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Raghunath Temple

The Raghunath Temple, Jammu

The state of Jammu & Kashmir is blessed with some popular temples and one major temple in the state is the Raghunath Temple; popular among the locals as well as the tourists of the region. Many pilgrims visit this temple and it is a highly revered temple that is situated in the city of Jammu. Raghunath Temple has been dedicated to the extremely popular and revered Lord Rama, who is a popular mythological hero among the Hindus. Apart from him a many other Gods are worshipped here. The temple premises are also home to Gods like Lord Shiva. It is correspondingly a popular site for the Amarnath pilgrims. The temple overlooks the beautiful city of Jammu and is surrounded by lush green trees and mesmerizing green valley. The city of Jammu is home to some of the most splendid sites and temples and one of the best examples of marvelous architecture in the city is the Raghunath temple. The temple is one among the best temple complexes in Northern India and it has grand complex and extremely beautiful and splendid temple architecture in the country. The temple compound is a grand one and it consists of a total of 17 temples. The temple is huge in terms of both size and scale and it has the images of all Hindu deities that exist that are represented in a grand way inside the temple.

Raghunath Temple has been dedicated to Lord Rama who is one of the primary Hindu deities. The temple was constructed by Maharaja Gulab Singh who was the founder of kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir and the work on the temple began in 1835 A.D. After his death the work was completed by Maharaja Gulab Singh’s son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh. The construction of the temple was finished in the period of 1853-1860 A.D. The main temple’s inner wall is covered with gold sheet on the three sides of the temple. The temple also has a vast gallery which has various “lingams” as well as “saligrams” that are placed for the general public as well.

Raghunath Temple

Raghunath Temple History

The Raghunath temple has a historical significance and there are multiple temples that surround the main temple and these temples are dedicated to the multiple Gods and Goddesses that are connected with the times of the epic Ramayana. This popular temple in Jammu is renowned for the temple’s depiction of Rama Leela and also of the Krishna Leela in its beautiful paintings. Prevalent legend suggests that the temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and was originally built by Raja Jagat Singh of Kullu in order to correct a major wrong that was done by him. The main idol that is placed inside the temple was brought back from Ayodhya which is the birthplace of Lord Rama according to the Ramayana.

The temple also has peeps of the Mughal masonry that can be visualized in architectural splendor of the Raghunath Temple. The temple carvings and arches are extraordinarily resplendent that grabs everyone’s attention. The temple complex also has a library that houses rare Sanskrit books as well as manuscripts. People also visit this temple in huge numbers in order to pay their homage to their deity and to seek blessings from the Lord.

The temple has a special significance in the region of Jammu as the religious life style of the Kullu valley basically revolves around the sacred idol of Lord Raghunath whom the temple is dedicated to. The daily rituals of the temple mainly comprise a sacred bath, elaborate floral decorations of the presiding deity and the daily worship of the principal deity of the Kullu valley.

Significance of the Raghunath Temple

The major significance of the Raghunath Temple is seen with seven shrines each of which has its own “Shikhara”, (which deciphers to ‘mountain peak’ in Sanskrit and this refers to rising towers and is a special part of the Hindu temple architecture especially in northern India). This temple has one of the largest temple complexes in the entire of North India which is located in Jammu city. This temple has multiple Gods enshrined in it but has the presiding deity as Lord Ram who is believed to be an “avatar” or an embodiment of Lord Vishnu.

This temple although is a famous Hindu shrine yet it came under public glare after the intense scan the devotees were performing Pooja inside the temple complex on November 24, 2002 and many suicide bombers entered the complex and a terrorist attack took place inside the temple complex. The attack resulted in 10 deaths and several devotees were injured in the blast.

The entrance of the temple has a life size image of Maharaja Ranbir Singh who was its founder and also an image of Lord Hanuman that exaggerates this holy site. The central shrine of the temple is dedicated to Lord Ram also popularly known as Raghunath after whom the temple has been named. Lord Rama is the commanding deity of this temple.

Raghunath Temple Timings

Raghunath Temple is open all hours except from evening 8PM to morning 4AM. The temple is easily reachable and there are no restrictions as such except the genera security checking outside the temple.

Festivals Celebrated At the Raghunath Temple

The temple is popular among most Hindu pilgrims as it has a number of shrines dedicated to almost all Hindu Gods. Apart from the central shrine many other shrines of the temple encompass the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The other remarkable shrine is of Lord Surya or the Sun God, which houses the multiple forms of the Lord. In the inside of the temple there are some other shrines and most of these are home to the oversize statues of Hindu Gods as well as Goddesses. The temple also has another specialty which is that it comprises almost all images of the Hindu Pantheon which is one of the unusual embodiments in temple architecture.

The major event when this shrine is set up well is during the Amarnath Yatra which is a major festival here. The pilgrims take part in the long Yatra and also visit the temple to seek blessings.

Pooja and Rituals of Raghunath Temple

The temple has the usual sermons and the rituals that are common in the Hindu Temples and it also witnesses the morning and evening aarti.

How To By Reach by Rail, Road and Air

Jammu city is easily reachable by rail, road, and air. The temple being in the city is also easily reachable by cabs and taxis.

Air Travel: Many major Airlines operate from the Jammu Airport that fly to various important destinations including Delhi, Mumbai, Srinagar. The city also has helicopter service that is available for the Vaishno Devi tourists from Katra; which is the base camp of Mata Vaishno Deviji to the Mata Vaishno Deviji Bhawan.

Rail Travel: One of the main rail lines is the Jammu Tawi which is an important railhead of the Northern India. The city of Jammu is well connected to almost every major town in India and it has very frequent trains to all the major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai etc. When the rush increases during the holiday season, additional trains also operated to and from various parts of the country.

Road Travel: Jammu being on the National Highway 1-A is exceptionally well-connected by the highway network to all parts of the country. There are daily bus services of all classes that operate to and fro to the city of Jammu to Delhi, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Jalandhar, Shimla, Manali etc. Many tourist taxies also operate between Jammu – Srinagar and Jammu – Katra.

Hotels in Jammu

Jammu being a major Indian city has many 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star hotels along with 7-star hotels and resorts. The city also has many honeymoon resorts. The major hotels are Hotel Jammu Ashok, KC Residency, and Hotel Asia. The city is fast seeing a lot of development and many more hotel chains are planning to set up in the city in the near future.

Nearby Temples

Jammu is a popular tourist spot situated on hillock and is on the bank of river Tawi. The city is bound by the Udhampur district in north and in the northeast. The Kathua district lies in the east and southeast, Pakistan (Sialkot) is in west and the Rajauri district in addition to the POK (Bhimber) are in the northwest. The city is popularly known as City of Temples as it has innumerable temples as well as also many shrines that have glittering “Shikhars” that soar into the sky. The Shikhars dot the skyline of the city and they create the ambience of holy and peaceful city.

Following are some major temple in Jammu:

  • Bave Wali Mata (Goddess Mahakali): One of the oldest forts constructed by Raja Bahulochan on the left bank of River Tawi now serves a religious temple and is mostly visited as a temple by the followers of the presiding deity Goddess Mahakali. The fort is surrounded by beautiful terraced garden which increases the rush of the temple. The temple was constructed about 3000 years ago and it is popularly known as Bave Wali Mata. The Bave Wali Mata is the presiding deity of Jammu and is a form of Goddess Kali. The temple is especially visited by the followers on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The temple is second only home to Maa Vaishno Devi of Jammu.
  • Ranbireshwar Temple: This temple is a major one among the popular Shiva temples in the Jammu region. Ranbireshwar Temple is a temple with a rich history and legend. The temple has its fixed set of devotees and also has its specific days of worship and rituals. The famous temple of the presiding deity Lord Shiva is located just opposite the Jammu & Kashmir Civil Secretariat on the Shalimar Road in the Jammu region. The temple has a stunning inside view and the temple also has twelve Shiva Lingams that are made from crystal that measures 12″ to 18″. It also has galleries that have thousands of “saligrams” that are fixed on a stone slab.
  • Panchbakhtar Temple: The meaning of Panchbakhtar is five faces and the temple is a major Mahadev Mandir that occupies unique place, in the Jammu region which is also considered as the city of temples. The temple is also one of the oldest Shivalya which means the abode of Lord Shiva of the city. It is widely believed according to the oral histories that Adi Shankryacharya had visited this site and had stayed there. The Panchvaktar Temple has an astounding inside view and it has also been connected with Shri Amarnath Yatra in the past. The temple was a camp for the Sadhus that were visiting the Holy Cave of the popular Shri Amarnathji.
  • The Peer Kho Cave Temple: It is an attractive temple that overlooks the Tawi River and is another well-known and frequently visited Shiva temple in the Jammu region. The Peer Kho Cave is located on bank of the local river Tawi and a widely believed folklore here is that the popular character of the Ramayana Jamvant (who was the bear God) had meditated for long in this cave.
  • Mahamaya Temple and City Forest: This is a major temple on bypass Road and is located behind the Bahu Fort, the ancient temple has been surrounded by the city forest, and the temple supervises the river Tawi.

