You cannot reach Bahu Fort by car or other vehicle, and have to walk through a sort of small “village”, a long turning street, with tens of shops on each side, these shops are mainly for the pilgrims who visit Bahu Fort, where is the Hindu holy place of Kali Mata.
The pilgrimage to Bahu is very important for Hindu, and that explains the lots of shops with religious artefacts you see on the way to the place, as well as the numerous hermits (beggars. . . ), ascetics and other more or less religious people sitting in the vicinity; Kali is the second holy protector to Jammu, and people from the area are very fervent with this divinity, specially as the territory of Jammu and Kashmir is subject to more or less open religion war.
When I was there, I felt a bit “foreign”, and after thinking a while, (and also because of the long queue, I have to admit. . . ), I decided not to visit the Kali Mata shrine. So I walked in the area, above the gardens, in the small winding street, and was “impregnated” by the local religious atmosphere; feeling a foreigner, diving in the local life is a traveller’s delight, in my opinion, and I had this here.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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. . . . .
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).
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 is not “touristy”, but, what does this mean? I believe there is something to see and discover in every place, and this is also valid for Jammu; I love to walk in the streets, with the local crowds, look around, being amazed , discovering every second. .. . . The markets and shops look rather ordinary, but if you look above the shops, you discover in Jammu some old houses, a kind of colonial (a bit decadent!) architecture, houses of different colours, styles. . . I have the feeling Jammu must have been a rich and beautiful city in a not so far past. . . . Well, this is just one of the thoughts which ran through my mind when I walked in the streets of the old city.
I did not visit inside Temple of Ragunath Mandir and felt a bit frustrated, so I had to be content with the cupolas outside; the façade is in some way integrated to the street, as there are shops on the outer wall of the temple; above the entrance guarded by militaries is a strange representation of the sun.
If you walk in the street near the temple you may also see some very dexterous worshippers like this monkey crossing the road on telephone wires. . . . Many things to see in the streets. . . . The kitsch and the beauty co-exist in the Hindu temples, and that only is a reason to visit Jammu, that strange atmosphere of religiosity, the old temples, and the “modern” representation of deities; I have no religious feeling, but feel deep respect for people who really believe in something, whatever it is.
On the last afternoon of the conference, the “honourable and esteemed guests” were invited to a dinner at the chief minister’s residence. His Excellence Ghulam Nabi Azad welcomed the conference participants personally. . . . . I must admit, I do not remember where exactly his residence is, as we were picked at the hotel, “stacked” in 4WD cars driven by some local Fangios, with police cars opening the way in the streets, and suddenly we were in a big garden where tables and chairs were laid out under big trees. . . . .
I found all this a bit funny, then, we were guarded by heavily armed guys, could make photographs. . . but only from the garden, surrounded by high walls, not the residence itself. . . . Well, only fun which I can sometimes enjoy in very formal occasions when travelling for my job, I share here.
A general view of the reception (red carpet. . please!!), on the first picture; you see the standing guys with their beige coats? Have a closer look on picture 2; they are not here for fun! Another of these guys on picture 3, and another general view of the reception in the garden on picture 4. At least, the food was good!
When I was student in Bordeaux (long time ago. . . :), there was no police on the campus, the students and university administration took care of that (well, except some special events and demonstrations. . . . against police!!), and I found it quite strange and curious to see so many police and army on the campus; but Jammu is a special place, and the local authorities may be a bit paranoid with war and terrorism. In fact the heavy presence of uniforms gives more the feeling of unsafe place rather than a reassuring presence. . . . But for the conference I attended, the authorities made an effort and there were even “parade uniforms” following the tradition of the “old days” (maharajah’s , or colonial time. . . ) ,(picture 1); but this is a bit “carnival”, there were also “serious” militaries on the campus, watching for the safety of the students and visitors(picture 2). . . . . . Students or visitors do not really seem “affected” by military presence (picture 3), even there are some high concentrations of them in some places (picture 4).
Nothing happebned during my stay there, and apparently, since I left. . . . .
This is a beautiful temple considered to be one of the largest in North India. It was built almost 170 years ago. The temple construction work was started by Maharaja Ghulam Singhji and was completed by his son Maharaja Ranbir Singhji. The main shrine is dedicated to Lord Rama, however this also houses other Gods such as Shiva, Vaishnodevi, The Thrimurthis, Hanumanji, the Gods of the months, the planets... And 330 Million Gods. It is a must visit. There is a spatika Lingam which is fascinating. However the downside of the temple is the extreme commercialization. The priests goad you into spending more and sentimentally try to lure you into performing poojas. Beware of these tactics. God never wants us to spend materialistically, good does not come by performing rituals alone! It was indeed a very sad feature of the temple. Do carry small cash since there are so many small shrines within this temple and you may want to/ persuaded to spend some money on each Sannidhi/shrine.
The security is very high for this temple as it has been attacked a few times in the past by terrorists. There is a cloak room to deposit your bags, mobile phones and other valuables. There is also a place to leave your shoes. You will not be allowed to carry anything other than cash in small wallets or in your pockets.
Photography is strictly prohibited. But you may find some pictures of the temple on the net!
This is a lovely big bungalow though it is called a palace! It is worth visiting this if you are interested in history or want to spend some nice, quite time in Jammu. The palace houses some family photographs and details of the erstwhile royal family of Jammu. Starting from Raja Ghulab singh you will find pictures of amongst others, Raja Hari Singh and the present heir Dr. Karan Singh ji.
It has two small art galleries and the golden throne that was used by Maharaja Hari Singhji. It is surrounded by a lovely garden with a statue of Maharaja Ghulam Singhji on a horse. The backside of the palace gardens provide a spectacular view of the Jammu Tawi river. It is a very picturesque place in Jammu. With the same premises is a star Hotel that belongs to the erstwhile royal family.
The entrance fee to the palace is Rs. 20 for adults and Rs. 10 for children.