Kashmir , a Paradise on Earth, known for picture perfect landscape, charming lakes, lush green valleys, Tulip garden, houseboats, Gondola ride, stunning Chinar trees and lot more. Add to this, the charms of flavorful Kashmiri cuisine, apples and walnuts from the lush orchards surrounding it.
In winter, Kashmir takes on a white glow, covered in soft snow and skiers making a beeline for its famous slopes. And in summer, the snow melts, and the flowers in the meadows bloom.
If Kashmir is known for its lakes and gardens, Jammu is famous for its temples. From the popular Hindu pilgrimage of Vaishno Devi, to scores of religious structures set in picturesque surroundings. Jammu is the ideal site to soak in spiritual vibes.
1. The Vaishno Devi Temple, Katra, Jammu
The Vaishno Devi Temple is very ancient, divine and widely revered Hindu temple dedicated to Maa Durga as Mata Vaishnodevi. It is located in Katra, on the slopes of Trikuta Hills within the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir in India. The temple is recognized as one of the 52 Maha (major) Shakti Peethas. Legend has it that Mata Vaishno Devi had incarnated as a beautiful princess in Treta Yuga as a Shakti of Mother Parvati, Saraswati and Lakshmi for the welfare of mankind. She performed penances in the cave on Trikuta Mountain. When the time came, her body merged into the astral form of the three divine energies; Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati.
2. Dastgeer Sahib Shrine, Srinagar
Dastgeer Sahib is a famous Sufi Shrine located in Khanyar area of Srinagar. It is 200 year old shrine named after Sheikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani (RA) who interestingly never visited Kashmir. However, the shrine houses some holy relics including a copy of the Quran written by Hazrat Ali (RA). Originally constructed in 1806, the shrine has since been expanded more than once. The latest structure was built in 2013 after the shrine was gutted in an unfortunate fire. On the Urs of the sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani, thousands of people from all over Kashmir visit the shrine to pay their obeisance and have a glimpse of the ziyarat (relics). Some renowned followers of the Qadri order of Sufism are buried in the mausoleum.
2. Budha Amarnath, Poonch
Located in the district of Poonch, Budha Amarnath Temple stands 4600 ft above sea level. Its picturesque location, valleys and the gushing river Pulasti nearby, magnify the beauty of the temple. People throng this place for Amarnath Yatra and it is considered as one of the most important place of the worship for Hindus.
3. St Mary’s Church Gulmarg
Standing tall, even after 100 years of its construction, is the Victorian architectural wonder of the St Mary's church which is situated near the golf course in Gulmarg. More like a tiny countryside chapel in appearance, this church has grey stone walls that add to its vintage look. It looks the most scintillating during the winter season, especially when it is laden with snow. Its wooden walls are beautifully decorated and the roof boasts green tiles . There are frescos inside, which depict scenes from the Holy Bible.
4. Hazrat Makhdoom Sheikh Hamzah ( Sultan -Ul-Aarifeen), Srinagar
Makhdoom Sheikh Hamzah, a Sufi Muslim saint, was born to Baba Usman Raina in Tujar Shareef, a village in Sopore, Kashmir in 1494. As a great scholar and mystic, Sheikh Hamzah immensely contributed in spreading religious and spiritual knowledge. He continued preaching in Srinagar and the city outskirts. Sheikh Hamzah, a hereditary landlord , is also said to have donated land and other property in social service. The shrine of Makhdoom Sheikh Hamzah is located below Mughal fort on the Hari Parbat Hill (Koh-i-Maran)
5. Krimchi Temples, Udhampur.
About 74 kms from Jammu via Udhampur are the famous Krimchi Temples ruins with characteristics of the early medieval temple architecture. It is one of the oldest temple complexes of Jammu. Believed to have constructed in the 11th-12th Century AD. This group of 5 temples built on platforms also locally known as the Pandava Temples, has some interesting architectural features, which resemble the Orissa style of temple architecture.