Other significant temples in the Jammu region are the Lakshmi Narayan temple, Duda Dhari temple, and Panj Mandir. The city is also known for its many other tourist sites like museum and bridges.

Shankaracharya Temple

Shankaracharya Temple, Srinagar

The state of Jammu and Kashmir is blessed with some popular temples and one major temple in the state is the Shankaracharya Temple which is also called the Jyesteshwara Temple as well as the Pas-Pahar by the Buddhists who visit the temple. The Shankracharya Temple has been a highly revered temple situated on the Shankaracharya Hill that is commonly called the Takht-e-Suleiman in addition to the Gopadari Hill.  The hill is located in the Zabarwan Mountain of Srinagar, Kashmir and the temple has been dedicated to the extremely popular and admired Lord Shiva. The Shankaracharya Temple is situated on a summit that has the same name and is at the height of 1,000 feet above ground level. The temple overlooks the beautiful city of Srinagar from the height.

Shankaracharya Temple

Shankaracharya Temple History

  • The Shankaracharya Temple was built in the 200 BC but the present structure is a little recent and it dates back to the 9th century AD. The temple is also popular as it was visited by Adi Shankara which has made the temple to be associated with him. Thus the temple came to be known as the Shankaracharya Temple and this temple is also regarded sacred by the Buddhist community. The temple has a Shiv Linga that was placed in the temple during period of the Sikh in the nineteenth century. It became one of the active Hindu temples when the priests started performing regular services in the temple.  According to historians, this temple was originally a Buddhist temple that was extremely popular during the Buddhist era. The temple was then later on changed to a Hindu site and Adi Shankaracharya made it a Hindu place of worship. The Jews and Persians used to call it the Bagh-i-Sulaiman which means the Garden of King Solomon and the temple also has Persian engravings.
  • Popular legends suggest that the Hindu king “Sandiman” governed in Kashmir from 2629 to 2564 BC and he was the one who built this temple. The temple was later on repaired by King Gopaditya (426–365 BC) and then by the King Lalitaditya (697–734 AD). One the temple had been damaged due to an earthquake and Zain-ul-Abidin had repaired its roof that had tumbled down due to the earthquake. Sheikh Ghulam Mohi-nu-ddin who was a Sikh Governor from 1841–46 had also repaired the dome of the temple.
  • The Shankaracharya hill also has historical reference from the historian Kalhana who had earlier called this mountain as Gopadri. Kalhana had also said that King Gopaditya had granted the land that existed at the hill foot to Brahmins who had come from “Araya Versh.” This land grant had a religious term called the Gopa Agraharas. The same region is currently known as Gupkar. Kalhana had also mentioned another village that used to lie in the vicinity of this hill. The village is popular as it is believed that the King Gopaditya had accommodated some Brahmins who had eaten Garlic to a village next door. Kalhana has also mentioned the King Gopaditya who had built this temple on top of Shankaracharya Hill which has been built as a shrine to Lord Jyesthesvara who is a form of Lord Shiva somewhere around the era of 371 BC.
  • Abul Fazal, a famous historian mentions that the King Lalitaditya Muktapida of the Karakote dynasty had helped with some major repairs in this temple. Srivara Budsah was a king who reigned in 1420-1470 AD and he also did some major patch-up work in the temple. He had also the temple’s spike and had repaired the roof of this structure that had fallen down due to an enormous earthquake.

Significance of the Shankaracharya Temple

  • Shankaracharya Temple has a lot of history associated with it and it is also believe that Jesus Christ had visited Kashmir as well as the temple. This is also inscribed on the temple’s shrine as well as on its steps that lead to the main shrine and this has increased its popularity in the region. There were also Persian engravings on the temple and on its stairs. The historical reference to this temple also mentions the same and this has therefore become a belief of the region.
  • The temple had derived many names and the name of Takht-e-Suleiman had persisted during the periods of the Mughal, Sikh, Afghan and Dogra periods. Most of the publications that existed during the periods had all referred to this hill by the same name. The temple as well as the hill derived the name Shankaracharaya when the Governor Sheikh Mohi-ud-Din had made the repairs during 19th century. Since then the temple was not used as a temple and later on it was consecrated as Shankaracharaya temple and this is when Shiv Lingam was placed in temple. During the period of the Sikh, people started prayer services inside the temple and then the festival of Shravan Poornima was also celebrated at this temple which became a custom.
  • Gulab Singh who was a popular Dogra King of this region had also constructed the existing steps to reach the hill. The electrical installations that exist on the temple were made by the Maharaja of Mysore who had come to Kashmir region in 1925. The current statue of Adi Shankaracharaya was put in the temple in 1961 and in 1974 the J&K Government constructed the current road that takes the tourists to the TV antenna which is near the hill top.
  • The temple of Jyoteshware rests on solid rock with a 20 something foot tall octagonal base that supports the square building on the top. There is a terrace around this square temple which is reached by stone staircases that are enclosed between two walls. There is a doorway which is on opposite side of staircase and it leads to interior. The interior is a small dark chamber, which is circular in the plan. It has a ceiling that is supported by octagonal columns and this surrounds a small basin that contains the Lingam which is encircled by a snake.
  • Shankaracharya Temple is regularly worshipped by the pilgrims who visit the region during the popular Amarnath Yatra. The 243 steps that lead up to this temple area are not very steep and can be easily climbed. The temple overlooks the beautiful Srinagar town and the temple is located at height of about 1100 feet. This sacred site also offers splendid views of Kashmir valley and the splendid snow covered mountains can also be seen from here especially the Pir Panjal range. The shrine is one of the oldest in the region and in the Kashmir valley.
  • The shrine also has a circular cell which provides views of the valley below and the innermost chamber of this temple was renovated and is now covered with modern ceilings. This temple also is a very well known spot amongst the religious tourists and it is also known to have a lot of religious as well as architectural importance in the region.

Shankaracharya Temple Timings

The temple opens in morning 6 AM and the cars are allowed inside from then onwards. It is under the protection of the Army and hence the entrance is guarded by the army personnel. Cars aren’t permitted inside the temple after 5 PM but the temple does remain open till 8 PM.

Festivals Celebrated at the Shankaracharya Temple

Kashmir has been a popular seat of Shaivism. The Himalayas and the Mount Kailash are nearby and it is believed that the devotion of Shiva spread in the entire India from here, by spiritual work of great saints like Adi Shankaracharya. The Soundarya Lahari is a rich text and lyrical constructed and composed by Adi Shankara at the top of the Gopadari Hill. He had composed the same after accepting that the union of Shiva and Shakti had happened here. It is believed that when Shiva unites with Shakti, he gets the power of creating. Thus the temple has a lot of significance among Shaivaites and they celebrate Shivratri with great vigor here.

Poojas and Rituals at Shankaracharya Temple

The Lingam is offered milk and fruits and flowers by the devotees and they sing songs in praise of the Lord here.

How to reach by Rail, Road and Air

Tourists have to take special permission from the army department to visit this temple. Jammu and Srinagar are major cities of India and both are well connected to all parts of the country by trains, airways and road.  Following are the major roadways, railways and airways of the city of Srinagar:

By Bus: Shankaracharya Temple is easy to access by roadways. There are several private bus service providers who run deluxe bus packages from nearby cities to Srinagar is connected to Chandigarh and Jammu etc. The package tours expense around Rs. 4/- to Rs. 5/- per km.

