Pilgrimage in Jammu and Kashmir

The Jammu and Kashmir state has a rich cultural heritage that is reflected in the lifestyles of the native people who live in the villages in the different districts of the state. Tours and travel to Kashmir includes visits to a number of ancient Hindu, Muslim and Sufi and Buddhist temples, shrines and monasteries. The Ladakh region has a number of important Gompas or monasteries. The village of Krimchi situated in the Udhampur district has the three most ancient Hindu temples in the state of Kashmir. Jammu is known as the city of temples. There are a number of places of worship in the Srinagar area.

Charar-e-sharif

The pilgrimage destination of Charar-e-sharief has one of the most sacred Muslim shrines, which is popularly known as the Hazrat Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali. This Muslim pilgrimage is dedicated to the memory of the Sufi saint Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani, who was the patron saint of the Muslims in Kashmir. During the Sheikh's lifetime, he witnessed a cultural and religious transformation of those around him, from Hinduism to Islam. A number of historical events prompted the Sheikh to produce some valuable works of philosophy, in verses and poetry.
Tours and travel to the Charar-e-sharief shrine can be an educative experience. This pilgrimage is a 600 year-old wooden shrine. Most of the shrine and its surroundings were destroyed as a consequence of an armed battle

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between the Indian Army and the Pakistani Army. Later the shrine was rebuilt on the lines of central Asian architecture.Charar-e-Sharief is located on the way to Yusmarg, 40 kilometers from Srinagar. Tours and travel to this region is a little tricky as the region lies near Pakistan occupied Kashmir.In 1995 a major part of this 600 year-old shrine was destroyed. Tourists still have an opportunity to learn about the history of the sacred place of worship and Kashmir Hub attempts to introduce tours and travel options to this religious shrine to interested tourists.

Hazratbal

Hazratbal shrine is situated on the banks of the Dal Lake in Srinagar opposite Nishat Bagh. Tours and travel to this shrine can be a special experience as the Prophet Mohammad's hair, that is the Moi-e-Muqqadus, is preserved in this shrine. The history of this shrine dates back to the seventeenth century. The Hazratbal shrine is a marble structure that was specifically constructed by Muslim Auqaf Trust with the objective of preserving the Prophet's hair, this piece of hair arrived in Kashmir in the year 1699.
The Hazratbal shrine lies at a distance of 25 kilometers from the Badgam district in Srinagar, Kashmir. This pilgrimage destination is known by a number of names viz. the Assar-e-Sharif, Madinat-us-Sani and the Dargah

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Sharif. Mughal emperor Shahjahan's brother constructed the Ishrat Mahal at the site of the shrine sometime in the year 1623, later when the emperor himself visited the site he ordered the place to be converted into a prayer house. The shrine as such was built by the Muslim Auqaf trust. Before the Hazratbal shrine was constructed the sacred hair was placed in the shrine of Naqshband Sahib. The architecture of the shrine is a combination of Mughal and traditional Kashmiri.The Moi-e-Muqqadus (saw) is usually on public display inside a glass casket on certain sacred and holy days. Tours and travel to the Hazratbal shrine gives you an opportunity to participate in the colorful and vibrant fairs that are held at Hazratbal every year, the most important among these is the Shab-e-Meraj.

Khanqah Mosque

The Khanqah-e-moulah is popularly known as the Khanqah mosque or the Shah Hamdan Masjid. This mosque is located on the banks of the river Jhelum. Tours and travel to this pilgrimage destination gives you the thrill of watching this ancient monument on the banks of the river Jhelum in its complete rustic glory. This mosque was constructed by Sultan Shah Sikander in the year 1395 to honor Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani, popularly known as Shah Hamdan who used to visit Kashmir for meditation. The word Khanqah basically means a lodge or resting place for Sufi saints.
Tours and travel to this pilgrimage gives you a chance to appreciate the most attractive feature of this mosque, and that is its intricate and characteristic woodwork and

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carvings. Cedar wood was used for the construction of this Khanqah. The medieval wooden style of Kashmir's Muslim architecture is best reflected in the Khanqah-e-moulah in Srinagar. There is a lot of papier machie work on the walls and ceilings of the mosque. The original structure of the mosque does not exist, in fact it has been rebuilt a number of times. The present structure is shaped like a cube with a pyramidal roof and was built by SultanHassanShah. An inscription on the doorway of the shrine states 786 Hijrah as the year of death of the Sufi saint ShahHamdan.

Amarnath yatra

The pilgrimage destination of Amarnath shrine is located inside a cave in the Himalayas. The mythological and historical importance of this sacred place according to mythology is the fact that lord Shiva recounted the secret of creation and immortality to the Goddess Parvati in this cave. This secret is of immortality is known as the amar katha and according to legend lord Shiva made sure that no living being was around when he narrated this story to the Goddess Parvati.
According to common legend a shepherd called Buta Malik first discovered this holy cave at Amarnath and ever since, this cave became an important center of pilgrimage for the Hindus.
The Government of Jammu and Kashmir organize tours

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and travel to the Amarnath shrine in Jammu. There is an ice lingam of lord Shiva inside the Amarnath cave. This is supposed to represent the deity. Tours and travel to this shrine in Jammu can be undertaken only after being registered with the authorities.Kashmir Hub offers details about tours and travel packages for the holy Amarnath yatra in Jammu, Kashmir, India. There are two different ways of reaching the Amarnath shrine. The traditional route passes via Pahalgam, Sheshnag and Panchtarni. The new route is via Baltal. If pilgrims opt to travel by the old route then it takes approximately four days to reach the holy Amarnath Dham. Those who choose to travel by the new route reach the place in a day's time. Most Hindus try to visit this shrine at least once in a lifetime.

