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Famous Excursions: Katra, Kud, Patnitop, Sanasar, Batote, Sudh Mahadev, Akhnoor

Situated 50-km from Jammu this small town serves as the base camp for visiting the famous shrine of Vaishno Deviji in the Trikuta hills. The shrine is approachable on foot along a 12-km long well laid footpath. Every year, nearly 4 million pilgrims pass through Katra on their way to Vaishno Deviji. Accommodation is available in tourist bungalows, Yatrika and a number of private hotels, besides pilgrims' 'Sarais'

Vaishno Devi
This important cave is dedicated to the three mother Goddesses of Hinduism. Thousands of pilgrims visit the cave, particularly during the four-month pilgrimage season from March to July. The cave stands at 1,700 metres, is 30 metres long. The road terminates at the beautiful town of Katra, 48-km from Jammu, and visitors have to make the final, steep 13-km on foot. There is also a new road from lower Sanjichat to the Dabba, by passing upper Sanjichat and the Bahairo Ghatti. This leaves one 2-km closer to the cave and with 300 metres less climb to be made.

The origin of the pilgrimage is shrouded in mystery. Various legends are, however, associated with the shrine. According to one, the Goddess Vaishno Devi usually stayed at a place called "Adkunwari". The demon Bahairo wanted to marry her forcibly and chased the Goddess, who ran all the way from Adkunwari to the cave where she took shelter after killing the demon. A big stone outside the cae is said to be the purified body of the demon. Pilgrims walking to the cave greet each other with the cry 'Jai Mataki' - 'Victory to the Mother Goddess'.

A Famous Pilgrim Place - VaishnodeviThe pilgrimage route from Katra to the cave is now lit to allow pilgrims to travel at night. Katra is at the foot of the Trikuta mountains and 8-km from Katra is the village of Aghar Jito, site of the annual Kartik Purnima or Jhiri Festival. This is held in memory of the hero Bawa Jito whose historic struggle against tyranny is admired today as a symbol of truth and personal courage.

3-km from the town of riasi is the ruined fort and palace of General Zorawar Singh, a controversial warrior best remembered in India for his clashes with the Chinese over Ladakh. The palace, situated on a ridge overlooking the mighty Chenab River, is considerably rundown although it is still inhabited by the descendants of general Singh.

There is a gurdwara, 15-km from Riasi, with some of the oldest known frescoes in the Pahari style. The 400 metre long Shiv Khori Cave, another pilgrimage site, is 19-km from Riasi, the last 5-km must be completed on foot. The cave is difficult to negotiate but at its end there is a vast hall in which the Shiva Lingam formation on the ground is just over a metre high and other symbolic figures are said to be naturally etched on the cave ceiling.

The rangmahal, 'Palace Of Colours', has a great number of very colourful and beautiful wall paintings in the Pahari style. The paintings of scenes from Krishna's life are particularly noteworthy. Buses go to Ramnagar from Jammu or Udhampur. The medieval style Hindu temples at Krimchi are 10-km from Udhampur. The temples are notable for their fine carvings and sculpture.

Located 103-km from Jammu this popular resort is situated on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, at an altitude of 1,738 metres. An ideal picnic spot this place has a bracing climate. It is a very well developed hill station in Udhampur District and also experiences heavy rainfall in rainy season.

This famous hill resort is perched on a beautiful plateau, 110-km from Jammu at an altitude of 2,024 metres across which the Jammu-Srinagar highway passes. Enveloped by thickly wooded forests, Patnitop offers beautiful picnic spots, peaceful walks and breathtaking views of the mountainscape of the Chenab basin. In winter, the resort is generally covered with a thick mantle of snow thus providing opportunities for various snow games including skiing.

Situated 129-km from Jammu and only 19-km From Patnitop, Sanasar is a cupshaped meadow surrounded by gigantic conifers. A place for a quiet holiday, the meadow has now been developed as a golf course. It also provides opportunities for paragliding. Accommodation is available in huts, Tourist bungalow and dormitory of the J&K Tourism development corporation.

