Temples form an important element in the personality and uniqueness of the state of J&K. While visiting this northern most state of India, one can spot a number of towering temples apart from the appealing scenery and nature. Be it the Kashmir region or Jammu or Ladakh, the population is predominantly Hindu. This explains the presence of number of temples in the state, surrounded by lakes, rivers, snow and alpines. Jammu is popularly known as “The city of Temples”. From Amarnath and Raghunath to Vaishnodevi, the state attracts pilgrims in hordes throughout the year, as great religious importance is attached to these places. Most of these are known for their unique architecture, solitude, and peaceful environment. A few major temples in Jammu and Kashmir are listed below:

Amarnath Temple (Pahalgam): Surrounded by fairly steep hills, the Amarnath temple is considered to be Kashmir’s oldest existing temple, dating back to the 5th century. This Shiva temple is situated in a narrow gorge on the far end of Lidder Valley at an altitude of 3888 m. The ‘Yatra’ to Amarnath, one of the principal Hindu Dhams, starts from Chandanwari (2,895 m), 16 kms from Pahalgam, in the month of Sawan (July to August). The temple is famous for a ‘Shiva-Lingam‘, (a natural formation of ice, in the month of July/August) believed to wax and wane according the moon’s cycle. 

There is a mythological story associated with the cave of Amarnath. When Lord Shiva was narrating the secret of immortality to his wife Parvati, a pair of mating doves eavesdropped on this conversation and learned the secret. Repeatedly reborn, they are said to have made the cave their eternal abode. Even today, the people claim seeing the pair of doves when they trek to the ice Shivalinga. The weather is quite uncertain. Rain or snowfall may take place at any time during the Amarnath Yatra. The temperature may fall to -5 degree C.

Raghunath Temple (Jammu): 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 te Mughat 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 since its inception. One needs to hire a taxi or bus from Srinagar/ Jammu airport to reach this temple.

Vaishno Devi Temple (Jammu): 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 stretch of 13 km, 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 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. 

Shankaracharya Temple (Jammu): Shankaracharya Temple, located in the south-eastern part of Kashmir, is an excellent example to showcase the ancient Kashmiri architecture. Built on the picturesque location of Gopadari Hill, this Shiva temple stands on a solid rock and consists of an octagonal basement of 13 layers. The temple was built in 371 B.C. Since then, it has been repaired and renovated several times, yet it boasts of the architectural style of those times. The main shrine is built in a circular chamber and offers a wonderful view of Kashmir Valley, comprising of enchanting lakes and the majestic Himalayas.

Built at a height of 1100 feet above Srinagar city, the temple has a Persian inscription that dates back to the reign of emperor Shah Jahan. People believe that the saint Adi Shankaracharya visited Kashmir in the first quarter of the 9th century to revive Sanatan Dharma. This incident led to the renaming of the temple as the Shankracharya temple.

Sudh Mahadev Temple (Patnitop): The small town of Chanhani, about 120 km from Jammu and 8 km from the enchanting hill station Patnitop, is a significant tourist destination because of the famous Sudh Mahadev Temple. This small temple, devoted to Lord Shiva, is a great piece of art. The secred temple of Sudh Mahadev, situated in the western part of Jammu, was constructed by Chaudhari Ramdas of Chanhani and his son Chaudhari Parag Mahajan about 80 years ago. Built at a height of about 1225 metres above sea level, the temple offers a wonderful view of the nearby hills and landscapes.

While visiting the temple, you see a natural black marble ‘Shiva-Lingam’ and an idol of Goddess Parvati mounted on the idol of Nandi. The temple is popular for the ‘Dhooni’, a constantly burning sacred fire, which serves as a memorial to the spiritual attainments of Baba Roop Nath, said to have attained Samadhi there. The devotees visit the shrine on full moon night of the rainy season to worship Lord Shiva. If you visit the temple during the rainy season, you can be a part of the music, dance, and other activities/games in a three-day fair that is organised annually, during July-August.

