the plains, and Gangabal, the sacred lake, eighteen. They are six days distant from each other, and more when the snow bridges are broken. Gangabal is a domestic pilgrimage. The Hindus of Kashmir carry the knuckle-bones of the dead there and throw them into the lake. Amarnath has a wider call. The cave is Siva's mansion, a Titan's dwelling-place. His roof is a seventeen-thousand-foot peak, which thrusts a jagged flank into Ladakh. The god and his spouse Parbati dwell within, congealed in two frozen green springs which spurt from the rock. These are the First Cause, the genesis ; of Energy, the primal lingams in which the Essence of Shiv resides, the natural altar of his priests, though Amarnath, save at the time of the great pilgrimage, is a priestless shrine.
The Hindus believe that the ice-lingams increase and decrease with the moon. So when the orb is full in Sawan, in middle August, the spring-tide, as it were, of the plastic spirit which informs all life, they swarm to the cave in hordes from every corner of Hindustan, whether in some vague general hope of merit, or drawn by some particular need the craving for offspring perhaps, for the long-denied son who will lay them on the ground when they come to die.
The road is rough for the Sadhu, a true path to merit. His impulse is not ours. It was the fashion among them to grumble at the clear spring-water and the sweet scent of the flowers, to which they attributed many unfamiliar ills, pain and giddiness and shortness of breath and mountain sickness. Their gaze was mostly on the ground or fixed on the sky-line. It did not wander. They had no eyes for the changing colours of the hills. They were aware, I think, of a certain savage grandeur all round, in which it was proper that the god should dwell, and into which if man intruded it must be with submissive awe and in a spirit of appeasement and propitiation.
The Hindu has none of our waste energies, and no real interests, as we understand them, save what he acquires by contact with us. Work, family, and devotions fill his life. The aesthetic impulse is dead in him, but he still has a hankering for the marvellous. The West sees God's hand most clearly in what is beautiful ; the East, in what is, or seems to be, supernormal. The two quests often lead along the same road. So it is on a pilgrimage that East and West are nearest meeting. Even so they do not meet, but move in close parallel lines.
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