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Kzstan › India. Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu, Katra, Vaishno Devi and Shiva Khori. 08.05.09 – 12.05.09

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13.05.2009
I reached Jammu at around 8-30 pm, taxi took us to the bus station, so I needed to find a hotel or guest house... I knew some hotel names, but quick Indians already helped me to find a hotel and put in riksha. So I came to Volga Hotel for 30 INR, and rent there a room for 300 INR, pretty small and simple, but clean and without smells. Later I looked rooms in some other hotels around (Diamond Hotel, New Jammu Hotel), my room I think was a better choice for such money.

It was pretty late when I went to the street and ate in a nearest Indian canteen for 50 INR. Nothing was left as to take shower (1st time for last 3 days) and go sleep giving my tired body normal rest.

Next day I decided just relax. Slept till 11, after that I went to internet café for a while. Rest of the day I decided to see some sights of Jammu. First I came to Amar Mahal palace (70 INR by riksha from bus stand). It was built in French architectural style in 1907. There is a museum of Maharaja Singh family (45 INR entrance) with notable collection of pictures, miniatures, old books and even golden throne. But the most impressed there is an atmosphere around the chateau – very peaceful and shanti, so different from the rest of Jammu... And the view on Tawi River and nearest hills is just unforgettable... So I recommend all who stay in Jammu even for 1 day to come that place...

After that it was a time for evening darshan in Raghunath Temple – heart of the city. Temple is dedicated to Lord Rama, there are some smaller temples surround central one in this complex. They dedicated to various Gods and Goddesses (almost all pantheon) connected by Ramayana. The work on the temple was started by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1835 and was completed by Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1860. So I was walking around the temple, got darshans and just sit feeling myself.

So I can say in Jammu and Kashmir Hindu religion opened the face to me. It started with buying Lord Shiva amulet near Srinagar, which I felt was made for me. Next day we visited Mata Khirbawani Temple, and now, after visiting Raghunath Temple I felt I must do pilgrimage to Mata Vaishnodevi Temple and what was most important to Shiva Khori cave.

I decided to finish Victory Day (May 9th) in the best restaurant in Jammu on top of the KC Residency hotel. This restaurant is famous cuz it revolves on its axis on top of the building.

So next day, on May 10th, I came in the early morning by bus to Katra (30 INR, 1,5-2 hours) to start my climbing to Mata Vaishno Devi Temple. This Temple is dedicated to 3 Hindu Mother-Goddess: Maha Kali, Maha Laksmi and Maha Saraswati. In the cave on top of the hill (the height is about 2000 m above the sea) there are 3 natural pindis (rock stalagmite). So pilgrimage there starts from Katra, where everyone must receive a "yatra slip" to come for darshan to the cave on top. There is about 12-14 km from Katra to Vaishno Devi complex, which have to be done by feet or horse.

So in the bus to Katra I met some pilgrims, nice guys. They were surprised why I'm going there. Naturally, while I came up to the top, I met no any foreigners there. So guys told me about the temple and the traditions. There is special mantra "Jai Mata Di", which used for greetings, wishing and just for making a way up easier (it really works!). So way to the top took about 3 hours, and then I was waiting for darshan in a long line for about an hour. Indians were very surprised noticing me among the devotees. Anyways, I got darshan in holy cave and came up to the top 2,5 km more, to the Bhairvnath temple, to complete my yatra. So I did it. Way back down was a bit easier, but my knees were hurt much. So on the way I had thali and chai for my lunch, and then met a guy from Agra, who became a good company on the way. We exchange the contacts and he invited me to Agra to show me around there. Finally I got a bus back to Jammu for only 25 INR and slept completely dead in my hotel.

Next morning I have to come back to Katra, cuz only from there it was convenient to visit Shiva Khori and then go to right to Amritsar. So I reached Katra by 10 and around 11 started my new yatra to sacred cave of Lord Shiva. Round trip cost me 200 INR, ticket I got in local travel agency in bus stand. Distance between Katra and Shiva Khori (Ransoo village) is about 80 kms. The road from Katra to Shiva Khori is just terrible, it take around 3 hours to reach there.

After about 11 km we stopped for darshan near Mini-Shiv Khori, small naturally formed Shivlingam in a cave, carved out in a rock face by river. Very nice and beautiful place... So by 3-30 pm we finally reached Ransoo, passed Reasi, Pouni and Bharach villages on the way. Indians in our mini-bus were surprised why I came along there... I met with a nice family there and we decide to get a common yatra slip... So way to Shiva Khori was not so hard as for Vaishno Devi, only 2,5-3 km walk on mountain valley... So we reached there in an hour...

The cave is just amazing. It's about 100 m long and the way to sanctorum is so narrow between stone walls... but inner chamber is large enough to accommodate about 30 people at a time... there is about 1,5 meters high Svayambhu Shivalingam, which constantly bathes in a milky limestone fluid dripping from tiny stalactite jetting down from the ceiling. The cave is formed in a shape of Lord Shiva damroo i.e. wider at the two ends and narrow in the center. So I ask to bless my Lord Shiva amulet on this Lingam, cuz I think this amulet take me to this place right for that.

On the way back near cave I stopped to talk with local guys. They invited me for a cup of tea, and one of them speaking so little English was succeed to translate what I said. Nice and kind people... So I knew from them that Kashmiri and Pakistani people really sly and want to make money on everything... it wasn't a news for me... but it was a tiny part of national antagonisms, which this area still has... We start our journey back at around 6-30 pm. But before we reached Katra, our bus was broken 3 times, cuz it was really ancient and must be already in a dump... 3rd time before 20 kms to Katra was critical and we hadn't any tyres left... but fortunately other almost empty mini-bus stopped and we finally reached Katra by 11 pm... My travel agent with whom I left my lugguage waited for me and so my bus to Amritsar did... so I paid 550 INR for ticket (just abnormal price for 6 hour sleeper, but I was just unable to argue) and just deadly fall asleep...
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