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Jammu city is sprinkled with temples, so much so, it is often called the city of temples and the very fame of it tends to overshadow its palaces, forts and forests. It is a land of grand ancient temples and beautiful palaces all nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas. Jammu is actually two towns. The old town sits on a hilltop overlooking the river and several kilometers away, across the river is the new town of Jammu Tawi.

It is said that, on becoming King, the Suryavanshi Jambu Lochan went on a hunt and, crossing the Tawi river, found a deer and a tiger drinking water from the same tank. His ministers explained that this meant that the soil of the place was so virtuous that no living creature bore enmity against another. Raja Jambu Lochan who lived in the later Vedic period, decided to found his capital, Jambupura on his soil, on the right bank of the Tawi, overlooking his brother king Bahu's fort. Today the temple of Maha Kali (better known as Bahu or Bawey Wali Mata), located in the Bahufort, is considered second only to Mata Vaishno Devi in terms of mystical power. The present temple was built shortly after the coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh, in 1822. The existing fort, as well as the Manasabdar's palace inside it, was constructed in 1820. If Bahu Mata is the presiding deity of Jammu, the dargah of Peer Budhan Ali Shah is the other shrine that protects Jammuites. The other major tourist attraction is the Ragunath Temple Complex. Maharaja Gulab Singh began the construction of the Raghunath Mandir Complex in the crowded downtown Bazaar named after it, in 1851. It was left to his son, Ranbir Singh to inaugurate it six years later. Perhaps the most popular temple north of Benares, it contains representations of almost the entire Hindu pantheon, though the emphasis falls on the various incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The complex houses a rich collection of ancient texts and manuscripts.

There are two contradictory aspects to the city of Jammu - on one hand are the age-old dry fruit shops while on the other hand are the designer boutiques, which display the very latest in fashion. The main market places are the Raghunath bazaar and the Hari bazaar, which are famous for Kashmiri handicrafts, traditional Dogra jewellery and various dry fruits like walnuts, raisins, figs etc. Jammu is also known for the superlative quality of its basmati rice, rajma (red beans), aam-papar (dried and candied mango peel), anar-dana (dried pomegranate seeds) and barfis (milk sweets).

The holy cave shrine of Vaishno Devi is situated in a beautiful recess of the Trikuta Mountains forming a part of the lower Himalayas at an altitude of over 5000 feet. In the cave, there are images of three deities viz. the Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. For the devotees it is a journey to peace and solace. For nature lovers it is an excursion amidst breathtaking scenic beauty. The shrine can be visited throughout the year, but during the winter season the route is often blocked by snowfall.


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