Neeti of Joshimath block in Chamoli district of Dev Bhoomi Uttarakhand is the last village along the Indo-China border. This remotely quaint village is home to Barfani Baba, popularly known as chota Amarnath.
The villages in Neeti valley are accessible for only six to eight months due to adverse weather conditions. Many rare medicinal herbs mentioned in Charaka Samhita grow in this valley. The cave of Barfani Baba is about a kilometre before Neeti village and accessed on foot. One first offers prayers at Nanda Devi temple in Neeti village before trekking 700 metres to reach Timmersain Mahadev cave. This natural Shiva Linga of ice is very much like Baba Amarnath and is revered by the locals who call it as Amarnath of Uttarakhand.
Locals say that a natural Shiva Linga forms in the winter season in the cave. The place from where the Shiva Linga is visible is called Babuk Udiyar. They also say that water keeps dripping from the hill on the Shiva Linga. A ten to twelve feet high Shiva Linga in ice is also formed in winter when snow freezes on it which is seen between December to January. The Shiva Linga melts in the summer returning to its original shape.
A Shiva Linga in ice takes shape each year when the ice melts near this Shiva Linga. The height of this ice Shiva Linga is between two and a half to three feet and hence, the name Barfani Baba.
Devotees have a bath courtesy of a water stream falling from the hill before entering the cave. The local priest says that more than five Shiva Lingas are formed each year in Baba Barfani cave. The astonishing thing is that there is no snow around the cave but there is snow inside the cave that forms the huge Shiva Linga!
One can have darshan of Barfani Baba both in the summer and winter (15 December – 15 March or later) depending on the weather conditions. As this village is situated close to the international border and in the bosom of the snow-covered Garhwal Himalayas, special permission is required to pay homage to Barfani Baba. Devotees come from far and beyond to to seek blessings of Lord Bholenath especially in the month of Shravan.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)