Avantipur Temple (Avantipur): A wonderful piece of artwork can be seen in Avantipur Temple, built between 855 and 883 AD. Located 29-km southeast of Srinagar, it is believed to be constructed by King Avantivarman. He was a great devotee of Lord Surya, and therefore dedicated the temple to him, but a few other deities including Goddess Ragnya Devi can also be seen in the temple. The king constructed two other temples near the main shrine. The smaller one is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is still in daily use. The other, Avantiswami Temple, which is now in ruins, was a famous Vishnu Temple. Both the temples show an outward apperance of Greek architecture.

The main temple is popular for its extraordinary carvings. As you enter the temple, there is a sculpture of  the royal family on the stairs leading up to the main shrine. Besides, there are carvings of Apsaras (the beautiful female demigods) as well on the stairs. From Navagrahas (the nine planets in Hindu astrology) to the beautiful Kinnara (a demigod with a human head and a bird’s body), the temple walls, floors and pillars are full of beautiful, ancient and unique carvings. The British took several unique idols and elements from the temple to the museums in England, in 18th century, however, a few of them can still be seen in the SPS Museum in Srinagar.

Baboor Temple: The Baboor site basically consists of the ruins of six different temples. These temples are located within a  radius of about one km. and holds great archaeological importance. Surrounded by beautiful hillocks and landscapes, these temples are beautifully decorated with carved idols of Gods, Goddesses, Celestial Dancers and Musicians. These temples are situated towards the south of Udhampur, within 1 km of River Tawi, and 8 km north of Mansar lake. According to a few historians, the place is believed to have been the capital of Duggar state.

The main temples of the site are Devi Bhagawati Mandir, Dhera Mandir, Kala Dehra- 1, Kala Dehra – 2, and Nand Baboor temple. The temples are not only famous for their unique architectural design but also for extarordinary Dogra Sculpture art. The sculptures of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Lord Shiva in Nartya Mudra, Bhairav, Bhrish vahan Shiva, Lord Ganesh & Lord Sun is what gives this temple complex its identity.

Bahu Fort And Temple (Jammu): The impressive Bahu Fort and Temple stands on the bank 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 on every Tuesday and Sunday. The fort echoes with the 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 the 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. 

Buddha Amarnath Temple: Does your trip to Jammu coincide with the festival of Rakshbandhan? If it does, make sure to visit the Buddha Amarnath temple in the north east of Poonch Town. Situated on the bank of Pulsata stream, the temple organises ‘Buddha Amarnath Ji Mela’, a grand fair, during Rakshabanshan. This fair offers a wonderful view of the regional lifestyle and culture. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is located on a foot hill and is older than Amarnathji of Kashmir.

The beautiful temple has a natural white shiva-lingam and offers an enchanting view of two major water streams, the Nallah Gagri and the Pulsta Nadi. Apart from this, there is a holy spring near the temple where  pilgrims bathe before entering the temple.

Gurudwara Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji (Jammu): Located in the main Jammu city, the Gurudwara of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji is one of the major holy places of the Sikh community in the state. The Gurudwara has a three-feet long white marble statue of Guru Nanak Dev Ji in a separate room. The statue and in fact the whole Gurudwara was constructed by Maharaja Partap Singh. With a medieval style of construction, the Gurudwara of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji is a perfect place to worship in tranquility. In the evening, divine prayers (Ardaas) can be heard while the Guru Ji and his disciples sing at a huge gathering. A free dispensary is operated, and the disciples conduct classes on Sikh History and Culture.

Nangli Sahib Gurudwara (Jammu): One of the oldest shrines of the Sikhs in north India, the Nangli Sahib Gurudwara of Jammu welcomes devotees belonging to all faiths. The credit for the construction of this huge Gurudwara complex goes to Sant Bhai Mela Singh. When Maharaja Ranjeet Singh visited the Gurudwara in 1814, he was surprised to see the architecture, and therefore he attached an estate and four villages to the Gurudwara. To get to this Gurudwara, you will need to get to Jammu first, and then take a bus or a taxi to this place.

It has about 70 rooms to accommodate the pilgrims and a separate Langar Hall to offer free food to any one in need of it. The main building of the Gurudwara was completely burnt during partition in 1947. Later, it was reconstructed by Mahant Bachitar Singh ji with money from donations. The gurudwara draws thousands of devotees on the day-long function during Baisakhi festival (the day when Khalsa was initiated).

Ranbireshwar Temple (Jammu): 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, which form a unique element of the temple.


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