A Glimpse of Jammu, the abode of Mata Vaishno Devi
Jammu is a popular Hindu pilgrimage destination in India that is clung to the snow-capped Pir Panjal Mountains that separates it from the Kashmir valley. Further, the vibrant culture of the Dogra that nestles in its vicinity from the historic era is one of the distinct features in Jammu. Surrounded by lakes and valleys and appareled with forest of oak and chestnut at the lower altitude and deodar and pine at the higher altitude make the entire region varied and rich. Dotted with temples, the region also has many famous mosques and forts. Jammu being the gateway to the Indian Himalaya, where the roads wind to Srinagar, is also noted for several challenging treks. One of the popular treks in Jammu that impress tourists is the Kishtwar to Padum trek that whirls to the Zanskar region. The trek from Kishtwar to Srinagar that passes through Banderkot, Dadhpeth, Mughal Maidan, Chhatru, Sinthan and Daksum is also an enchanting journey of 5-6 days.
Here are the popular places and attractions in and around Jammu:
Raghunath Temple – “Bathe by the purity and revive to embrace by your blessed soul”, Raghunath temple, dedicated to Lord Rama, and graced by 17 other temples that are dedicated to almost the entire Hindu pantheon, have a divine presence and uphold the moral and spiritual values of Jammu. The orated paintings, sublime idols and pensive encryptions mull over the sacred epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Ranbireshwar Temple - “Condone your sin, the life you lived so brutally, allow your mettle to bow down with allegiance”, Ranbireshwar temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is bedecked with twelve Shiva ‘lingams’ and galleries that grandeurs thousands of ‘saligrams’ fixed on stone slabs.
Panchbakhtar Temple – “Bosom by your lordliness with daybreak placidness and allow yourself to close your eyes by the idolatry”, anchbakhtar Temple, dedicated to Mahadev (Lord Shiva), is of rare antiquity, heritage, spiritual importance and once a camp (Padayo) for Sadhus (priests) surmounting ‘the Holy Cave of Sri Amarnathji’.
Peer Kho Cave Temple – “Bespeak the myth, the legend you quest, the blind enigma, and you still crave bemused in faith”, Peer Kho Cave Temple, with a natural Shiva ‘Lingam’, leads to many other cave shrines laid underground.
Mahamaya Temple – “Bygone the traits so savage and relieve your ail and allow yourself to die onliness”, Mahamaya Temple, is dedicated to a revolutionary legend of the Dogra community who scarified their life from the clutches of foreign invaders. This legendary temple, reflecting fourteenth century grandeur, is sited on the bank of the Tawi River.
Bahu Fort, Bave Wali Mata and Bagh-E-Bahu “A bond that the ambusher perceived, his heart begged mercy, he felt a gratifying peace and vested upon the blessed realm”,Bahu Fort is admired as a divine destination aftermath Raja Jambu Lochan went on a hunting trip and witnessed that a tiger and a goat were drinking water side by side without the tiger attacking the goat. The Raja perceived a divine message to build a magnificent fort at that location. The fort is now dedicated to Hindu goddess, Kali, popularly known as Bave Wali Mata. The fort also has a beautiful garden, Bagh-E-Bahu, which attracts a lot of domestic and foreign tourists every season.
Patnitop – A plateau with a hayfield beyond, at an altitude of 2024 m, Patnitop resembles Gulmarg, and is also one of the popular skiing destination during winter when it is bedded with snow.
Sanasar -A peaceful satellite resort, just 19 kms from Patnitop, it is ideal for strollers and paragliding fans. The bowl meadow surrounded with conifers is now developed as a golf-course. Sanasar attracts lots of tourist every year.
Mansar Lake -“Love is an abode of affinity, Life is an abode of humanity”, Mansar Lake is an abode of eternity and it is believed that this lake, surrounded by emerald green hills, is an ideal destination for newly married couples. Surrounding the lake, Umapati Mahadev Temple and Narshima Temple add a magnetic allure to the ambiance alongside the shrine of the serpent deity, the Sheshnag on the eastern bank. The ruins of Mahor Gadh also attract tourists. The food and crafts festival in April, the cultural festival of Dogra people in May and the Chhing festival are hosted beside the placid lake.
