I love to look at people in the streets of “exotic” cities. . . . . The way they are busy is so different from the streets I walk in everyday’s life. . . . This time, I did not need a haircut, otherwise, one of these hairdressers would have had me as customer (I almost hate the European hairdressers who are just very expensive chatterboxes. . . ).
Looking also at the other working people, try to understand what they do; I mean the real ones, not the ones who “display” for tourists or tour operators, restaurant workers, blacksmiths, whatever. . . . I am always discovering, like a kid looking at a picture book. . . . Not only people, just street scenes; I have seen hundreds of cows in the streets of Indian cities, but each time I see some, I “rediscover”. . . . . never blasé or bored.
Of course, when you attend a scientific conference, you come to make a presentation, to meet other people working in the same field as you, to make some contacts with scientists and people, listen to interesting (or not?) presentations, learn about last developments in some research . . . etc. . . In some places, like here in Jammu University, the conference organisers are very proud to welcome their “honourable and esteemed visitors” and they organise some “social events”; so, there was a “cultural ceremony” at the first evening, followed by an artistic and folkloric show; the attendees could learn about dances from Kashmir.
Music and dance performed by groups representing the various valleys of High Kashmir, with traditional dresses, dances (the sort of dances like dance of wedding, dance of harvests, dance of spring coming back. . . etc, etc. . . . ); for a foreigner, it is quite nice to watch the dancers and listen to their songs for two hours or so. . . . I noticed that the “folklore” of mountains is about the same in many mountains. . . . . So, a few pictures of that evening. . . . The dancer of the first picture is not “Pyrénéan”, but the colour of her eyes, her dress and the henna paints on her hand remind me sights from the Rif in Morocco, or the Kabyle mountains of Algeria. . . . Other clothes, other valley, on picture 2. Other dancers on the next pictures and on the last picture, a famous local singer, who apparently made lots of jokes, as the attendance laughed many times when she told to the attendance. . . but I was unable to follow. . . . . but there was good mood in the main lecture hall of the university . . .
Jammu, despite the general military and police related atmosphere is a very lively city at night; people have to live, to go shopping, have a tea with friends. . . etc. . . . The streets are very busy at evening and night, and, if the atmosphere was a bit weird, I liked a lot my tour in the crowded streets (much better than watching some Bollywood movie at the hotel!); there is even some shopping to do for foreigners like me!
I liked a lot the shops decorated with hundreds of baskets (main picture) of different shapes, sizes and colours, and the keepers were rather surprised to see a European looking at their wares. There are a number of cloth shops, not the real Kashmir wool, but I found Pashmina shawls (picture 2) which made some girls happy when I was back in Europe; I did not look at the numerous sarees. . . . . There are a lot of shops selling dry fruits, where the keepers propose to taste their products (picture 3), I liked the nice shoe shops, with a big variety of local production (picture 4); and walking in the small not well lit streets, you also have a glimpse at local life, like here (picture 5), the entrance of a small temple, where worshippers enter, leaving their shoes.
Next to the main bridge (NH1A road) over the Tawi River, on the north shore, west side (32°43’20.00” N; 74°51’ 25.84” E) is a strange (to me!) temple, not spectacular outside, but inside, fully covered with glass, glass pieces, and many representations of divinities made with glass pieces, like stained glass windows. If I understood well the explanations (in Urdu!) of the priest who welcomed me (picture 1) this place is more a shrine rather than a temple, and many people come here to pay respect to some important people of the past, and also pray Ganesh or Saraswati; I forgot the name of this shrine!!! Strange light inside, and more strangely, there is real peace inside, despite this light, the bright glimmering coloured walls; in the middle of the temple, an impressive copper cobra watches a Lingam and Yoni, sexual symbols present in many Hindu temples (picture 2).
There are tens of statues in Shiv Mander Temple, dedicated to Durga (picture 3), the multi armed goddess , located not far from the northern shore of the Tawi river ( 32° 43’ 28.87”N ; 74°51’42.07”E).
There are many more temples in Jammu you discover when walking randomly in the city, most of them, a bit kitsch. The only one I wanted to seriously visit is the famous Ragunath Mandir temple, located in the old city, surrounded by gardens (32° 43’ 48.25”N ; 74° 51’ 46.16”E ), but here again, police and military prevented me entering with my backpack and camera; so, only pictures from outside, with the golden cupolas, (pictures 4 and 5). If there is a “next time”, I will leave my stuff at the hotel and visit this place, as I feel the richly decorated cupolas just are inviting to have a closer look! I probably missed the best place of Jammu, so, organise yourself before visiting. . . .
I did not find a street map of Jammu, and I provide the locations of the temples and other places in WGS 84 coordinates (Google Earth).