By Rail: Jammu is the nearby railway station to Srinagar, found at 290 km away. The Railway station of Jammu is well linked to different main cities of the country by rail services. There are direct train services available from Chennai, Delhi, Trivandrum and Bangalore.

By Air: The Srinagar airport connected to major cities of the country. There are effective flights between Srinagar and Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai and Shimla. The frequency is generally once or two times a day which is standard amongst all the airlines

Hotels in Srinagar

Srinagar is a major Indian city and thus has many 3-Star, 4-Star, 5-Star hotels as well as many luxurious resorts like Hotel Akbar, the Lalit Grand Palace and Vivanta Dal View by Taj. The city has a major attraction in the form of the houseboats that are dwelled by many tourists and many Inns, cottages and private residences are also present in the city.

Nearby Temples and Attractions

Srinagar is a wonderful city in the Kashmir valley that has a lot of natural beauty and the city is nestled among mountains. The city is situated on the banks of the holy River Jhelum and has many diverse temples that have great architectural grandeur and history associated with them. The city also has beautiful gardens and lakes. Some of the major tourist attractions of Srinagar are the Dal Lake, Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bag and Jami Masjid.

Following are some major temples in Srinagar:

  • Pandrethan Temple, Srinagar: An old stone structure, the Pandrethan temple is a major temple that is associated with the Emperor Ashoka and is one of the major attractions of the city.
  • Bhuteshwara Temple, Srinagar: The temple was constructed in the 12th century and is blessed with great architecture and thus holds great importance among the locals.
  • Sharika Devi Temple, Hari Parbat, Srinagar: This is a temple laced with many mystical theories from the ancient Hindu mythology. The temple’s presiding deity is Sharika Devi who is also the major deity of the Srinagar city.
  • JwalaMukhi Temple, Khru, Srinagar: The picturesquely placed temple is atop a hillock and is a popular draw for the tourists.
  • Rameshwaram Shiva Temple, Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar: The popular Shiva Temple has religious significance and has associations with Hinduism, but also Sikhism.
  • Martand Sun Temple, Anantnag, Srinagar: The Anantnag temple is popular among the devotees who visit the Amarnath temple and the temple is a work of genius architectural labour. This temple was built by the King Lalitaditya of the Surya (Solar) dynasty.
  • Mamal Shiva Temple, Pahalgam, Srinagar: The popular Shiva Temple is one that has exceptional popularity amongst the faithful devotees and the devotees throng the temple in spite of its ruined condition.

The Adi Shankaracharya Temple of Srinagar has been a significant and historical temple and it thus carries special importance among the locals as well as the tourists. The temple being dedicated to Lord Shiva is visited by many people and the city of Srinagar is also an important destination for many people and is visited by many tourists. The temple is a place with immense natural beauty in and around the temple and so the place is worth a visit.

Hari Parbat

Hari Parbat, Srinagar

Hari Parbat or the Sharika Peeth is a popular temple in Srinagar and is commonly known as Shri Jagat Amba Sharika Bhagwati as well as the Maha Tripura Sundari. In the nearby regions it is known as the Rajeshwari or the Hari Temple. The temple is under the protection of the Indian Army and the devotees take special permission from the Army before visiting. This is the one of the ancient and holiest temple in the region of Kashmir and the temple is situated on a holy hill called Hari Parbat at the fringe of the Srinagar city. The presiding Goddess has 18 arms and is regarded as the reigning deity (‘isht’ Devi’) of the Srinagar city.

The Goddess has been exemplified by a Swyambhu Shrichakra (Mahamaha Shrichakra), also called the Maha Shri Yantra, which entails of the circular spiritual impressions and triangular patterns with a dot (Bindu) at the center and is extremely significant in terms of religious importance among the followers of the Goddess. The Hari Parbat hill is considered extremely holy due to the presence of the temples of Sharika Devi and is highly revered especially by the Kashmiri Pundits.

The entire Hari Parbat is considered as a sacred place in the region. There are the number of hallow temples on its all sides represents the different deities. Devotees undertake a circumambulation of the whole hill rock of the Hari Parbat in the form of Parikrama, which starts from the Lord Ganesha shrine located on the south western corner of Hari Parbat. Temples that fall on the Parikrama way are the Saptrishi Sathapna (Satresh), next pious place is the Sathapna of the Goddess Kali which is marked by small temple which comprises eight Bairvas called as Asht Bhairav. Further in Parikrama route is a vast stretch of open space known as Devi Angan, which was play field of the cosmic mother. The next on the parikrama is the Sthapana of the Hari that is represented by a rock located on north eastern face of hill rock.

The devotees at the temple offers “Teher Charvan” which are the traditional offering consisting of rice boiled with turmeric powder and mixed with oil, salt and cooked liver of goat that is given to the almighty Goddess on the occasion of Sharika Jayanti. This Jayanti is locally known as Chout Kharoun. Magh month is considered very distinct because of the Navratri (locally known as Navreh or the New Year day of Kashmiri Pundit). Special prayers and worships are offered by devotees in this month, further; the next temple is Amber Koul and opposite to it lays the temple of Goddess Mahalaxmi Sthapana. Then Sathapna of Lord Vamdev is located on left side of Parikrama route. On the left side of the Vamdev temple is Sathopa temple. The next temple is located left down of Vamdev who is considered as the Divine consort of the Goddess Reghnya. Last spot of the parikrama is the small Hanuman temple which is located on the right side of foot hill. The circumambulation of the Hari Parbat ends at Kathi Darwaza.

Hari Parbat 2

Hari Parbat History

  • Hari Parbat is a fort perched on the top of the Sharika Hill and originated in the western side of the Dal Lake which overlooks the city of Srinagar. Hari Parbat was constructed in the time of Mughal emperors. It is located on the embankments of the Dal Lake which sparkles like a quicksilver delusion below the saffron sunbeam and the beautiful Shikaras sailing and adorning the water increase the natural beauty of the region. The fort has mind blowing beauty of its surroundings. The fort has an high altitude which provides an attractive view of the Dal Lake having the astounding fringes of Chinar trees and the landscaped Char Chinar which stands in the midst having a lush of Foliage makes the place look wonderful.
  • Originally the Hari Parbat fort was constructed during the 18th century by Atta Mohammad Khan, a Governor of Afghanistan but fortification of the outer wall was done by Akbar, the Mughal emperor in 1590. At that time its construction cost was around one crore and ten lakh rupees, and this large amount was taken from royal treasure. Its masonry work has been done by Indian artisans very skillfully.
  • According to the ancient scriptures, the tale of the Hari Parbat is that the region where the hill stands presently was surrounded by huge lake and was inhabited by a demon called Jalodbhava (water demon). The inhabitants called on the Goddess for the help and she converted herself into a bird and dropped pebble on the head of demon, which grew larger and larger until it crushed the demon. The pebble transformed into the Hari Parbat and is said to be home of for all the gods of the Hindu pantheon.
  • Another myth is there were two demons named Chand and Mund and they lived in Kashmir valley. Chand conceded himself in water near the present location of the Hari Parbat and Mund was present somewhere above the present Dal Gate. Both Chand and Mund together endangered the people of the valley. To safeguard these people God appealed as ‘shakti’, who expected the form of a Hari (Myna) and flew to the Sumer, brought pebble in her beak and threw it on Chand. That pebble transformed into and grew as a mountain, crumpled the demon and was later termed Hari Parbat.

Architecture of Hari Parbat

There is a Guru Dwara of Guru Hargobind Singh in the vicinity of the Hari Parbat. There are two Darwaza; Sanghi and Kathi of old wall, that stretches to 5 kms and has a height of 10 meters. Kathi is the major entrance which has beautiful Persian inscriptions all around it.

This fort also has a temple of Sharika Goddess. There are Guru Chatti Padshahi and the Sixth Sikh guru’s shrine outside the southern gate of the fort. It is called as the Chatti Padshahi. The hill, which rises to 122 mts from the floor of the valley and is bounded by orchards of almond trees where people gather for picnics during months of summer and springs.

Significance of the Hari Parbat Temple

After visiting the Hari Parbat, King Chakreshwar is believed to have worshiped all the Gods and Goddesses of Hindu Mythology and had obtained all his worldly desires and wishes. Therefore, it is believed that Saints and Yogis achieved the ultimate on worshiping at this Sharika Peeth. Thus most people visit the temple to get all their wishes fulfilled.