Purmandal –The Holy town is popular for the shrines of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva endued by the meandering River Devak. The natural Shiv Lingams, ‘Aap Sambhu’, Purmandal Mela, temples and the wall paintings attracts lot of devotees every year.
Dera Baba Banda –Dera Baba Banda emanating the essence of Hindu-Sikh pilgrimage is dedicated to Baba Banda Bairagi, a “Saint-soldier”. The Gurudwara has the Samadhi of Banda Bairagi and exhibits an arrow, a huge sword and some weapons. Along the bank of River Chenab, the wall paintings of Dera Baba Banda hold an odyssey and enchant tourists worldwide.
Sudh Mahadev –Another pilgrimage, near Patnitop, that hold its grandness on the phase of the moon to worship the trident (trishul) and a mace, is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Gauri Kund –The legendary spring is behind the myth that Goddess Parvati used to bath here before her prayers at Sudh Mahadev.
Krimchi –Reflecting Hellenic mythology, Krimchi beholds the theology of the three oldest temples of Jammu. It is one of the major attractions for foreign tourists.
Akhnoor –Akhnoor holds the ruins of far-famed Indus Valley civilization and is also associated with the legend of Soni-Mahiwal. The historical town also holds a beautiful park stretching from Jiyo Pota Ghat to Parashurama Temple on the bank of mighty river Chenab.
Baba Dhansar –On the way to Salal Dam, Baba Dhansar is blessed with a naturally formed Shivling and a huge spring that spurts several small waterfalls.
Vaishno Devi Temple –“The myth is divine, the divine is a belief, the belief beholds the shrine”, Vasihno Devi Temple, is a well known pilgrimage that blesses on millions devotees worldwide. The shrine proclaims the three forms of Vaishno Devi, namely Mahakali, the Hindu Goddess of time and death; Mahasaraswati, the Hindu Goddess of knowledge; and Mahalaxmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth and fortune. The journey to the shrine is one of the spiritual treks in Jammu that attracts lot of pilgrims from the farthest corners of the country.
Mubarak Mandi Palace –Mubarak Mandi Palace is a heritage complex in the heart of Jammu city that once belonged to the Dogra Maharajas. Surrounding the complex there are also residences of great Dogra families. A cultural seeker can visit this place and meet the families to know the history and learn the culture of the Dogras. The complex holds the domes, the bay widows, arches, spandrel, triangular pediment, segmental and broken pediment, cornices, brackets, projected balconies, pillars, bulbous and small octagonal kiosks embellishing the palace complex. During the evening the palaces come to live with sparkling lights.
Zeerat Peer Mitha –It is a twin structure of a mosque and a tomb resembling a Mughal architectural style. Zeerat Peer Mitha, is dedicated to a saint named Ziarat.
Aghar Jitto –A village, dedicated to Baba Jitto, a revolutionary hero, is abided by perennial springs and gardens. There is a statue of Aghar Jitto in the centre of the village. During the Aghar Jitto festival, thousands of pilgrims come here.
Bhaderwah –An unexplored hermit village, which literally hold its name in the epic Mahabharata. The valley of Bhaderwah is a kaleidoscope of nature and pleasant climate beholding the spirituality, solitary and diversified culture. The cosmo of black forest charming the valley are argil of tigers and wild sherbs.
Kishtwar – “You are desperate, you are keen, you are sovereign and hence you are mean”, Kishtwaris yet another envying and unexplored journey that reveals the veiled culture of folks prevailing. The natural surrounding of Kishtwar is adorned by majestic mountainous ranges and verdure. Further, Kishtwar is a base to several trekking routes in Jammu and Kashmir.
Sihard Baba -Once unexplored, Sihard Baba today sees heavy rush of pilgrims as well as tourists. It is a religious place appended with cascading waterfall and the ancient Pragan Nag temple.