Kheer Bhawani

Kheer Bhawani pilgrimage destination is located in the village of Tulla Mulla, that is at a distance of 27 kilometers from Srinagar.
This temple is popularly known as the Kheer Bhawani temple. Devotees fast and gather here on the eighth day of the full moon in the month of May when, according to common belief, the goddess changes the color of the spring's waters. The temple complex is known as Kheer Bhawani because of the thousands of devotees who offer milk and kheer, a form of Indian desert, to the sacred spring, which magically turns black to warn of impending disaster. Pilgrims who have faith in the divine powers of the goddess usually undertake tours and travel to this pilgrimage.

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Travel and tours to the Kheer Bhawani pilgrimage during the annual festival can be the most thrilling experience. The festival of the Kheer Bhawani temple is extremely famous and devotees gather from far and wide to participate in the worship of the goddess Ragnya Devi. The festival ends with a maha yagnya. It has been a tradition among the Kashmiri pundits to visit the temple of Kheer Bhawani on all the nine days of the navratras. The tenth day of the festival is celebrated as Vijaya Dashami.

Shankaracharya Temple

This temple is located on the top of the hills, southeast of Srinagar and is commonly known as the Takht-i-Sulaiman. This temple is situated at a height of 1100 feet above the Srinagar city. The temple is devoted to the worship of lord Shiva. Tours and travel to this pilgrimage involves a trek to the top of the hills in the Srinagar region.
This ancient temple dates back to 250 B.C. It is believed that the saint Shankaracharya stayed here when he visited Kashmir ten centuries ago to preach the Sanatan Dharma. In the ancient times this temple was known as the Gopadri. The main shrine has a circular cell inside. An inscription in Persian inside the shrine indicates that the origin of this sacred place dates back to the reign of emperor Shah Jahan. The saint Adi Shankaracharya visited Kashmir in the 

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irst quarter of the ninth century with the basic aim of spreading the philosophy of Vedanta. The saint also popularized the worship of lord Shiva in Kashmir.It seems before saint Shankaracharya came to this area, Buddhism was rampant in this region.

Gompas in Ladakh

There are more than 100 Gompas or monasteries in Ladakh. These Gompas are religious residences of Buddhist monks who stay here and adhere to the Buddhist way of life, meditate and pray. Tours and travel to these Gompas involves long mountain treks as these pilgrimage destinations are situated in remote places in the interiors of Ladakh.
Most of these Gompas are situated in remote areas, usually at great heights. Either the Mahayana or the Hinayana Buddhist sects built most monasteries in the Ladakh area of Kashmir. Monasteries in Ladakh are perched on high cliffs.
Tours and travel to these Gompas make you aware of the deep religious influence these monasteries have on the local people. The predominantly practiced religion in

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Ladakh is the Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism is based on the eighth tenet of the concept of the eightfold part as propagated by Lord Buddha. This form of Buddhism stresses on meditation and concentration. One of the most innovative concepts introduced by the Mahayanists is that of the bodhisattvas.The largest monastery in Ladakh is the Hemis Gompa that is located at a distance of 45 kilometers from Leh, the capital of Ladakh. The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, which was built in the year 1430, houses a three-storyed statue of Lord Buddha. The Sankar Gompa is also an important monastery. The Dalai Lama inaugurated the Shanti Stupa in the year 1995. The Likhir monastery was built in the 11th century. There are huge clay images of Lord Buddha in this Gompa along with utensils and manuscripts from the olden days. Another old monastery is the Cave Gompa located at Shergole.

Vaishno Devi

The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is one of the most important pilgrimages of the Hindus. This sacred shrine is located at a height of 5, 300 feet above the sea level. The site is located inside a cave in the Trikuta Mountains in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, 62 kilometers from Jammu and 14 kilometers from Katra.
Mata Vaishno Devi is a form of the Hindu goddess Durga. According to legend a young girl Vaishno was created by the Gods to fight the demons in the Treta yug. According to common Hindu religious belief Mata Vaishno grants the four important boons of righteousness, material pursuits, contentment and enlightenment to all those who visit this sacred place of worship. Usually devotees offer coconuts, dry fruits and red net scarves as a token of worship to the

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deity.The shrine as mentioned above is located in the Trikuta Mountains. Once at the entrance to the cave; the path turns into a narrow tunnel with a cold stream running through it. This stream is called the Charan Ganga. There are rock cut idols of three deities inside the cave, viz. Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. These idols have crowns made of gold and silver.