In March this year, Preethi Amaresh escaped from the scorching heat of Chennai and set out for Jammu City. After a long stopover at Delhi airport, she reached Jammu in the evening and settled in for a week-long stay. Notes from her travel diary
Travelling – it leaves you speechless. Then turns you into a storyteller: Ibn Batuta
Jammu is the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir and the administrative headquarters moves from Srinagar to Jammu for half the year. Movies, poets and storytellers have all portrayed the splendour of Jammu and Kashmir. Snuggled against the backdrop of the snow-capped Pir Panjal Mountains, the Shivalik Hills stretch from the east to the west and Rivers Ravi, Tawi and Chenab run through the region. It was once part of the Harappan civilisation.
Movies, poets and storytellers have all portrayed the splendour of Jammu and Kashmir. Snuggled against the backdrop of the snow-capped Pir Panjal Mountains, the Shivalik Hills stretch from the east to the west and Rivers Ravi, Tawi and Chenab run through the region. It was once part of the Harappan civilisation.
Many scholars and historians believe that Jammu was founded by Raja Jambulochan, and was originally named Jambupur after him. Relics of kingdoms ruled by dynasties such as the Kushans, Mauryas and Guptas have been found in Jammu.
The region is home to the great Vaishno Devi temple. Raja Hari Singh’s palace, overlooking the Tawi River on one side with a view of the Trikuta hills on the other, is a breath-taking building in the art-deco style which originated in France before World War I. The adjacent building is the Amar Mahal Palace of Majaraja Hari Singh. It has now been converted into a heritage hotel by the Raja’s descendants, some of whom are said to be living at one end of the palace. Heritage walks are conducted around the palace to give tourists insights into the history of Jammu and surrounding cities. I got to see the Maharani’s room at the Amar Mahal Palace, and some of the exquisite items she used, giving me a glimpse into her lifestyle. The elevator there is believed to be the first to be installed in the state, and I was happy to get into it though it is no longer in operation. Peer Khoh, a cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva, located a little distance away from Jammu City, was on my itinerary. The Shiva lingam there is said to have been formed naturally. It is believed that this cave leads to other cave shrines in India and even on the other side of the border.
Bahu Fort built by King Gulab Singh in the 19th Century stands on a high plateau on the left bank of River Tawi. It is believed to be the oldest fort in Jammu. The fort is testimony to the lavishness and richness of the Dogra kings who once ruled the region. There is also a beautiful garden called Bagh-e-Bahu laid out around the fort.
I managed to shoe-horn a visit to the Manda Zoo on my last day in Jammu. Manda Zoo is famous for its flora and fauna. The Himalayan Black Bear is one of species endemic to the region which is housed at the zoo. I also saw peacocks, snakes, monkeys, nilgai (blue bull), porcupine, and exotic birds like the emu.
The unique flora and fauna of the region, the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, Kashmiri food and the wonderful culture of the place make Jammu and Kashmir a perfect tourist destination. You will want to come back again and again.
(The writer is a student of International Relations and a frequent traveller.)