Vaishno Devi Temple, one of the sacred Hindu shrines in India, is situated at an elevation of 1700 m on top of the Trikuta Hills, Katra. Jammu is located at a distance of around 46 km from the town of Katra. The temple consists of a cave shrine dedicated to the Hindu Mother Goddess, Vaishno Devi.
The cave measures approximately 30 m in length and 1.5 m in height. According to popular folklore, the cave was used by Mother Goddess to hide from a demon that she eventually killed.
The main attractions of the shrine are the idols depicting the 3 forms of Vaishno Devi, namely Mahakali, the Hindu goddess of time and death; Mahasaraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge; and Mahalakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and fortune.
The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has been assigned the responsibility of maintaining this temple. Approximately 8 million devotees from around the country visit the Vaishno Devi Temple on an annual basis.
This figure makes this shrine the second most visited temple in the country after the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple of Andhra Pradesh. Individuals interested in exploring Vaishno Devi Temple have to trek to the site.
Amar Mahal, built in the 1890s by the Dogra ruler Raja Amar, is one of the prime attractions in Jammu. The structure was designed by a French architect. As a reason, the site resembles a French chateau built by Indian artisans. Red sand stone had been used during the construction of Amar Mahal.
In the past, the Amar Mahal has acted as the residence of royal family members. The site, however, was transformed into a museum that houses collections of books, sculptures, paintings and inscriptions. The prime attraction of this museum is the Durbar Hall which is embellished with ‘pahari’ paintings and portraits of erstwhile rulers of Jammu and Kashmir.
The throne of Maharaja Hari Singh, made of 120 kg of gold, can be seen inside this museum. Tourists can also visit a library containing over 20,000 books inside the Amar Mahal Museum. These books with some special volumes, have been collected in the last 50 years from the library of Raja Amar Singh.
Raghunath Temple, constructed by Maharaja Ranbir Singh and his father Maharaja Gulab Singh, erstwhile kings of Jammu, is one of the prime attractions of the region. The construction of the temple began in the year 1851 and ended in 1857. This pilgrimage site is situated in a temple complex along with the Ranbireshwar Temple and the Panjbakhtar Temple.
Seven historical shrines are present at the site of the Raghunath temple. The prime deities of this temple are different incarnations of the Hindu sun god, Surya, the Hindu god of destruction, Shiva and the Hindu god of preservation, Vishnu. The niches, arches and surfaces of the Raghunath Temple showcase the Mughal architectural style.
The statue of the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman, and the image of King Ranbir can be found at the entrance. The gold-plated interiors of the Raghunath Temple are said to be stunning. The Raghunath Temple enshrines numerous large idols of various Hindu gods and goddesses along with ‘lingams’, the symbolic representation of Shiva.
Closer observation will reveal sacred inscriptions on the walls of the temple. A Sanskrit library, holding ancient books and rare collections of manuscripts, is present inside the temple complex. The temple, therefore, not only attracts millions of devotees but also keen historians.
Peer Kho Cave Temple, otherwise known as the Jamwant Cave, is situated in proximity to the Tawi river. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god of destruction, Shiva, while Swayambhu ‘Shiva Lingam’ is the presiding deity.
Considered to be one of the most ancient shrines of the region, the Peer Kho Cave Temple is situated in the midst of an acacia forest. Locals believe that the temple acts as a gateway to other pilgrimage shrines and caves located outside India.
Thousands of devotees visit this cave temple during the occasion of Shivaratri, a Hindu festival celebrated in honour of Shiva. The Panjbakhtar Temple, the Ranbireshwar Temple and the Aap Shambu Temple are other temples located in proximity to the Peer Kho Cave Temple.
Mubarak Mandi Palace is renowned among tourists as the royal abode of the erstwhile Dogra Kings. This palace showcases a unique combination of European, Baroque, Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. The prime attraction of this palace complex is the Sheesh Mahal.
The Dogra Art Museum situated in the ‘pink hall’ of the Mubarak Mandi Palace is also popular among tourists. The beautifully adorned halls and galleries of the palace have been used for numerous official events and ceremonies.
Surrounded by a beautiful garden and a courtyard once used by royals as well as commoners for important proceedings, the palace provides for an imposing view of an old city and the Tawi river. The Mubarak Mandi Palace has been declared as a historically and archaeologically significant site that includes government courts and offices.
Dogra Art Museum is a popular art repository that is located in the Mubarak Mandi Complex. This gallery, situated in the Pink Hall, has more than 800 rare articles and paintings that belong to different schools, namely Kangra, Basholi and Jammu. The prime attraction of the Dogra Art Museum is the bow and arrow, painted in gold, which belonged to the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan.
The carpentry tools segment is also a popular feature of this museum. In addition, many handwritten manuscripts of Sikandernama and Shahnama in Persian are housed in the Dogra Art Museum. Miniature paintings belonging to the Pahari School of art are some of the prized collections of this museum.