Jammu is dubbed “city of temples”, and it deserves this name. There are a few “authentic” temples, old ones, and a great number of modern temples, not really artistic, in my opinion (but what is my opinion worth?), many looking like decorated pastries, a bit “chemical” with their bright primary colours, but this gives a bit a charm to Jammu, which otherwise is not a very exciting place to visit!
A temple dedicated to Nav Druga, a multi-armed feminine divinity, riding a tiger is located near the entrance of Bagh-e-Bahu garden, where in fact outside, the most important representation is Hanuman, the monkey-god; the visit was very interesting, as (after a long hand-gestures communication and lots of smiles with the priest taking care of the temple) I got a few explanations about the divinities represented in this temple; So I learned to know Laxmi, Saraswati, Kali, Druga. . . . and I left the temple with a big red spot on my forehead! That meant something for me. . .
On the main picture is a naïve representation of Druga above the entrance, next to a monumental Hanuman; Druga is richly represented inside (picture 2), not far from Laxmi (picture 3).
A very kitsch temple is Halki Puri which you can discover from uphill; there, Ganesh and Hanuman dominate the scene; I did not visit inside, as the militaries wanted I leave my camera with them. . . . I do not trust militaries where ever they are from. . . . . You see them even on the roof of the temple (picture 4) watching the area. I do not remember the name of this divinity (Picture 5) with the cobras watching the cradle of the young Kali he carries on his head. There are other temples in Jammu, some of them less kitsch than this last one. . . . . A few in the next tip.
Observe the locals who like a lot to walk in the garden, . . . . .
At the end of the long alley following the entrance, before walking up the stairs to the high parts of the garden your sight will be caught by this strange sculptures composition; I do not know what that means, but I found it quite funny, all these little sculptures grouped on a small terraced rock garden.
Walking up, you can watch peaceful scenes of the garden, families sitting on the grass, big trees, wide open views, good to be here after the hectic traffic! Walking up the stairs of the garden takes you almost in some Mediterranean territory (picture 3), and when you look at the water of the basin, there is also some beauty (picture 4).
The garden has also another sort of visitors, and if you intend to picnic there, watch out! These aggressive visitors are quite swift (picture 5), and as they live in a Hindu place, they feel very safe, they are not really chased by people who are the victims of these little thieves.
Observe the locals who like a lot to walk in the garden, have picnic, or just sit on the lawn, watch their children playing. . . . . have a chat with the gardeners. . . .
As I had some close look at the works of the gardeners who were cleaning a small watering canal, their foreman came to me and tried to ask me what I was doing, what was I looking at, and me, I tried to explain I was looking at the watering system. . . . We did not really communicate, but after 30 seconds, we were laughing. . . . . . universal language! He was rather proud of his job and his team, so I took a picture of this man with French Marigold in the background (funnily, this flower is called French Marigold, and in French, its name is Oeillet d’Inde, which literally translates into Indian carnation) . . . .
The workers were mainly women, and they were happy to laugh at the visitor and look at the pictures on the screen of my camera; a few portraits of the workers; I like a lot to meet “real locals”, not the ones who are used to tourists, even it is for 5-10 mn, and the life goes on. . . .
In the western countries we are not anymore used to work in difficult conditions, and the last picture, not very “touristy”, gives an idea of these conditions, but also how these people are proud, courageous, keep their personality even in the worst conditions; these crevassed feet, with mercurochrome, in the mud, are still decorated with jewellery. . . . .
In this Winter Capital of Jammu and Kashmir, one place to visit is the Botanical Garden; this garden, also known as Bagh-e-Bahu, has been initially been laid out under Maharajah Gulab Singh. There are in fact three things to do in this garden:
Enjoy the view over the old and new cities of Jammu, and the Tawi river.
Look at the flowers, trees and layout of this landscaped garden; even have a chat with the gardeners.
Observe the locals who like a lot to walk in the garden, have picnic, or just sit on the lawn, watch their children playing. . .
It was local winter and there were not a lot flowers to see; there are many Himalayan flowers, of course, but in spring or summer, I guess the garden would be full of colours; the roses try to give some colours. On the main picture you see the Tawi river, separating Old Jammu (right) and New Jammu, and terraces, basins. . . views from the high areas of the garden are very enjoyable.
Another view against the light from top of the garden, on picture 2, the terraces above the river, on picture 3; as I wrote, it was winter, but this tree (did not identify!) was giving some colours to the garden (picture 4). Of course, like in many cities of India, the traffic is heavy and you have to walk between cars, rickshaws, motorcycles, etc. . . to reach the entrance of the garden (picture 5)
If for some reason you need, or miss, the convenience of air conditioning and relative-order you can go to the City Square mall. It is not very big but gives you on your break in India... a break.