Hari Parbat Temple Timings

The temple is open for all devotees at any time of the day. Also people of all caste or creed can visit the temple as it does not distinguish between them. The timings for the temple are from 6AM to 10PM. Tuesday is considered a special day for all devotees and a large number of worshipers visit the temple. On fulfillment of wishes people offer gifts and sarees in the temple and promises are also made before the deity.

Festivals Celebrated At the Hari Parbat Temple

The Chakrishwar Shrine is a popular place of worship in the temple. Goddess Sharika had look as if here at Hari Parbat as a ‘shila’ (small rock) which has augmented the religious implication of the hill top. Sharika Bhagwati’s birthday is celebrated on the Ashad Navami (Har Navum) which is an imperative occasion in the temple. Other propitious days when worshiping prayers are offered at the Sharika Temple Peeth are the Phagun Krishna Ashtami (Hora Ashtami), Ashad Shukla Saptami, Ashtami and Navami (Har Satum, Har Aatham and Har Navum).

Poojas and Ritual at Hari Parbat Temple

The temple is devoted to Goddess and hence the customs are the same that are offered to the Goddess in the region. The Kashmiri Pandits implore here with special chants and mantras and the poojas last as long as the implication of the occasion. During Navratri, special poojas are performed here and the Goddess is offered special prasadam and is decorated with all beautiful clothes. There are many fairs and procession carried out in and near the temple during this time of the year.

How to Reach By Rail, Road and Air

Tourists have to take special permission from the army department to visit this temple. Jammu is a major city of India and is well connected to all parts of the country by trains, airways and road.  Following are the major roadways, railways and airways of the city:

By Bus: Hari Parbat is easy to access by roadways. There are several private bus service providers who run deluxe bus packages from nearby cities to Srinagar and are connected to Chandigarh and Jammu etc. The package tours expense around Rs. 4/- to Rs. 5/- per km.

By Rail: Jammu is the nearby railway station to Srinagar, found at 290 kms away. The Railway station of Jammu is well linked to different main cities of the country by rail services. There are direct train services available from Chennai, Delhi, Trivandrum and Bangalore.

By Air: The Srinagar airport connected to major cities of the country. There are effective flights between Srinagar and Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai and Shimla. The frequency is generally once or two times a day which is standard amongst all the airlines.

Hotels in Srinagar

Srinagar is a major Indian city and thus has many 3-Star, 4-Star, 5-Star hotels as well as many luxurious resorts like Hotel Akbar, the Lalit Grand Palace and Vivanta Dal View by Taj. The city has a major attraction in the form of the houseboats that are dwelled by many tourists and many inns, cottages and private residences are also present in the city.

Nearby Temples and Attractions

Srinagar is a wonderful city poised with natural beauty and nestled among mountains. The city is situated on the banks of the Jhelum and has many diverse temples of great architectural grandeur. The city has beautiful gardens and lakes. Some of the major tourist attractions of Srinagar are the Dal Lake, Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bag and Jami Masjid.

Following are some major temples in Srinagar:

  • Shankaracharya Temple, Srinagar: Adi Shankaracharya had visited this temple and hence it derived its name. The temple is a soaring imposing structure and highly visited.
  • Martand Sun Temple, Anantnag, SrinagarThe Anantnag temple is popular among the devotees who visit the Amarnath temple and the temple is a work of genius architectural labor. This temple was built by the King Lalitaditya of the Surya (Solar) dynasty.
  • Pandrethan Temple, Srinagar: An old stone structure, the Pandrethan temple is a major temple that is associated with the Emperor Ashoka and is one of the major attractions of the city.
  • Sharika Devi Temple, Hari Parbat, Srinagar: This is a temple laced with many mystical theories from the ancient Hindu mythology. The temple’s presiding deity is Sharika Devi who is also the major deity of the Srinagar city.
  • JwalaMukhi Temple, Khru, Srinagar: The picturesquely placed temple is atop a hillock and is a popular draw for the tourists.
  • Rameshwaram Shiva Temple, Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar: The popular Shiva Temple has religious significance and has associations with Hinduism, but also Sikhism.
  • Bhuteshwara Temple, Srinagar: The temple was constructed in the 12th century and is blessed with great architecture and thus holds great importance among the locals.
  • Mamal Shiva Temple, Pahalgam, Srinagar: The popular Shiva Temple is one that has exceptional popularity amongst the faithful devotees and the devotees throng the temple in spite of its ruined condition.

The Hari Parbat Temple of Srinagar has been a significant temple and carries special importance among the Kashmiri Brahmins. The temple being dedicated to the presiding deity is visited by many people and the city of Srinagar is also an important destination for many people and is visited by many tourists. The temple is a place with immense natural beauty in and around the temple and thus the place is worth a visit.

Kheer Bhawani

Kheer Bhawani Temple, Srinagar

Kheer Bhawani Temple in Srinagar is one of the most picturesque and popular temples in the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir. It has been dedicated to the locally prevalent Goddess Kheer Bhawani (originally she was revered as just Bhawani). The temple has been constructed on a sacred spring and this is one of the major attractions of the temple. The Kashmiri Hindus universally worship Goddess Kheer Bhawani and she is among the most respected Goddesses in the community.

The famous temple is located about 14 miles in the east of the Srinagar city and is near the village Tul Mul. It is protected by the Indian Army and the soldiers ensure the name of the temple is derived from the word kheer meaning rice pudding that is a popular prasadam offered. Many people believe that there was a mulberry tree near the holy spot of the temple and in the local language, it is called tulmul. Hence, the place derived its name. The goddess has many names as it is a custom with most Hindu deities. She is called Maharagya Devi, Ragnya Bhagwati, Ragnya Devi and Rajni.

Kheer Bhawani

Kheer Bhawani History

According to stories, the Goddess Maharagya was extremely pleased with the devotion of the demon Ravana and she appeared before him. Ravana then got the image of the Goddess that he saw, installed in Sri Lanka. But the Goddess became displeased with the brutal and wicked life of Ravana and as a result, she was no more pleased to stay in Sri Lanka. Therefore, according to a popular legend, she instructed Lord Hanuman to get her image from there and this was installed here at the holy spot of Tul Mul.

Ragniya is one of the Rupa or incarnations of Goddess Durga and the one at Tul Mul is a Vaishnav Rupa. In the Kashmir, Ragniya is known as Tripura. In Sri Lanka, the Mother Goddess was popular as Shayama. Goddess Sita (the consort of Lord Rama) is also believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Ragniya. According to Ragniya Mahatmya, those who meditate on the PanchDashi Mantra during Navreh (New Year in Kashmir), the Mother Goddess Ragniya grants all their wishes.

Another legend states that the temple is the spot where Lord Rama had worshiped Ragnya Devi while he was in his exile. Lord Rama asked his devotee Lord Hanuman to shift the Goddess form, Lanka, after the exile period was over. Hence, Lord Hanuman brought the seat of the Goddess to Shadipora first and later she was shifted to the current site.

According to popular mythology, the night during which the Mother Goddess was brought from Sri Lanka to Kashmir has been termed as Ragniya Ratriand. This is a major festival among the Kashmiri Pandits. Many shrines have been dedicated to the goddess in Kashmir at Tiker, Manzgam (Noor-abad) Bheda, Bhuvaneshvar, Lo-qraer-pur, Rai-than, Mani-gam and Baed-pur but the one at Tul-Mul has been the most famous one and so this shrine is a focus of the pilgrims. 360 springs (nagas) are believed to have gathered at this spot.

The Ragniya form of the Goddess is Sattavie form which means the form of bliss and tranquility. Kheer Bhawani has been mentioned elaborately in the Kalhana’s Rajtarangini. The texts mention that the sacred spring of the Tula Mula region is situated in a marshy ground. This spring has been named as the Mata Ragini Kund (pond). The Brahmins of the Kashmir region worship this spring and the pilgrims from all comers of the country visit here to have the pious darshan of this place and of Maharagini as the form of Goddess Durga Bhagvati.