This museum has safely preserved archives that represent the ancient Indian cultural heritage put on display. Therefore, apart from tourists, the Dogra Art Museum is a perfect site for researchers, students of fine arts and scholars.
Mansar Lake is a sacred site that is popular among tourists as the legacy of Manasa Sarovar or the personification of purity. This beautiful lake measures more than a mile in length and half a mile in width and is surrounded by lush green forests. A shrine dedicated to the Hindu Snake God, Sheshnag, sits on the banks of the river.
According to local belief, newly wed couples should seek the blessings of Sheshnag by doing three parikrama or revolutions around the lake as it brings them good luck. Another belief associated with the lake is that taking a dip in the lake absolves people from their sins.
Travellers can also choose to undertake boating at the Mansar Lake. Apart from the Sheshnag Temple, tourists can also visit the Durga Temple, Umapati Mahadev Temple and Narasimha Temple located nearby. A wildlife sanctuary is also located in proximity to the lake.
Bagh-e-Bahu is a picturesque garden that was constructed as a part of the popular Bahu Fort. This extensive garden, located on the banks of the Tawi river, has a variety of trees, flowers and shrubs growing in it. A small cafeteria has been opened in one of the corners of the Bagh-e-Bahu.
With these features, the garden acts as an ideal picnic spot for visitors. Recently, an aquarium and an awareness centre were established in the Bagh-e-Bahu. With a length of over 220 m, this newly added aquarium is now the largest underground aquarium in India.
Bawey Wali Mata Temple can be visited by tourists while exploring the Bahu Fort as this pilgrimage site is situated inside the fort premises. According to belief, the Bawey Wali Mata Temple was built in 1822 just after Maharaja Gulab Singh took over the Kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir.
This popular temple is dedicated to Goddess Kali, who is considered the presiding deity of the Jammu region. The temple is regarded as a pilgrimage site of chief importance after the Mata Vaishno Devi Temple. Devotees visit this temple in large numbers, especially on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Bagh-e-Bahu Aquarium, a recent addition to the Bagh-e-Bahu Garden that surrounds the Bahu Fort, is over 220 m in length, and has been titled as the largest underground aquarium in the country. The fish-shaped aquarium has 24 aquarium caves that further incorporate 13 small caves containing fresh-water fish apart from those with marine-water fish.
The aquarium is home to 400 different species of fish. Apart from looking at the fish, tourists can also explore the museum, the multimedia centre, the public gallery and the laboratory promoting aquatic awareness, that have been established at this site.
Surinsar Lake, situated in the vicinity of Jammu, is surrounded by thick forests with hilly terrains forming a backdrop. The lake, during summers, attracts a large number of tourists as it remains covered with blooming lotus flowers throughout the season.
According to Hindu mythology, the origin of Surinsar Lake is linked with Arjuna, an important protagonist of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. The mythological warrior, Arjuna, supposedly shot an arrow that landed on the Mansar soil. This subsequently resulted in the formation of lakes at two places, namely Mansar, the place Arjuna’s arrow landed, and Surinsar, the place from where Arjuna shot the arrow.
Tourists planning to visit the Surinsar Lake are offered accommodation facilities by the Tourism Development Corporation of Jammu & Kashmir.
Mahamaya Temple is an important site dedicated to a local female freedom fighter, Mahamaya, belonging to the Dogra community. According to historians, about 14 centuries ago, Mahamaya sacrificed her life to save the region from the clutches of foreign invaders. This site is situated on the banks of the Tawi river, where from, tourists can easily sight the Bahu Fort.
Peer Baba Dargah is a popular attraction of Jammu that remains crowded by thousands of believers throughout the year. The site is the ‘dargah’ or a Sufi shrine built over the grave of a renowned Muslim saint, Peer Budhan Ali Shah. According to popular local belief, the Muslim saint lived up to the ripe age of 500 years.
Another story claimed that the holy man only drank milk for a long and healthy life.The Muslim saint was a close companion to Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh guru. Devotees of the Baba as well as people belonging to different religions, visit the Dargah on Thursdays in order to honour the legendary saint.
Raghunath Bazaar, a bustling market place where tourists can shop from various boutiques, is popular among people for its age-old dry fruit market. Dry fruits such as almonds, raisins and walnuts can be bought here at reasonable prices.
Apart from dry fruit shops, this bazaar is renowned for its Kashmiri handicrafts and Dogra jewellery. Burfi, an Indian sweet, is a local speciality which is abundant at the Raghunath Bazaar.
Ranbireshwar Temple is a popular pilgrimage site that is dedicated to the Hindu god of destruction, Shiva. This ancient shrine was built by Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1883. This temple has two halls that have been embellished with figures of Kartikeya and Ganesha, sons of Shiva.
The temple enshrines a 7.5 ft long ‘Shiva Lingam’ apart from 12 crystal ‘Shiva Lingams’, each measuring 15 cm. ‘Shiva Lingams’ fixed on stone slabs can also be sighted inside the galleries.