Tourist Huts in Jammu Batote
Situated 125-km away at an altitude of 1,560 metres on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, this resort straddles the forested slopes of the Patnitop mountain range, overlooking the spectacular lie of the Chenab gorge. Accommodation is available in huts, tourist bungalow and dormitory of the J&K TDC.

Sudh Mahadev
This holy spot near Patnitop is situated at an altitude of 1,225m, about 120-km From Jammu. Pilgrims visit the shrine on the full moon night of 'Sawan' (July-August) to worship the 'Trishul' (Trident) and a mace, which is said to belong to Lord Shiva. The Devak stream originates at Sudh Mahadev and disappears among the rocks a few kilometres down stream.

Gauri Kund
Short of Sudh Mahadev is the legendary spring where Goddess Parvati used to bath before commencing her daily prayers at Sudh Mahadev. This spring came to be named after her as "Gauri Kund'.

Situated a few kilometres further away from Sudh Mahadev, Mantalai is surrounded by lush deodar forests, at an altitude of over 2,000 metres. It is believed that Lord Shiva had got married to Goddess Parvati over here.

Mansar Lake
Situated 62-kms from Jammu, Mansar is a beautiful lake fringed by forest-covered hills. Boating facilities are also available on the spot for one's amusement. Every year around Baisakhi, a food and crafts festival is organised here by J&K Tourism.

Surinsar Lake
Surinsar is a picturesque spot with a lake surrounded by wooded hills at an altitude of 700m and is 42-km away from the city of Jammu.

Shiv Khori
At a distance of 100-km this holy cave is nearly a kilometre long with a 4-feet high naturally formed Shivling (also spelt as Shivalinga), and is considered second only to the shrine of Vaishno Deviji. A major festival is held here over here every year of Shivratri Day.

Dera Baba Banda
Situated 75-km from the Jammu city, Deo Baba Banda is a major Hindu-Sikh pilgrimage centre. Baba Banda Bairaagi was Guru Gobind Singh's favourite 'Saint-soldier', who had the Gurdwara constructed on the banks of river Chenab, where he spent his last days.

Just off the national highway leading towards Pathankot is the Purmandal temple complex built on the banks of the sacred, mostly underground river Devak. Often referred to as 'Chhota Kashi', its main temple is dedicated to 'Umapati', while the other temples worship Lord Shiva. These ancient temples are associated with Shaivites of the Kashmir valley.

On the way to Sudh Mahadev Mantalai, a short detour takes one to Krimchi, site of three of the oldest temples of Jammu. The architecture of the temple shows distinct Greek influences. Pancheri, a hill resort is a short distance away from here.

Jajjar Kotli
On the National highway leading towards Srinagar is the Jajjar Kotli tourist complex, built on the banks of the Jajjar rivulet. The crystal clear, cool water of Jajjar attract picnickers in large numbers during summer. A tourist cafeteria, a bar and a small tourist bungalow are the facilities provided here by JKTDC.

32-km to the west of Jammu, situated on the banks of the mighty Chenab River is the historic town of Akhnoor. This town is associated with the legend of Soni Mahiwal. Ruins of the Indus valley civilization are to be seen along the riverbank commanding a panoramic view all around.

Salal Dam And Lake
Located 95-km from Jammu to the west of the Holy shrine of Vaishno Deviji is the Salal dam and lake. With an installed capacity of 400 mw of electricity, this is the largest hydroelectric project commissioned in the state so far. The lake formed behind the dam is 33-km long. The dam site can be visited with the permission of the project authorities.

Baba Dhansar
65-km from Jammu, on way to Salal dam, Baba Dhansar is a beautiful and cool picnic spot. Here, a huge spring gushes out of the mountainside in a thick grove of trees and forms a number of small water falls before flowing into the holy Banganga. Next to the spring in a small grove in the rock face is a naturally formed Shivling (also spelt as Shivlinga) on which droplets of water fall naturally all the year round. A big Mela (fair) is held here during Shivratri.

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