In the seventeenth century the Mughal Emperor Jahangir set his eyes on the valley of Kashmir. While living in a houseboat on Dal Lake he said “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast.” If there is ever a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here it is here. The beauty of Kashmir is unparalleled and the valley boasts of many places to visit for sight-seeing and is a traveler’s delight. There are many places to visit in the three regions; Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
We are now at the final stop in our journey of Kashmir. We have explored Kashmir, the capital city of Srinagar, Ladakh and now we are here to travel through the Winter Capital of the State of J&K, Jammu.
Jammu is a city based on the banks of River Tawi. It is more popularly known as the “City of Temples”, owing to the number of temples this city plays a host to. There are many historical temples to visit, many historical palaces and a few natural beauties of locales. It is a wholesome experience for people who love historic monuments, besides the city is fast growing into an urban hub of blooming infrastructures.
1. Vaishno Devi Temple
Vaishno Devi, also known as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi, is a manifestation of the Mother Goddess or Durga. This temple is a cave-shrine, which is reached after a 14 kms steep, hilly trek from Katra (50 km from Jammu).Devotees believe Goddess Vaishno Devi fulfills all the longings of human life — dharma, artha, kama and moksha. The legend is that the goddess herself has an unfulfilled wish. When all humanity has taken her blessings, Lord Vishnu, for whom the goddess waits in her small cave shrine, would marry her in his Kalki avatar.
2. Bahu Fort and Bagh e Bahu
This ancient fort is believed to have been built by Raja Bahulochan, about 3000 years ago and later refurbished by kings of the Dogra Dynasty in 19th Century. The fort is believed to be one of the oldest standing building in Jammu with an interesting story behind it. It is believed that Raja Jambu Lochan, brother to Raja Bahulochan and the king credited with establishing the city, saw a curious sight of a tiger and goat drinking water from the Tawi river, without the tiger attacking the meek goat. He saw this as a divine sign, one that spelt peaceful coexistence, and decided to establish the city of Jammu here.The aquarium in the garden, the Bagh-e-Bahu, of the fort is one of the subcontinent’s largest underground aquariums, housing over 400 varieties of fresh and marine water fish - all maintained in state-of-the-art equipment. An obvious delight for children, adults too love to revive their childhood memories here, especially with the fish-shaped, magnificent entrance to the complex!
3. Nandini Wildlife Sanctuary
Located 28 kms from Jammu, Nandini Wildlife Sanctuary is characterized by stunning locale and varied topography. The sanctuary derives its name from Nandini village. The region play hosts to a large number of rare and endangered species of mammals and birds. It supports 8 species of mammals and a wide variety of bird species. Much acclaim has been accorded to the Nandini Wildlife Sanctuary, famous for its diversity of wildlife and best known for wonderful species of pheasants.Spread over an area of 34 sq. km, the sanctuary is rich in fauna and provides refuge to a wide variety of mammals. The main species are leopard, wild boar, rhesus monkey, bharal, grey langur etc.
4. Machail Mata Temple
The Machail Mata temple is Goddess Durga's shrine located in Village Machel, Kishtwar District of Jammu. Thousands of people visit the shrine every year mainly from Jammu region.The pilgrimage happens in the month of August only every year. The shrine was visited in 1981 by Thakur Kulveer Singh of Bhaderwah, Jammu region. From 1987 onwards, Thakur Kulveer SIngh started 'Chhadi Yatra'that happens every year and thousands of people visit the shrine every year during 'Chhadi Yatra'.
5. Shiv Khori (Amarnath Cave)
Khori means cave (Guffa) and Shiv Khori thus denotes Shiva's cave. This natural cave is about 200 metres long, one metre wide and two to three metres high and contains a self made lingam, which according to the people is unending. The first entrance of the cave is so wide that 300 devotees can be accommodated at a time. Its cavern is spacious to accommodate large number of people. The inner chamber of the cave is smaller. Shiv Khori is situated in between the hillocks about 140 km north of Jammu, 120 km from Udhampur and 80 km from Katra.
6. Amar Mahal Palace
This museum is housed in the Amar Mahal Palace, built in 1862 in a unique, French-chateau style of architecture. Located atop a hill overlooking the Tawi river, 4 rooms of the palace have been converted into art galleries and historic museums, depicting the royal history of Jammu.The star of this museum is the golden throne of Jammu, weighing a whopping 120 kgs, all pure gold. The art collection here is also quite impressive, with paintings of M F Hussain and Laxman Pai on display, among other famous Indian contemporary painters. Another interesting aspect is the Pahari Paintings displayed here, depicting tales from the Mahabharata and other folklore, especially those of Nal Damyanti. The museum also organizes heritage walks around the complex to give detailed insights into the history of Jammu and surrounding cities.
7. Mansar Lake
Besides being a popular excursion destination in Jammu, it is also a holy site, sharing the legend and sanctity of Lake Mansarovar. On the Eastern Bank of the Lake there is a shrine to Sheshnag, a mythological snake with six heads. The shrine comprises a big boulder on which are placed a number of iron chains perhaps representing the small serpents waiting on the tutelary deity of the Sheshnag. Two ancient temples of Umapati Mahadev & Narsimha as also a temple of Durga are situated in the vicinity of the Mansar lake. People take a holy dip in the water of the lake on festive occasions.
8. Surinsar lake
Surinsar Lake approximately 24 km from Jammu is a smaller lake but as picturesque with an island situated in the middle. Religious taboos do not permit swimming or boating in the lake. It is a wetland and a bird sanctuary rich in flora and fauna. Water birds of all variety make this lake a bird watcher’s haven.