6. Gurudwara Chatti Padshahi, Srinagar.
Located outside Kathi Darwaza one of the three accesses to the Hari Parbat Fort, Gurdwara Chatti Padshahi represents a distinct religious identity of Sikhism in Kashmir. Peace fills the place and and the echoes of faith resonate across the mountains that surround the Gurdwara. Chatti Padshahis spread out in a rectangular hall with the sanctum in the middle and a spacious terrace in front of the historic pilgrimage site . Adjacent to the Gurdwara in the vicinity of ‘Guru Ka Baag’ is a ‘Sarai’ for pilgrims. Guru Nanak Devji visited the gurdwara in 1500 AD. Guru Hargobind ji in 1616 AD, Gur Har Raiji in 1650AD.
7. Khanqah e Moalla, Srinagar.
Shah -e-Hamadan Masjid ( Khanqah-e-Moalla) is considered to be the first mosque in Kashmir . Khanqah is a building specifically designed for gatherings of the sufi brotherhood and is a place for spiritual retreat and reflection. Located in the old part of Srinagar city, on the right bank of river Jhelum, it was first built in 1395. It is one of the best examples of Kashmiri wooden architecture and is decorated with papier mache. The mosque was built in the memory of the Islamic preacher Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani also known as Shah-e-Hamadan who visited Kashmir many times in 14th Century . A Hindu religious site also exists adjacent to the shrine, their proximity being representative of communal harmony that Kashmir has been know for .
8. Martand Surya Temple, Kashmir.
The Martand temple, Mattan, is the largest Sun temple in Kashmir dedicated to Surya Devta. It was built during the 8th century CE. Martand is the Sanskrit synonym for Surya. The temple is located 5 km from Anantnag town on Pahalgam road. The temple was built by the third ruler of the Karkota dynasty, Lalitaditya Muktapida in the 8th century. The archaeological findings suggest that it had been an excellent specimen of Kashmiri architecture blending, the Gandharan Gupta and the other architectural styles. The temple has a colonnaded courtyard, with its primary shrine in its center and surrounded by 84 smaller shrines. the primary shrine is located in an inner structure that is thought to have a pyramidal top - a common feature of the temples in Kashmir. The archaeological survey of India has declared the Martand Sun temple as a site of national importance in Jammu and Kashmir.
9. Shri Ranbireshwar temple, Jammu.
The temple is named after its founder Maharaja Ranbir Singh. The construction of the temple was started in 1863 AD and was completed in 1878 AD. It is the biggest Shiva temple in North India. The temple houses are huge sphatic shivlingham measuring 71/2 ft in height surrounded by 10, 2 ft high billaur (crystals) lingas and galleries with 1 lakh 25,000 tiny shivlings brought here from the river Narmada. The temple is located on the Shalamar road about a kilometer from the Raghunath bazar.
10. Raghunath temple, Jammu.
Situated in the heart of the city in Raghunath bazar, the temple was built in 1857 by Maharaja Ranbir Singh. The main temple has the idols of Lord Rama, Mata Sita and Sri Lakshman Ji placed on the raised platform. The inner walls of the main temple are covered with gold sheets on three sides. There are many galleries with lakhs of saligrams. The numerous other temples in the complex are dedicated to various gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon.
11. Dargah Hazratbal, Srinagar.
The HazratBal shine is located at Hazratbal in Srinagar, Kashmir. It houses the Moi-e Muqqadas, the holy hair of the prophet Muhammad (SAW) and is considered to be the holiest Muslim shrine in Kashmir. It is a center of devotion of local populace for the Prophet Muhammad. The dome shaped shrine is one of the kind specimen of Islamic architecture in Kashmir's religious structures and is 20th century construction.
Annual Urs is held on the date of birth of the prophet of Islam. The holy relic is displayed for public view on the occasion. Historically, the shrine has been one of the cultural centers of Kashmir and continues to enjoy the same status even now.
12. Shankarcharya Temple, Srinagar.
The Shankaracharya temple, one of the oldest temple in Kashmir is situated atop Sankaracharya hill on the Zabarwan range in Srinagar. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The shrine is roughly dated back to 200 BC although the present structure probably dates to the 9th century AD. It was visited by Adi Shankaracharya and this is how the temple got the name Shankaracharya.
Culturally the temple has been the center of devotion for local Pandits and visitors from across the country. Over the years the temple has turned into the major spiritual and cultural attraction in Kashmir valley and is visited by tourists around the year.