Jammu, a wonderland for nature lovers and a pearly gate for the pilgrims, is an incomparable tourist destination. “The City Of Temples” has a number of pilgrimage places, where people of all faith and religion visit to seek boons and blessings. Various temples, gurudwaras and dargahs, surrounded by lakes, rivers, snow and alpines, are known for their transcendent architecture. Have a look at various pilgrimage destinations in and around Jammu city-
Vaishno Devi Temple
Maa Vaishnodevi Temple is India's second most visited religious shrine, after Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. The temple is dedicated to Mata Rani or Vaishnavi, a manifestation of the Mother Goddess. It is located near the town of Katra, in Udhampur district. Pilgrims walk up the backbreaking journey to the shrine located high over the Trikuta hill at an altitude of about 5200 ft. Trikuta hill is the base camp for the journey to this shrine.
The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is established in a cave of the Himalayan Mountains. The route to the shrine is a 13 km stretch of where there is no provision for modern transport, except for a helipad at the top of the hill. Pilgrims take the help of horses when the journey gets tiring. A rail link from Udhampur to Katra is being built to facilitate the pilgrimage. The aarti ritual (a two hour act) of the Goddess Vashnavi is performed twice a day when the shrine echoes with the holy sounds of chanting Mantras accompanied by uttering 108 names of Goddess Durga. Devotees worship the three forms of Goddess Vaishnavi here: Mahal Kali, Mahal Lakshmi, and Mahal Saraswati. Being a renowned and crowded pilgrimage, the place offers a variety of budget and star rated hotels for acommodation. It is believed that anybody who walks to the abode to ask for a boon rarely goes back disappointed.
Wish to visit a temple with lakhs of “Saligrams” (the divine stone of Lord Vishnu)? Raghunath temple, dedicated to Lord Rama is a divine place in the heart of Jammu with seven shrines. The most important shrine belongs to the eighth incarnation of Vishnu- 'Rama', who is considered the patron deity of the Dogra community. The cluster of temples in the nearby area (all dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses related to the epic Ramayana) makes it the largest temple complex in North India. The temple was completed in 25 long years (1835-1860) by Maharaja Gulab Singh and his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh. A glimpse of the Mughal architecture can be noticed on the carvings and arches of the temple.
The Sanskrit Library in the temple offers various manuscripts relating to stories and incidents in the epic Ramayana. The morning and evening 'aartis' are conducted daily, a practice carried out since its inception. One needs to hire a taxi or bus from Srinagar/ Jammu airport to reach this temple.
Bawey Wali Mata (Bahu Fort And Temple)
The impressive Bahu Fort and Temple stands on the banks of river Tawi, in Jammu city. You will be overwhelmed to see this 3000 years old monument and the unique 'Tawi flowing worship'. Constructed by Raja Bahulohan, the fort was later renovated by the Dogra rulers. The fort boasts of a temple dedicated to Goddess Kali (built in 1822), which is visited by hundreds of devotees every Tuesday and Sunday. The fort echoes with loud voices of “Bavey Waali Mata KI Jai !!” throughout the day. Surrounded by hills, terraced gardens (Bagh-e-Bahu), and waterfalls, the fort is a major attraction for tourists.
The nearby area is an ideal place to spend quiet vacations. The Mahamaya temple (dedicated to Mahamaya, the heroine of the Dogras) behind the Bahu Fort is also much visited.
Peer Kho Temple/Cave
Amongst all the famous temples of Jammu, situated on high hills, an important one is Peer Kho. The Peer Kho shrine is considered the oldest historic place in the Shivalik region. The cave shrine, located on a circular road, lies 3.5 km from the heart of the town. It is visited for the natural formation of a black Shiva-Lingam, the focal point of this pentagonal cave. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva or Mahadev.
The cave is considered to be the meditation centre of Jamvant, the bear-god from the epic Ramayana. The temple is divided in two caves with a depth of 20 to 30 feet each. One needs to go through marble steps from the ground level of the temple to reach the Shiva Lingam. People mostly visit this temple at Maha-Shivaratri and other Hindu rituals.
Depicting the art and architecture of 1883, the Ranbireshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Offering a marvellous view of isolated forested hills, the temple is located on Shalimar Road, near the new Secretariat, opposite the Dogra Art Gallery in Jammu. Standing 75 metres high, the temple itself is a local landmark.
The temple was built by Raja Ranbir Singh, a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He established a seven-and-a-half feet high crystal Lingam in the temple, which of course, is the major attraction. Apart fropm the main Shiva-Lingam, there are twelve other Shiva-lingams of crystal measuring from 15 to 38 inches. The galleries of the temple also depict thousands of other lingams carved on stone slabs.
A famous pilgrimage for the Muslims, the Ziarat Peer Mitha is located in the heart of Jammu city. The locality around Peer Mitha is named after Ziarat, a saint. The shrine is a magnificent tomb alongwith a mosque. The shrine is associated with saint Ajaib Dev and saint Ghareeb Nath, both renowned for their prophecies and miracles. The name 'Peer Mitha' was coined because of the sugar offerings ('Mitha' - 'sweet' in Hindi) by the devotees. Ziarat saint is believed to accept nothing more than a pinch of sugar as an offering from his devotees.
Overlooking the River Tawi, there is another popural Hindu shrine- Panchbakhtar Temple. The temple is very close to the Peer Kho Cave temple and the Ranbireshwar temple. Panchbakhtar temple is also dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is known for various legends of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. People believe it to be one of the oldest Shiva temples n the city.
Peer Budhan Ali Shah or Peer Baba
The ‘Durgah’ of Peer Budhan Ali Shah is situated at Satwari area of Jammu near the Airport (8 km from the city centre). The 'Peer' or saint Buddan Shah was born at Talwandi in Punjab, and it is said that another shrine of this Peer is located at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. He was also a close friend of the tenth and the last guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh.
People believe that the saint lived to theage of five hundred years, and that he only had a milk diet throughout his entire life. His holy shrine is visited by people from every relgion and cast. People come to the shrine on Thursday and offer prayers and respect to the legendary saint. This holy Dargah of Peer Budhan Ali Shah or Peer Baba is said to protect the people of the city from mishaps and evil spirits.