According to the text of Rajtarangini, Tula Mula, and the Maharagya spring both have been considered extremely sacred and the region’s Brahmins of Tula Mula are considered to have immense spiritual prowess. As stated by legends, during the Samvat 4041 of the Hindu lunar calendar, when the sacred Spring of Tula Mula in Kashmir was inundated under the sway of the floods, the holy place couldn’t be seen anywhere and couldn’t be traced. It was then that Yogi Krishna Pandit of Kashmir had a dream and the Goddess appeared to him to direct that she will be swimming in the form of a snake at some proper place and asked him to demarcate the holy spot with large poles in the marsh land. The holy spot was subsequently discovered at the same spot as directed by the Goddess.

The place had also uncovered the ruins of an old temple and shrine slabs that were engraved with figures were discovered and many images were found. In the 1920s, Maharaja Pratap Singh, an ardent disciple of Goddess got the marble temple made in the middle of a spring that shines similar to a pearl in the midst of a shell.

Another mention of the temple is in the book Ain-i-Akbari where Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak had mentioned the area of the Tula Mula extending over a hundred bighas (units of land area) that used to sink in marshy lands during summers. The holy place was also visited by Swami Rama Tirtha and Swami Vivekananda. When Swami Vivekananda visited the temple, during his stay, he ritually worshiped Kheer Bhavani and he communicated with the Goddess.

The sacred spring situated here is uniquely septagonal and has been dedicated to Goddess Kheer Bhawani. The spring flows from the west direction to the east. This holy spring mysteriously changes its color in various hues including red, pink, orange, and green, blue, white and this was noted by both Abul Fazal and Swami Vivekananda. The spring located at a distance of 27 kms from Srinagar, in Jammu & Kashmir of India, and is considered to be a form of the Goddess Mata Ragnya Devi.

Significance of the Kheer Bhawani Temple

Kheer Bhawani temple is highly important among the followers of the historical Vedic Religion in the Kashmir region and the followers are called Kashmiri Pandits. The area around the temple is covered with smooth and beautiful stones and large and old chinar trees that grow near the temple which is a popular place for the pilgrims to sit or sleep on the soft mats of grass. A major significance of the temple is due to the occasional change in the color of the spring water which when black or darkish is believed to indicate inauspicious times for the Kashmir region. This popular belief was reinforced at the time of the visit of Walter Lawrence, the-then British settlement commissioner for land in 1886. He visited the spring and reported the water of the spring having a violet tinge. A darkish or murky tinge was observed by the locals in the spring water just before the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and during the infamous 1989 insurgency in the valley.

Kheer Bhawani Temple Timings

Kheer Bhawani Temple is open from morning 6AM to 8PM every day.

Festivals Celebrated At the Kheer Bhawani Temple

The annual festival held at the temple is the Mela Kheer Bhawani which is the time when the devotees of the Goddess Mata Kheer Bhawani gather here and fast on the eighth day of the full moon. The festival is held during the month of May/ June. The annual festival is a public holiday in the state of Kashmir. This is the time when, according to a popular belief, the Goddess changes the color of the water of the spring and this is due to the mysterious manifestations of the Goddess Mata Kheer Bhawani.

This time of the festival on the eighth day of the full moon holds high significance for the devotees of the temple’s presiding deity Ragnya Devi. The temple serves as the main venue for the annual celebrations on the occasion of Jesht Ashtami. A large number of Hindus gather at the temple and seek the blessings of the goddess. The temple also gains special visitors during the occasion of Shukla Paksh Ashtami. Many havans/yagys are performed by the holy men during the festival to please the goddess.

Poojas and Rituals at Kheer Bhawani Temple

The Kashmiri Pandits hold special reverence towards the temple and thus they perform many rituals at the temple to please the Goddess and to keep their region safe from any external danger. It is believed that there were 360 springs surrounding the main temple earlier that disappeared and the land became marshy and so the Kashmiri Brahmins for whom the Kheer Bhawani is the presiding deity perform special yagys here to protect the temple. A lot of people also visit here for a pilgrimage and chant mantras for their Goddess.

How to Reach By Road, Rail & Air

Kheer Bhawani Temple is located in the village Tul Mul at a distance of 1 hour, 14 miles in the east of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. The temple is guarded by soldiers from all around and from a distance as many devotees visit here so while visiting the devotees first need to register near the entrance gate. Srinagar can be reached from all parts of the country through rail, road as well as airways.

By Air: There are regular flights from all the major cities of the country to Srinagar and the Srinagar Airport is the major airport.

By Train: Srinagar does not have its own railway station but the nearest railway station is the Udhampur station. It is situated 130 kms away from Srinagar and the Ram Nagar station is located 138 kms away from the city

By Bus: Regular buses can be caught from Srinagar to all other major cities of the country and back. The major bus stand is at Srinagar.

Hotels in Srinagar

Srinagar has many 3-Star, 4-Star, 5-Star hotels as well as many luxurious resorts like Hotel Akbar, The Lalit Grand Palace and Vivanta Dal View by Taj. It is also house to many houseboats and many inns, cottages and private residences.

Nearby Temples and Attractions

Srinagar is a wonderful city poised with natural beauty and nestled among mountains. The city is situated on the banks of the Jhelum and has many diverse temples of great architectural grandeur. The city has beautiful gardens and lakes. Some of the major tourist attractions of Srinagar are the Dal Lake, Shalimar Bagh, Nishat Bag and Jami Masjid.

Following are some major temples in Srinagar:

  • Shankaracharya Temple, Srinagar: Adi Shankaracharya had visited this temple and hence it derived its name. The Temple is a soaring imposing structure and highly visited.
  • Sharika Devi Temple, Hari Parbat: This is a temple laced with many mystical theories from the ancient Hindu mythology. The temple’s presiding deity is Sharika Devi who is also the major deity of the Srinagar city.
  • Martand Sun Temple, Anantnag: The Anantnag temple is popular among the devotees who visit the Amarnath temple and the temple is a work of genius architectural labor. This temple was built by the King Lalitaditya of the Surya (Solar) dynasty.
  • Pandrethan Temple, Srinagar: An old stone structure, the Pandrethan temple is a major temple that is associated with Emperor Ashoka and is one of the major attractions of the city.
  • Bhuteshwara Temple, Srinagar: The temple was constructed in the 12th century and is blessed with great architecture and as a result holds great importance among the locals.
  • Jwala Mukhi Temple, Khru: The picturesquely placed temple is atop a hillock and is a popular draw for the tourists.
  • Rameshwaram Shiva Temple, Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar: The popular Shiva temple has religious significance and has associations with Hinduism, but also Sikhism.
  • Mamal Shiva Temple, Pahalgam: The popular Shiva temple is one that has exceptional popularity amongst the faithful devotees and the devotees throng the temple in spite of its ruined condition.

The Kheer Bhawani Temple of Srinagar has been a temple of special importance among the Kashmiri Brahmins and so does the city of Srinagar that is visited by many tourists. A temple is a place with immense natural beauty and thus is worth a visit.

Amarnath Yatra

Amarnath Yatra – The Amarnath Cave, Chandanwari Hills. Jammu and Kashmir

One of the most difficult and sacred pilgrimages undertaken by Hindus from all over the country is the famous Amarnath Yatra during the summer months od July – August. Amarnath Yatra is a journey of faith taken to receive the blessings of Lord Shiva every year by thousands of ardent devotees. Amarnath Yatra end destination is the holy Amarnath cave located at an altitude of 3888 meters (12760 feet) in the Himalayan mountain range known as the Chandanwari Hills. The shrine receives more than 4 lakh pilgrims in a 45-day visiting period during the month of Shravan and the Shravani Mela.

The devotees have to trek a distance of 42 km on foot from the scenic town of Pahalgam. For a person in healthy condition, the trek will take 4 – 5 days to complete. There are two approaches to the holy cave – the longer but traditional route from Srinagar (42 km) or the shorter new steep route (16 km) from a town called Baltal.

For Amarnath Yatra, cave itself is surrounded by snowy peaks on all sides. The total height of the cave is 130 feet. A snowy stalagmite forms the shape of the Shiva Linga which is worshiped with great reverence. Besides the main Linga, three other formations representing smaller Lingas are worshiped as Lord Ganesha and Goddess Parvati and Bhairava.

