Major Temples of Jammu and Kashmir
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Temples of Jammu and Kashmir - Amarnath Temple
The Amarnath temple is one of the most revered pilgrimage places in India. The cave is located at 86 miles north east of Srinagar at 13000 feet above sea level. Surrounded by the snow clad mountains, Amarnath enshrines a natural Shivalingam of ice formed by the drops of water oozing in the cave. There is a block of ice representing Lord Ganesh to the left of the Shivalingam and other two ice blocks representing Parvati and Barirava lie to the right of the Shivalingam. A small cave inside Amarnath has a chalk like substance which is given to pilgrims as Vibhuti.
According to the tradition that in every lunar month, the icy Shivalingam begins to form, on the first day of the bright half of the month, and reaches its fullest size on the full moon day, and then begins to wane and disappear on the new moon day. The process repeats itself every month. As it is believed that Shiva manifested himself first on the full moon day in the month of Sravana, it is the only summer month that permits travel to this mountainous area.
When all devas, devatas have rebirths and re-incarnations, it is only Lord Shiva who is beyond birth and death. Surprised by this, goddess Shakti asked Shiva how this was possible for him. Lord Mrutyunjaya replied it to be amara rahasya or deathless secret. When the goddess requested the lord to reveal the secret, he takes her to the lonely Amarnath cave leaving behind all his close attendants. He left Nandi at Pahalgham, Moon at Chandanvari, adorning snakes at Sheshnag, Ganapati at Mahagunas. He ordered the five nature-elements, the earth, the air, the water, the fire and the space to guard at Panchatarani. While sitting in the cave, Shiva ordered the Kalagni Rudra to burn off the whole surroundings. But a parrot which was hatching under the feet of lord escaped. When Shiva started telling the secret, goddess listened with “Hmm” and subsequently she goes to sleep. But the new born parrot listens to everything and makes the sound “Hmm”. Then it escapes from the cave and gets into the womb of Vyasa’s wife. It was born as Shuka Brahmarishi. This cave became the holy place as it is in this place, the secret was revealed by Lord Shiva.
Later, a Muslim Shepherd named Buta Malik was given a sack of coal by a sadhu. But after reaching the home, he discovered that the sack contained Gold. Overjoyed, Buta Malik rushed back to look for sadhu and thank him. But on the spot of their meeting discovered a cave, and eventually this became a place of pilgrimage for all believers. The Dogra king Maharaja Gulab Singh was very much pleased by this discovery that he decreed that a representative of the Malik family would always be present at the holy shrine, along with the Pundits during the period of the pilgrimage each year. Also, the family of the Muslim shepherd was granted a large estate near Pahalgam and exempted from paying land revenue to the state apart from sharing a part of revenue from the temple.
The trek to Amarnath begins at Srinagar. The route covers Pampur, Avantipur, Brijbihara, Anantnag, Gautam Nag, Martand, Pahalgam, Chandanwadi, Pishu Ghati, Seshnag, Wavjan, Mahagunus Pass, Panchatarni and Amarnath.
Temples of Jammu and Kashmir - Raghunath Temple
The Raghunath temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is located in the heart of the city of Jammu. This temple’s construction was started in 1835 by Maharaja Gulab Singh and completed by his son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1860. The inner walls of the temple have the coverings made of gold sheet on three sides. There are galleries of lakhs of Saligrams. The temple has seven shrines each with a tower of its own. The main sanctuary is dedicated to Lord Rama whereas other sanctuaries are dedicated to other gods and goddesses from the epic Ramayana in the surrounding region. The temple complex is remarkable for sacred scriptures and it also houses a Sanskrit library containing many rare Sanskrit manuscripts. The architecture of the temple with arches, surface and niches has a great influence of Mughals.
Temples of Jammu and Kashmir - Vaishno Devi Temple
The Vaishno Devi temple is located in the Trikuta Mountain at 61 kms north of Jammu at a height of 5,200 feet above the sea level. The shrine can be visited throughout the year, but in winters, it is difficult due to snowfall.
The legend has that the three main manifestations of Goddess like Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Saraswati united together one day and pooled the collective Tejas or spiritual strength. Then a bright light emanated from the place where a beautiful young girl emerged out of this Tejas. She was told to live on earth, spending her time in upholding righteousness and later merge into Vishnu. So, the girl was born to Ratankar and his wife who called her as Vaishnavi.
The girl was very intelligent and had the hunger for knowledge. She learned the art of meditation and penance. Lord Rama during his fourteen years of exile met her who immediately recognized him and asked him to merge her into himself. But Rama asks her to wait till the end of his exile and at that time if she succeeded in recognizing him, he would fulfill her wish. Later, when Rama became victorious and visits her in the disguise of an old man, Vaishnavi was unable to recognize him.
Lord Rama consoles her that he would fulfill her wish in Kaliyug where he would incarnate as Kalki. He also told her to continue her meditation and set up an Ashram to help the destitute from their sufferings. So Vaishnavi goes to the foot of Trikuta hills, sets up an ashram and begins to meditate.
A tantrik named Gorakh Nath who was aware of the story of Vaishnavi became curious to find out whether Vaishnavi had been able to attain high level of spirituality or not. So, he sends his disciple Bhairon Nath to discover the truth. But in the process, Bhairon Nath falls in love with her and starts pestering Vaishnavi to marry him. She escapes from him and goes to Tapasya in the mountains undisturbed. But Bhairon Nath again chased her to her destination. This compels the goddess to kill Bhairon Nath and he was beheaded outside the mouth of the cave. Due to his prayers at the last minute, the goddess gives him a boon that every devotee of the goddess would have to have the Darshan of Bhairon after the Darshan of the goddess and only then would the Yatra of the devotee would be complete. Later Vaishnavi sheds her human form and assumes the face of a rock immersing her into meditation forever. Now, Vaishnavi, in the form of a five and a half feet tall rock with three heads or the Pindies on the top is the ultimate destination of a devotee.
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