Jammu and Kashmir Religious Places – Part II
In our previous blog we told you about some of Jammu and Kashmir’s interesting pilgrim attractions that are known not just for their religious importance but also for their impressive architecture and heritage. Today we continue with some more of these religious shrines and destinations scattered across the state; that make interesting visit not just for pilgrims but also for other tourists visiting Jammu and Kashmir.
Dating back to 1857, the Imam Bara Budgam is one of the most respected shrines of the Shia sect of the Muslim community, a heritage structure is known not just for religious important but also for its magnificent architecture. Octagon in shape, it has five entry points, including one for ladies and is built in Indo- Iranian architectural style. Considered extremely auspicious by the Shia sect, it is frequented by large numbers especially during festivals.
Also known as Jama Masjid, this shrine is known for its striking Indo-Saracenic architectural style was built by Sultan Sikandar back in 1385. A prominent religious shrine, while the shrine was extended by Sultan Sikander’s son Zain-ul-Abidin, a special mention must be made of Maharaja Pratap Singh who financed its restoration work and maintenance. A magnificent monument it stands out for its 370 wooden pillars and architecture and features as Kashmir’s biggest mosque.
One of Kashmir’s oldest Muslim shrines, the Khangah-e-Moulla was built by Sultan Sikander in 1395 in memory of the Muslim saint Mir Syed Ali Hamdani popularly known as Shah Hamadan, the saint responsible for the spread of Islam in Kashmir. A beautiful two storied structure, the shrine is a beautiful blend of indo-Islamic and Buddhist architectural styles. Inside one comes across stunning paintings and intricate woodworks, pillared halls, and gold work. Destroyed in a fire in 1480, it was restored by Sultan Hassan Shah and later by Abul Barkat Khan after it was damaged again.
Constructed by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1912, the Khir Bhawani Temple in the Tullamula district of Srinagar is one considered highly auspicious by Hindus and visited by several thousand pilgrims during the year, especially during the festival of Jeth Ashtami. Hexagon in shape, built of white marble and surrounded by a spring, the presiding deity worshipped here is Ragnya Devi. One can hear several legend attached to the shrine, including the legend, Lord Rama ordered Hanuman to transfer the shrine here as he used to pray to the Goddess daily during his exile. Another legend claims Goddess Durga appeared to Rishi Molu after his rigorous penance and told him she was present in the spring flowing there. While the area is known for its religious importance it has tremendous archaeological importance as excavations near the temple have unearthed several ancient stone statues that date back to the Buddhist period, apart from remnants of ancient temples.
Krimchi is an interesting temple town situated in the Udampur district of Jammu and Kashmir. A picturesque town, it is known for its ancient 8th – 9th century stone temples that stands 50 feet high and are adorned with intricate carvings, engravings, and paintings. Seen here are statues of Shiva with his consort Parvati, the Shiva trimurti, and other idols. The shrines here are distinctive and are known for their architectural styles, some structures showing resemblance of Greek and Hellenic architectural styles while others bear resemblance to the temples found here Orissa.
Mantalai is another town known for its temples; it is believed that this was the place Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were unified in marriage. Devotees especially flock to the ancient Sudh Mahadev Temple that lies close to Mantalai on the full moon night of August to offer their prayers to the marble Shivling here. The Gauri Kund Spring is also of significance for Hindus as it is believed to be the place Goddess Parvati would bathe before offering her prayers to Lord Shiva.
Founded by Dogra rulers in the 19th century, the magnificent Raghunath Temple is another stunning temple renowned for its architecture and gold leaf interiors. Patronized by Maharaja Ranbir Singh, what makes this temple’s architecture interesting is its Mughal influence. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rama, while within the seven shrines one can find several idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Seen here are numerous Saligrams, the temple also houses a Sanskrit library that holds a rich collection of ancient manuscripts.
Also dating back to Maharaja Ranbir Singh is the Ranbireshwar Temple that is located on the Shalimar Road in Jammu and dedicated to Lord Shiva. While the halls of the temple are adorned with images of Ganesha and Kartikeya – Shiva’s children, the temple also houses an idol of Nandi. Making this temple unique are the 12 crystal lingams housed here, the main lingam standing tall at 7.5 feet is made of black marble.
The Spituk Monastery is another important pilgrim site that was set up by Od-de that is popular amongst the Buddhist community here. Here one can find some beautiful images of Lord Buddha inside the monastery along with images of Mahakaal and Amitayus who helped preserved the monastery. The monastery is known to house several ancient arms, masks and murals.
Nestled at the foothill of the Trikuta Mountain, Katra is another important pilgrim destination as it serves as a base for devotes heading onward to the Vaishno Devi Shrine. Other important shrines here include the Gautam Nag shrine, Shrine of Devibal, Panchbakhter temple, Nangali Sahib Gurudwara, Sani for the Kanika Stupa, Verinag shrine, Goswami Gund Ashram, Vitasta shrine, Uma Devi shrine, the tomb of Sham Ded, Nilanag shrine, Tomb of Sheikh Noor-ud-din-Noorani, Bawan shrine, Ziarat Alamdar-E-Kashmir, Mattan shrine, Shrine of Khan Saheb, Nagdandi Shrine and last but not the least the beautiful religious monument of Ziarat Baba Buddan Shah.
From Hinduism to Islam, Sufism to Buddhism, Jammu and Kashmir is truly blessed with some diverse pilgrim spots, that make great visits and speaks volumes of the state’s distinct religious heritage.