Every year, Amarnath Yatra is organized by the J&K State Government in collusion with the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. The Government is responsible for providing necessary facilities like food supplies, power, telecommunication, water, tents, and ponies. Apart from the Government, several non-profit organizations set up pandals along the journey to serve the visiting devotees at free of cost.

Amarnath-Temple 2

Amarnath Yatra History

  • The cave is believed to have been in existence since the age of the Gods and Goddesses. The cave has been mentioned in the Bringesh Samhita and the Nilamata Purana. A 6th century Sanskrit work depicting the life of Kashmiris also mentions a holy cave where Lord Shiva is worshiped as an ice Linga. The Amarnath Mahatmaya provides extensive details of the pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine. It also enlists all the holy sites en route and their significance. The Amarnath Mahatmaya is believed to explain the importance of Amarnath in details and takes its facts from the ancient Adi-Purana.
  • The legend associated with the cave is fascinating and intriguing. According to scriptures, the cave is believed to have been chosen by Lord Shiva himself for enlighting Goddess Parvati about immortality and how to achieve it. There is a story behind this that has been passed on for generations.
  • As per the story, Goddess Parvati wanted to know the reason Lord Shiva wore the Mund Mala. Mund Mala is the necklace of skulls that Lord wears around his neck. To this, the Lord replied that he added one skull to the necklace whenever she died and resurrected. Goddess Parvati became curious and asked him why is that he is immortal while she has to go through the cycles of birth and death. To satisfy her curiosity, Lord Shiva told her to listen to the Amar Katha, the story of immortality.
  • However, to tell her the secret, he decided that the selected place should be isolated and that no living thing must be able to overhear it. After searching for such a suitable place, he arrived at the Amarnath Cave. On the way, he let go of all living things associated with him such as Nandi, the snakes, his son Ganesha, the Five elements and the moon God so that none could overhear the secret.
  • Lord Shiva along with Goddess Parvati entered the cave. Lord Shiva sat on a deer skin and concentrated hard to make sure that no mortal was nearby to hear the tale. He created a Rudra named Kalagni and ordered him to eliminate all the living things around the cave. As soon as that was accomplished, he started narrating the tale. Unknowingly to both of them, a Pigeon egg was hidden and alive beneath the bedding Lord Shiva used to sit and tell the story. A pair of Pigeons eventually hatched out if it and became immortal since they had listened to that story. It is believed that this pair of Pigeons can still be seen around the cave by the visiting pilgrims.
  • The discovery of the shrine is contested by two versions. As per ancient epics, the valley of Kashmir was under water for a long time. Sage Kashyapa drained the water from the valley by creating several rivers and their distributaries. Sage Bhrigu visited Kashmir on one of his spiritual journeys and stumbled upon the Holy Cave. It is believed that he was the first person apart from Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati themselves, to visit the holy cave. As the news of the Linga spread, pilgrims began to arrive at the shrine to pay their respect to their beloved God and Goddess.
  • Another more recent story says that the cave was actually discovered 700 years ago by a shepherd named Buta Malik. As per his version, once, while roaming through the mountains, he met a Saint and was given a bag of coal to carry home. When he reached home and opened the bag, he found gold instead of coal. He was overjoyed and trekked back to thank the Saint. However, when he reached the spot, he could not find the Saint but in its place found the holy cave with the Linga. He ran back and announced his discovery to the villagers. Word of the cave spread fast and eventually, the spot became a pilgrimage undertaken by a large number of people every year.
  • Another popular legend associated with the cave is that of Sage Bringesh. The disciples of Sage Bringesh decided to take a pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave. On the way, they were attacked by demons. They could not complete the journey and requested the assistance of Sage Bringesh. The Sage performed penance to Lord Shiva for his assistance. Appeased, Lord Shiva gifted him the Chhari Mubarak to be carried by him for safety.

Significance of Amarnath Yatra

  • It is believed by ardent devotees that this cave is the spot where Lord Shiva grants the boon of immortality to the other Gods.
  • As per the ancient Sage Bringesh, the importance of the holy cave is such that, anyone who visits the shrine attains moksha or enlightenment.
  • According to religious beliefs, the Lingam made of snow grows with the rising phase of the moon and diminishes in size during the diminishing phase of the moon during the Summer or the Shravan month. However, this fact is not scientifically proven.
  • The areas surrounding the Pahalgam base camp are extremely significant from the mythological point of view. It is a belief that Lord Shiva left Nandi at Pahalgam (Bail Gaon), let go of his snakes at Lake Sheshnag, released the moon from his hair at Chandanwari, left his son Lord Ganesh at Mahaguna Mountains (also known as Mahaganesh Mountain), and left the five elements of Earth at Panjtarni. It is believed that he performed the Tandav dance at the site as a symbol of renouncing the earthly world.

Temple Timings for Amarnath Yatra

  • The cave remains open to public during the month of July-August (Vyas Purnima to Shravan Purnima) only.
  • All Yatris have to register at the Jammu and Kashmir Tourist Offices located at major cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jammu and Srinagar.
  • It is highly recommended that one gets themselves a complete medical checkup before proceeding for the Yatra. The trek involves walking for 42 km at a high altitude.

Dress Code for Amarnath Yatra

The Holy cave is located at an elevation of 12,000 feet. The weather conditions are erratic as it may rain or snow anytime during the journey. The temperature may fall as low as -5 degree Celsius. Hence, it is recommended that one should be dressed in heavy woolen clothes. Additional jackets, monkey caps, mufflers, ear-covering gear, thermal wear, woolen socks, raincoat, umbrellas, blankets, torches with spare batteries, flasks, and portable small tents or beds are highly recommended for the journey.

Saree is a very uncomfortable wear for the women pilgrims. It is also advised to wear proper sports shoes for the trek.

Poojas and Rituals

  • Pratham Pooja – The Pratham Pooja means the “First Pooja”. This Pooja is performed at the holy cave on the day the Yatra is declared open. The members of the J&K Government, as well as the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board, attend the Pooja without fail. Several Vedic mantras, as well as Shlokas, are chanted in praise of Lord Shiva, following which the Prasad is distributed among the devotees. The Pooja ceremony involves Bhoomi Pooja, Navagraha Pooja, Chhari Pooja and lastly the Dhwajarohan indicating the beginning of the yatra. The Pooja is held on the day of Vyas-Purnima (July).
  • Chhari Mubarak – The auspicious event marks the end of the Amarnath Yatra. The Chhari refers to the holy mace of Lord Shiva that he gifted to the Sage Bringesh. The Chhari Mubarak is taken to the shrine on the day of Shravan Purnima, also celebrated as the Raksha Bandhan. After the Pratham Pooja, he Chhari is then returned to the Dashnami Akhara where it is kept for darshan. Special Poojas are performed for Naga Panchami. Then the mace is carried to the holy Amarnath Shrine by the traditional route.

How to reach Amarnath

  • By Air – The nearest airport is the Srinagar International Airport that is well connected to cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, Leh, Chennai, Chandigarh, Jammu, and Amritsar. The airport connects the city of Jeddah with a flight operated by Air India.
  • By Train – Jammu Tawi is the nearest railway station to Pahalgam from where the trek begins. Jammu is well connected to almost all the major cities in India like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Lucknow, Bhopal, Ludhiana, Hyderabad, and Allahabad.
  • By Road – The Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) operates regular buses to Pahalgam and Baital from Jammu and Srinagar.
  • Helicopter services are operated from Srinagar by private operators till Panjtarni, 6 km from the cave.

Where to stay

During the arduous journey, tent accommodation is arranged by the Jammu and Kashmir Government as well as several Non-Profit Organizations. These services are provided at the base camps along the trek like Sheshnag, Panchtarni etc.

Where to eat

Government aided and NGO aided tents are set up at strategic points throughout the trek route. They offer simple vegetarian food to the devotees. It is strictly advised to carry snacks like chocolates, toffees, biscuits, dry fruits, and medicines for altitude sickness.