9. Dogra Art Museum
Dogra Art Museum, Jammu previously known as the Dogra Art Gallery is a museum of Dogra cultural heritage housed in the Pink Hall of the Mubarak Mandi complex, The museum features over 800 rare paintings and articles of historical significance. The galleries of the museum boast of paintings from different schools including Basholi, Jammu and Kangra. One of the major attractions of the museum is the gold painted bow and arrow of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan along with carpentry tools. The museum houses several handwritten manuscripts including the scripts of Shahnama and Sikandernama in Persian that are of interest to history buffs.
10. Raghunath Temple
The temple of Raghunath is devoted in honor of Lord Rama and situated in the center of Jammu city. The Maharaja of J&K Gulab Singh started the construction of this temple in 1835 and his son Ranbir Singh completed the temple in 1860. The three sides of the inner walls of the temple are covered with gold sheets. Lakhs of Saligrams are also placed in temple’s gallery. The temple is made of seven shrines each having its own tower. The chief deity Lord Rama is in main sanctuary and the remaining sanctuaries in adjacent area are devoted to other deities of the Ramayana epic. Many scared and remarkable Sanskrit scriptures are there in the temple compound. The Sanskrit library of the temple has exceptional Sanskrit manuscripts. The Mughal architecture has an enormous influence on the surface, niches and arches of this temple.
11. Peer Kho Cave Temple
Peer Kho Cave Temple is a highlight of Jammu city as history, myth and legend all combine at this place. Based on the epic Ramayana, it is believed that Jamvant (the bear god) adopted the cave as a place where he went into deep meditation. The temple is located on the banks of Tawi River and is now dedicated to Lord Shiva. The shivling inside the temple is revered a lot by the locals and tourists alike. There is an ancient charm to the place that makes a visit here replete with devotional fervour. The shivling is known as the Swayambhu Shivling and the cave as Jamvant cave. The forests around the temple comprise acacia trees and the geology is based on igneous rocks. According to mythology, this cave is connected to other caves and shrines that lie outside India; it is a literal gateway to these places.
12. Baba Dhansar
65 Kms from Jammu, on way to Salal Dam, Baba Dhansar is a beautiful and cool picnic spot. Here, a huge spring gushes out of the mountain side in a thick grove of trees and forms a number of small cascading water-falls before ultimately flowing into the Holy rivulet that merges with the Chenab River. Next to the spring in a small grove in the rock face is a naturally formed Shivling on which droplets of water fall at a constant pace all the year round. A big fair is held here during Shivratri. For the facility of the yatris visiting the place, the Shrine Board has carried out some developments including the construction of a Dharamshalla.
13. Mubarakh Mandi Palace
The Mubarakh Mandi is a popular place in Jammu as many high profile palaces belonging to the Dogra rulers are found here. All the prominent government offices are also located here. The palace will be renovated soon. The palace is surrounded by the residences of the Dogra families, who belong to the period of Maharaja Hari Singh.
At a height of 2, 024 m, Patnitop soars up to the height from where the regular life lies way below. The pampas is bordered by impenetrable jungle and serves as an unbeatable spot for picnics and frolic. The grasslands of this place and Sanasar are shaped like the meadows of Gulmarg and are hence blessed with picnic spots. Colt ride in the hilly areas along with the adventure of trekking and all are just some of the fun activities here.
Udhampur city is the second-largest city in Jammu region, Named after Raja Udham Singh. A delight for history lovers, the city offers many relics dating back to the time of epic of Mahabharata. The Krimachi group of temples are said to be the oldest structures in the city. Udhampur is also famous for the underground river Devika, which is considered the sister of Ganga.
Lying in the middle and outer Himalayan ranges, the district has mostly a hilly terrain. A perfect place for both nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts.It is said that one of the ancient Rajas of Kishtwar whose dominion extended beyond Doda persuaded one utensil maker Deeda, a migrant from Multan (now in Pakistan), to settle permanently in this territory and set up an utensil factory there. Deeda is said to have settled in a village which later on was called with his name. With the passage of time the name Deeda has changed into Doda, the present name of the town. The two Hindu shrines namely, Chandi Mata Temple and Athra Devi Temple can also be visited here.
Fringed by Pir Panjal range, it is one of the most scenic places that we encounter in J & K. Verdant green meadows, alpine mountains, stunning natural lakes. The waterfall at Behram Galla named as Noori Chhamb, the seven lakes (Sukhsar, Neelsar, Bhagsar, Katorasar, Kaldachnisar and Nandansar) at Girgan Dhok, the 18th century Poonch Fort and small villages like Mandi and Surankote are the highlights of the valley. There are many shrines and temples like Budha Amarnath in Mandi, Gurudwara Nangali Sahib, Gurudwara Deri Sahib, Ziarat Sain Illahi Bakhsh Sahib, Battalkote that are quite popular and should be visited in Poonch.
18. Akhnoor Fort
Akhnoor Fort is situated on the right bank of Chenab River. The construction of the fort was started by Mian Tej Singh in 1762 AD and completed by his successor Raja Alum Singh in 1802.The fort has high fortification walls with bastions at regular intervals and is crowned with battlements. There are two-storied watch-towers at the corners, which are also crowned by battlements and merlons. The fort has two parts which are bifurcated by a wall with a gate leading to the palace located on the southern side. The palace is two-storied, and the walls facing the courtyard have decorated arches, some of which contain mural paintings.