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Mata Vaishno Devi shrine , jammu, jammu and kashmir, hill stations indiaJammu is the second largest city of the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and is also its winter capital. Divided into two separate cities, the old town of Jammu is located on a hilltop overlooking the river Tawi while the new town is situated across the river, several kilometers away. The city of Jammu is named after Jambu Lochan, the brother of Bahu, a powerful local chieftain who ruled during the ninth century. It is said that on becoming king, Jambu Lochan went on a hunt and, crossing the Tawi, found a deer and a tiger drinking water from the same tank. His ministers explained that this meant that the soil of the place was so virtuous that no living creature bore enmity against another. Raja Jambu Lochan, decided to build his capital, Jambupura, on this soil, on the right bank of the Tawi overlooking his brother king Bahu's fort. Jambupura later came to be known as Jammu.

Through the middle ages, Jammu prospered. Changes of rule at Delhi or Lahore passed over without disturbing the affluence of the town. The fertile cultivable land around the town constantly generated wealth and unlike many medieval towns, Jammu was never depopulated. The town was also a major stopover for caravans on the trade routes to Kashmir, Asia Minor and beyond and was a base for the fabled Silk Route. The state of Jammu & Kashmir, which was earlier under the rule of Hindus and Muslims, came under the rule of Mughals under emperor Akbar. After the period of Afghan rule from 1756, it was annexed to the Sikh kingdom of the Punjab in 1819. In 1846, Ranjit Singh made over the territory of Jammu to Maharaja Gulab Singh and Jammu and Kashmir came into being as a single political and geographical entity following the Treaty of Amritsar between the British Government and Gulab Singh signed on March 16, 1846.

Since then, the state remained under the Dogra rule till the time India gained independence. At the time of independence, like all the state, Jammu and Kashmir was also given the option of either joining India or Pakistan. However, the then ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh decided not to exercise the option immediately but had to sign the instrument of accession when Pakistan attacked the territory later the same year. Most of the tourists who come to the Jammu region have the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine as their destination, which is quite close by. However, the spirit of holiness permeates through the entire city, so much so that Jammu is also known as the 'City of Temples'. If Bahu Mata is the presiding deity of Jammu, the dargah of Peer Budhan Ali Shah is the other shrine that s believed to protect Jammuites. The other major tourist attraction is the Ragunath Temple Complex, which is the largest temple in North India devoted to Lord Ram. The construction of this temple was begun by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1851 and completed by his son Ranbir Singh six years later.

The temple of Maha Kali (better known as Bahu or Bawey Wali Mata), located in the Bahu fort, is considered second only to Mata Vaishno Devi in terms of mystical power. The present temple was built shortly after the coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh, in 1822. The existing fort, as well as the Manasabdar's palace inside it, were constructed in 1820 and are major tourist attractions of the city. Other temples in the city include the Gauri Kund temple, Shudh Mahadev temple, Shiva temple, Peer Khoh Cave temple, Ranbireshwar temple and the Parmandal temple complex. The most stunning site in Jammu is the Sheesh Mahal. The Pink Hall of the palace now houses the Dogra Art Museum, which has miniature paintings of the various hill schools. The museum also has the hand written Persian manuscripts of the Shahnama and Sikandernama. The palace was once the royal residence of the Dogra kings. Built as a group of buildings around a courtyard, the palace has a commanding view of river Tawi on one side and the city on the other.

The Amar Mahal Palace Museum is a beautiful palace of red sandstone, which stands amidst the most picturesque environs of Jammu. There is beautiful view of the Shivaliks in the north and river Tawi flows to the south adding to the grandeur. This was once the residential palace of Raja Amar Singh but now has been converted into a museum and is looked after by Hari-Tara Charitable trust. The museum has a golden throne made of 120 kg of pure gold. A treat for those interested in history is the town of Akhnoor, 32 km southwest of Jammu. Standing on the banks of the mighty river Chenab, the town tells the tragic tale of the lovers Sohni and Mahiwal. Also along the riverbank are the majestic ruins of the Indus-Valley Civilization that are of great historical importance and command a beautiful view of the area around. The Jujjar Kotli Tourist Complex, built on the banks of Jujjar rivulet, is at a distance of 35 km from Jammu. The crystal clear, cool water of Jujjar attracts picnickers in large numbers during the summer.

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