Nearby Temples

  • Mamleshwar Temple – The ancient and mythologically important temple lies just 1 km from the main Pahalgam center. The Temple date back to the 5th century and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. According to the legend, this is the place where Goddess Parvati instructs Ganesha to stand guard at the Temple entrance and not allow anyone inside.
  • Sri Shankaracharya Temple – The famous and ancient temple dedicated to Sri Shankaracharya is located on a hilltop in Srinagar, 88 km from Amarnath base Pahalgam. The Temple is also known as Jyesteshwara Temple. The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Shiva. The original shrine is believed to date back to 200 BC. The present structure has been constructed somewhere during the 9th century. The Temple is also a sacred site for the Persians, Buddhists and the Jews.
  • Martand Sun Temple – The enchanting and ghostly ruins of the once great and beautiful temple dedicated to the Sun God Surya is not to be missed. The Temple is located just 40 km from Pahalgam. The foundation of the temple dates back to the 4th century but the temple is believed ti have been built in the 8th century by the Lalitaditya Muktapida of the Karkota dynasty. The antechamber of the temple contains ruined sculptures and images of Lord Vishnu, Goddess Ganga, Yamuna, and Surya.

Vaishno Devi Temple

Vaishno Devi Temple

India is often described as the Land of Gods, where you will find places of great religious significance every few hundred kilometers. One such holy and revered shrine dedicated to Goddess Shakti (Sati or Adi Parashakti) is Vaishno Devi Temple located among the Trikuta Mountains in Jammu and Kashmir. The beloved shrine is visited by lakhs of pilgrims every year who brave harsh weather and a steep climb with true dedication and devotion to receive her blessings.

Vaishno Devi Temple is actually a cave where the Goddess is worshiped in the form of a five feet rock having a three-headed peak. These three heads are locally known as Pindies, each representing the three holy forms of Goddess Shakti. The Pindi on the right of the devotee represents Goddess Mahakali, the central Pindi represents Goddess Mahalakshmi and the Pindi to the left represents Goddess Saraswati.

Vaishno Devi Temple is located at one of the three peaks of the Trikuta Mountains. The 13 km Trek to the peak of the mountain begins at Katra, passes through Banganga and then diversifies into two different routes. One route passes via the Adhkuwari Temple and is the old route to reach the Bhawan. The route is steep and narrow but is considered to be built along the original route that the Goddess must have taken to reach the Holy Cave at the top. For the convenience of the devotees, a new route was constructed by the administration. The new route passes through Himkoti. The track is wide with an ascendable gradient. The track is preferred by pilgrims accompanied by senior citizens and children.

The Banganga is the first stop for the pilgrims en route to the Bhawan, followed by the Charan Paduka and Adhkuwari. The Adhkuwari shrine is the halfway point to the Bhawan. Vaishno Devi Temple is managed well and provides all required modern services to the visiting pilgrims such as food, shelter, resting places, viewing points, blankets, toilets, hot water facilities and medical facilities.

Vaishno Devi Temple

Vaishno Devi Temple History

  • The exact date or the year of the beginning of worship of the Goddess in the caves is unknown. Several references can be found in the Mahabharata which mentions the holy goddess of Jamboo Mountains. It is believed that Jamboo is the ancient name of the present day Jammu. It is also believed that Pandavas where the original worshipers of the Goddess in the holy cave. Five stone figures probably representing the Pandavas can be found in a nearby mountain range giving some credibility to the association of Pandavas to Vaishno Devi Temple.
  • According to the legend, in the Treta Yuga, Mata Vaishno Devi was born as Trikuta to a man named Ratnakar Sagar in South India. She was later named as Vaishnavi as she has taken birth from the lineage of Lord Vishnu. When she was 9 years old, she performed penance on the seashore and met Lord Rama. She asked for his hand in marriage but was promised by him that Lord Vishnu’s tenth avatar in the Kaliyuga, Kalki will marry her. Lord Rama instructed her to meditate in a cave present in the Trikuta Mountains of Jammu. He instructed her to set up an Ashram at the base of the mountains. He also gave her a bow and an arrow, a lion and a small army of monkeys for her protection.
  • A devotee of  Mata Vaishnodevi, Sridhar organized a Bhandara (Community meal) in which the whole village and Mahayogi Guru GorakshNathJi along with all his followers including Bhairavnath were invited as it was wish of Mata Vaishnodevi to invite MahaYogi Guru GorakshNathJi. Guru Gorakshnath visited a Bhandara along with more 300 disciples including the Bhairavnath. Bhairavnath was amazed by seeing the power of divine mother. He wanted to test her powers. For this, he asked Shiv Avatari Guru GorakshnathJi for his permission. Guru Gorakshnath said I do not recommend but still if you wanted to test, go ahead. Guru Gorakshnath and his all disciples enjoyed the pure vaishnav food and went off from there. Mahayogi Guru Gorakshnath accepted hospitality by only Mata Vaishnodevi since he follows a pure real vaishnav path. Bhairavnath stayed off to test her powers he attempted to grab Mata Vaishnodevi but she tried her best to daunt him. On failing to do so, Mata Vaishnodevi decided to flee away into the mountains to continue her Tapasaya undisturbed. BhairavNath however chased her to her destination.
  • Vaishnavi halted at Charan Paduka, Banganga, and Adhkuwari, but she observed much to her distaste that Bhairon Nath followed her everywhere. Finally, she lost her patience and beheaded him outside the holy cave. The head of Bhairon Nath fell 1.5 km away and the site is known as the Bhairon Nath Temple today. His soul repented the incident and asked for forgiveness from the Goddess. The Goddess forgave him and granted him the wish that devotees should visit him to complete her pilgrimage.
  • The Goddess is believed to have then shed her human form and took the form of a rock to continue uninterrupted meditation.
  • The cave was then left to nature and was undiscovered until about 700 years ago. In a village named Hansali, near the Trikuta Mountains, lived a Brahmin Pandit named Shridhar. He was a staunch devotee of Goddess Shakti. Goddess Shakti was happy with his devotion and granted him a darshan in the form of a Kanya (young girl). He invited all the villagers to his humble hut for a Bhandara (a feast of food). However, the crowd that collected during the Bhandara was too much to accommodate inside his hut. He was also worried about the food availability for all his guests. Miraculously, the girl that gave him darshan appeared and created abundant food and space so as to fulfill everyone’s stomach.
  • After the Bhandara, Shridhar wanted to thank the girl but could not find her. Dejected, he spent several sleepless nights. Eventually, he was given a darshan by the Goddess in her dreams directing him to proceed towards the cave that was her abode. He followed the directions in his dreams and eventually discovered the cave. It is believed that the three Goddesses, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Saraswati gave him darshan there.
  • The trek to the Bhawan begins at the Darshani Darwaza. It is believed that Mata Vaishno Devi met Pandit Sridhar in the form of a young child at the spot. One can also get a complete view of the Trikuta Mountain range from the Darwaza.
  • The legend of Banganga states that Goddess Vaishno Devi created the River from the tip of an arrow. Hence, the name “Ban” meaning Arrow in Hindi and Ganga signifying the holy River Ganga. It is believed that the Goddess was accompanied by a Langoor named Veer during her journey till the holy cave. At Banganga, the Langoor got thirsty. To quench his thirst, the Goddess created Banganga.
  • The legend associated with the Charan Paduka mentions that at this place, the Goddess stopped and turned back to check whether Bhairon Nath was following her or not. Her footprints got enshrined at the location and are worshiped reverently.
  • The Adhkuwari cave is believed to be the place where the Goddess Vaishno meditated and observed a penance dedicated to Lord Shiva for nine months. The cave that she meditated in was womb shaped and hence is also known as the Garbha Joon. During the meditation, she realized the presence of Bhairon Nath and created an exit route with a Trishul from the back of the cave. The cave and the Garbha Joon can be still visited by the pilgrims.

