Jammu, also known as the city of temples, is the winter capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the second most populous city of the state and is situated on the banks of the river Tawi.
One of the 22 districts of J&K, Jammu is also the largest city of Jammu district. On the north and the north-east, it is lined by the Shivalik range and by the Trikuta range towards the west. The neighboring districts include Udhampur in the north, Kathua in the east, Rajauri in the northwest and Sialkote (Pakistan) in the west.
What’s even more interesting is that the Jammu serves as the progression from the cold snow-capped Himalayas in the north to the scorching summer plains in the south. The geographical location favors the city with the optimal year-round climate. While the cold doesn’t get as snowstorm-cold in the Kashmir neither does it face the 49° Delhi summer temperature. This temperature provides the perfect travel weather for tourists visiting the revered Vaishno Devi far up north in the holy town of Katra, 45 km from Jammu.
According to the legend, a fourteenth century B.C. king Raja Jamboo Lochan was so inspired by the sight of a deer and a tiger drinking from the same river bank that he decided to symbolise the unexpected harmony shared by the food-chain extremes by building a city around the river. The city that he built on the banks of the river Tawi overlooked his brother King Bahu’s fort. The city came to be known as Jamboo, after king Jamboo Lochan. Over the years, the pronunciation of the city name varied and morphed into what it is known as today – Jammu.
The Dogra empire ruled over the city during 900 BC before it was taken over by the Persian conqueror Timur in the 14th century. Jammu is known to have been an ally of Akbar during the Mughal reign, along with neighboring towns of Kishtwar and Rajauri. The Dogra glory was restored in the city when Raja Dhruv Dev took back the throne in the 18th century.
The Famed City of Temples
Rightly so, Jammu is the City of Temples. It is the home to Mata Vaishno Devi, the holiest manifestation of Mata Adi Shakti, in Katra. The pilgrimage witnesses over 30,000 people every day.
Only second to the powers of the Vaishno Devi is Bawey Wali Mata or Mata Kali of the Bahu Fort. The Bahu Fort was built by king Jambu Lochan’s brother, Bahu Lochan. In present day, the entire fort is dedicated to the Goddess who is said to have been looking after the city of Jammu ever since its inception.
One of the biggest tourist attractions of the city, the Raghunath Mandir is situated at the heart of the old city. It houses many Hindu deities, including all of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations. It is also one of the largest temple complexes in all of North India.
Jammu also houses temples with significance from the Ramayana. One such temple is the cave temple Peer Kho on the banks of Tawi. Situated next to it is a shrine of Lord Shiva at the Ranbireshwar temple.
Peer Baba Dargah
This dargah is a shrine dedicated to the Islamic saint, Peer Budhan Ali Shah, that attracts devotees from all religions. You can find people worshipping at the dargah on Thursdays.
The trek up to the temple is mesmerising, to say the least. Lush with Mother Nature on all sides and a beautiful view of the sky on top makes the otherwise difficult 3km trek all the more worthwhile. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple, situated in the heart of a cave, witnesses the natural formation of lingam every year.
Forts, Lakes and Museums of the City
Located 28km from Jammu city is the town of Akhnoor. The city fort is known to have provided enough evidence to date it back to the Harappan civilization. It is located on the banks of the river Chenab and grants stunning views of the Trikuta and the Shivalik range due to its geographical placement atop a hill.
Bahu Fort and Bagh-e-Bahu
Like stated above, the Bahu Fort is of much divine and historical significance for the people of Jammu. But the accompanying fort garden is also important for its massive widespread beautiful lush flora, with fountains marking certain sweet spots. It also holds the largest underground aquarium of the country which is home to over 400 underwater fauna species.
Mubarak Mandi Palace
This palace was home to Raja Gulab Singh and now has been turned into a museum of much medieval significance. From weapons used by emperors to paintings that are hundreds of years old, this place still leaves the visitors in awe.
A popular picnic spot, the Mansar lake is situated 62km from the main city. Mansar lake is also known for its religious connections. It houses temples and shrines that have had many legends built around them over the years.
Market and Local Food
River Tawi divided Jammu into two halves, that have now come to be known as the old and the new cities. Gole Market is situated in the Gandhi Nagar area of the new city. It derives its name from the circular park in the middle around which, people have set up shops and eateries, famously Pahalwan Di Hatti for its sweets and Jai Hind for its bakery.
If you are in Jammu, do not forget to try the Jammu-special Rajma Chawal. Other famous dishes include Dum Aloo and Kashmiri Pulao. For your sweet tooth, treat yourself with Prem Sweets’ patisa and chocolate barfi, located at Ambphalla.
A special form of cheese – kaladi – makes for breakfast on most days here. And anardana chutney is an extra no one can refuse.
Coming from Delhi, your train would ideally reach early morning at the Jammu Railway Station. During the day, you can start with the old city where you can visit Mubarak Mandi, Raghunath Mandir, Peer Kho and stop at Girdhari’s at Kachi Chawni for a quick kachalu snack.
By evening, you can visit the Gole Market and witness it in all its glory. With the bustle of people lining up at Pahalwan’s and stalls lining up at the centre with the famous dosas and bread kaladi, it will be a treat for sure.
If you’re up for adventures, you can spend your second day visiting the hill station of Patnitop located 112 km from the city. It is famous for its adventure sports and snowfall (if you’re visiting in the winter).
Going further up, you will reach the hill-point of Nathatop famous for its winds. A long road that reaches up to the top of the hill can be seen lined up with cars and people standing outside fighting the strong winds just to stand straight. Fun for sure!