Significance of Vaishno Devi Temple

  • The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is popularly but controversially believed to be the most important Shakti Peetha of Goddess Sati. It is a belief that the skull or the head of the Goddess fell here after the Daksha Yagna episode. However, some also believe that the left arm of Goddess Sati fell here. To corroborate the beliefs, the remains of a human hand can still be found in the holy cave. This is known as “Varad Hast” meaning “The Hand that grants blessings”.
  • It is strongly believed and certified by most of the devotees visiting the shrine that they usually receive an inner spiritual call or pull from the Mata or the Goddess to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine. It is a belief that only the one who receives the call will receive her blessings. Once the call or desire is raised, nothing on Earth will impede the devotee from reaching Vaishno Devi Temple.
  • The three holy Pindies that are worshiped as manifestations of Goddess Shakti arise from a single rock at the base. However, they differ from each other in aspects of color and texture of the rock. The Pindi of Goddess Mahakali is black representing the unknown energy. Goddess Mahalakshmi’s Pindi exhibits golden yellow shade representing wealth, prosperity, and quality of life. The Pindi of Goddess Saraswati can be seen having a whitish tinge representing purity and wisdom of life.
  • Vaishno Devi Temple is the most visited pilgrimage site in the Northern half of India and is the second most visited shrine in the Tirumala Sri Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is a local belief that any devotee who passes through the Garbha Joon (Womb shaped cave at Adhkuwari) with pure devotion will get his or her wish fulfilled.
  • As per the Hindu tradition, there are four Purusharth or the objectives of a good human life – Dharm (righteousness or justice), Arth (Material pursuits), Kaam (Contentment) and Moksha (Enlightenment). It is believed that a devotee who undertakes the Vaishno Devi Temple pilgrimage attains all these four objectives and that no one goes back empty handed.

Vaishno Devi Temple Timings

  • Vaishno Devi Temple Temple remains open throughout the day and during the whole year. Devotees can get darshan of the Goddess anytime as soon as they reach the Vaishno Devi Temple premises.
  • For pilgrims who choose to walk to the shrine, one must obtain a “Yatra Parchi” or a “Travel Slip” at the Yatra Registration Counter near the Katra Bus Stand. The slip is subject to regular checks throughout the trek and failure to produce it during the checks will result in discontinuation of the trek. The Yatra Parchi can be booked online as well by visiting the website https://www.maavaishnodevi.org
  • After validation of the Travel Slip at the Bhawan, the devotees would be given a group number. This number will signify the duration the devotee has to wait to get a darshan and the sequence of his darshan.

Dress Code in Vaishno Devi Temple

  • The Bhawan or the Holy Cave is situated 13 km from Katra at an altitude of 5200 meters. The minimum temperature of this region varies from -2 to 15 degree Celsius throughout the year. As a result, the region remains cool and chilly during the whole year. It is advised that devotees should be dressed warmly. Jackets, scarves, socks, and shawls are a must. If traveling with children or aged persons, special care should be taken regarding their winter tolerance.
  • During the months of December-January, it snows in the higher reaches of the mountains. Hence, blankets and proper shoes are highly recommended.
  • Raincoats are also advised especially during the monsoons and the winters. Walking sticks will be helpful for the occasional steep climb. These sticks will also be available in the shops lining the walking track.

Festivals celebrated at Vaishno Devi Temple

  • Navaratri – The festival dedicated to the worship of the supreme Mother Goddess Shakti is celebrated at the Bhawan with great excitement and religious fervor. The festival is celebrated for nine days. The first three days are dedicated to Durga or Kali who signifies the destruction of evil. The next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and prosperity. The last three days are dedicated to the Goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. The whole town of Katra is cleaned and decorated for the celebrations. The main Vaishno Devi Complex and surrounding temples are lit up with hundreds of lights. The Shobha Yatra of the Goddess is held during these nine days. Several cultural events like devotional singing competitions are held. The priests also conduct religious discourses throughout the nine days.
  • Besides Navaratri, Deepavali, Ram Navami, and Mahashivaratri are also celebrated with great reverence.

Poojas and Rituals at Vaishno Devi Temple

  • The Morning and the Evening Aarti – The Aarti dedicated to the Goddess is performed twice a day. The rituals are similar and are performed once just before sunrise and once immediately after the sunset. The whole process can take up to two hours to complete. Each Aarti is performed once inside the main shrine or the sanctum and then outside the cave where devotees gather to witness the divine procedure. The Pooja starts with an “Atma Pooja” meaning self-cleansing by the priests. The Goddess is then bathed with water, ghee, milk, honey and sugar. Among the several chants and shlokas, the Goddess is then dressed in a saree, chola and chuni. She is then adorned with several ornaments like bangles and sindoor (kumkum). The Naivedyam is then offered to the Goddess. The Aarti is then brought outside the cave where all the other Gods and Goddesses are worshiped.
  • Individual Pooja – The Havan dedicated to the Goddess is conducted in the “Yagyashaala” at the main Bhawan. The devotees who desire to participate in the Yagna should report before 8 AM at Room number 8. The Pooja service should be booked online in advance. Alternatively, online booking can also be done by devotees who will be unable to attend the Pooja by themselves.
  • Shraddha Suman Vishesh Pooja – This Pooja allows the devotee to attend the Aarti Darshan of the Goddess. There are four categories of booking which the devotees can choose depending upon the requirement. The categories differ in the number of devotees allowed to view the Aarti, ranging from one to five

How to reach Katra

  • By Air – The nearest Airport is the Jammu domestic airport. Several private airlines and Air India operated regular flights to Jammu from major cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Chennai.
  • By Train – The Katra railway station has been opened to handle the pilgrim rush in 2014. The station is named as Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra with the IRCTC code as SVDK. The station is connected by trains that connect several important cities in the country like New Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Pathankot, Jalandhar, Mangalore, and Kalka.
  • By Road – Katra is located at a distance of 50 km from Jammu city. Several luxury bus operators run regular buses between Jammu and Katra. Private taxi facilities are also available for the devotees at a reasonable cost. These can be hired outside the Jammu Railway Station or the Airport.
  • The trek to the Vaishno Devi shrine begins at the Banganga Checkpost in Katra. The journey distance is 13 km to the Bhawan at the top. This journey can be covered by foot, on horses, on palki (palanquin) and in a helicopter.
  • The helicopter services should be preferable booked 60 days in advance. The booking can also be made at the Jagjivan Ghat near the Katra Bus Stand. However, the services are limited and subject to cancelation due to climatic changes. It is advised to book the tickets online as they are subject to easy cancelation.

Where to stay

  • The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board overlooks the operation of several guest houses and Dhams located in Jammu, Katra, Adkuwari, Sanjichhat and Bhawan. Clean and well-maintained rooms can be booked online by visiting the official website of the Board. There are 3 Dhams operated by the Board in Jammu named Vaishnavi Dham, Saraswati Dham, and the Kalika Dham. Four options namely Niharika, Shakti Bhawan, Trikuta Bhawan and the Aashirwad Bhawan can be booked at Katra. The Main Bhawan provides options like double bedded rooms as well as dormitories. The booking should be made at least 60 days in advance and are non-refundable.
  • Besides these options, several halls have been constructed that allow pilgrims to take rest before proceeding for darshan. Blankets and medical aid are provided.

Where to eat

  • The Temple administration provides Bhojanalaya services at the Main Bhawan as well as the Manokamana Bhawan Complex. The Bhojanalaya services are on no profit basis and hence cheap and affordable. The food is pure vegetarian and is hygienically prepared. Besides traditional food, mineral water, hot and cold beverages as well as milk is provided to all the pilgrims at a fixed and nominal price.
  • Smoking, drinking and non-vegetarian food is not allowed during the trek.

Nearby Temples

  • Bhairon Nath Temple – The Temple is located 2 km away from the Main Bhawan that houses the holy cave. The Temple is dedicated to Bhairon Nath. Legend has it that after the beheading of Bhairon Nath by Mata Vaishno Devi, his head fell at this spot. His soul felt repentant and asked for forgiveness from the Goddess. Appeased by the prayers, the Goddess granted him the wish that her pilgrimage will be completed by visiting his temple.
  • Raghunath Temple – The famous Temple is one of the largest Temple Complexes in India. The Temple consists of seven individual shrines each with its own Shikhara or Tower. The Temple was constructed in 1860 by Maharaja Gulab Singh and is dedicated to Lord Rama. The Temple also houses hundreds of Saligramas dedicated to Lord Shiva. Several paintings depicting scenes from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Bhagavad Gita can be seen adorning the walls of the Temple.
  • Ranbireshwar Temple – The Temple is believed to host the biggest Linga of Lord Shiva. The Linga measures 8 feet in height and is constructed out of black shining stone. One can also view twelve Shiva Lingas made of crystal enshrined in this temple. Statues of Lord Ganesha, Lord Karthikeya, and Nandi are also worshiped in the Temple premises.