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Shahdra Sharif2

Ziarat Shahdara Sharief is about 35 Kms in the north of Rajauri and 5 Kms from Thannamandi. The famous Ziarat is surrounded by beautiful high mountain peeks, thick belt of forests, green pastures, springs and strings.

Shahdra Sharif

The village was in ancient time known as Simha Dwara in Sanskrit. Later on the name changed from Simha Dwara to Shindhara meaning the place of lions. In 1765 AD, when a great Sant and religious preacher Hazrat Sayeed Ghulam Shah Baadshah reached this place and started meditation, the people renamed this place after the name of great Sant as Shahdara.

Thousands of people from all religions visit the shrine every year and offer prayers. Presently, three to four thousand people took meal from langar every day while the Kashmiri tea(saltish tea) in Samawar is served to the pilgrims all the times. Four thousand people can be accommodated in the Ziarat, while 800 people can be provided beds also. Ten thousand people can offer prayer in Jamia Masjid Shahdara Shrief. The Urs of Hazrat Ghulam Shah Baadshah is celebratd on 10th of Muharram every year. Normally, villagers bring with them atta, rice and other goods apart from cash to offer on the shrine. During 1998-99 about 13,00,000 pilgrims visited Shahdara Shrief while the cash offering received during the year was Rs.2.05 crores.

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Apart from a number of Gurudwaras existing in the District, Gurudwara Chhati Padshahi Rajouri is very important religious place which has been constructed in the memory of 6th Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji (1595-1646 AD) who stayed at this place in 1616 AD when he was on the way to Kashmir along with Emperor Jahangir.

Gurudwara Chatti Padshahi

As per the legend, once Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji Maharaj had a dream that Mai Bhag Wanti (popularly known as Mai Bhagpari) in Kashmir had prepared a Cloak (long shirt/Cholla) for Guru Ji and she is praying to God for the darshan of Guru Ji so that she can present it to Guru Ji because due to old-age, she was not in a position to visit Punjab and fulfil her aspiration of presenting Cholla to Guru Ji. Therefore, Guru Ji decided to visit Kashmir and take present from the devotee Mai Bhag Wanti and to preach Sikhism in the mountainous belt of Peer-Panchal and Kashmir.

After 1947, a Gurudwara Committee was constituted under the president ship of Sardar Thakur Singh and Bhai Jagannath was the Vice-President while late Nanak Chand was the Secretary of the Committee. Since there was very limited space for Diwan purposes where the Sangat was feeling inconvenience during the congregation because the accommodation was only for 60-70 persons in the Diwan Hall and the conditions of the Gurudwara was also deteriorating, therefore, it was felt for the re-construction of the building. In 1960, a memorandum was passed by the Sangat for reconstruction of Gurudwara Chhati Padshahi Rajouri and the Committee was asked to work for the construction and collection of funds.

In 1964, the blue print of new Gurudwara was prepared by a Engineer Sardar Tara Singh of Punjab who was working in MES as SDO and was posted at Rajouri at that time. After the approval of blue print by the Sangat, the construction was started in 1964. The mesons and carpenters were brought from Punjab for giving Sikh architectural touch. By this way, the first phase of the building had been completed. The four-storey Gurudwara has accommodation of 15 rooms for yatries apart from a big Diwan Hall. A Pathshalla comprising of 8 rooms is being constructed and a school namely "Shri Hargobind Sahib Ji Institute of Education" has started functioning from April, 2000. Presently, the Gurudwara Management Committee comprise of Sardar Nirman Singh as President, Sardar Daljit Singh as Secretary and Sevadar Chattar Singh & Bhai Ranjit Singh apart from other members of the Committee.

No doubt that there are only 17 Sikh families residing in the Town and some Sikh families are habitating in the villages like Saranoo, Bathuni, Mera, Sawni, Gurdhanbala and Sadhyal, Dehrian-Tralla, Chityari etc. but the Gurudwara Chatti Padshahi is having great importance for Hindus also and number of Hindu devotees are daily visiting the Gurudwara for offering the prayer. The main congregation is organized on Sunday and the Birthday of Guru Hargobind Ji Maharaj is celebrated with great enthusiasm jointly by Sikhs and Hindus every year.

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Mangla Mata Dev Asthan is located near village Bhawani in Nowshera Tehsil of District Rajouri in a forest area. Originally, it was located in Hamirpur after the name of Mangla Mai (now in Pakistan). A dam has been constructed by Pakistan after Mangla Mata under the name of Mangla Dam. This remained un-known place unto 1965. When the construction of Mangla Dam in Hamirpur was started by the Pakistan and the Dev Asthan of Mangla Mai came in side the dam, immediately after that, a Brahmin of Bhawani area namely late Pandit Nihal Chand had a dream in which Mangla Mata had given him darshan and asked that I have shifted my asthan from Hamirpur to the forests of Bhawani and desired for exploring. Mangla Mai also told the exact location to the Brahmin. After some days, the Brahmin came to this place and found the pindies (a shape of Devta made by natural stone) of Mangal Mai in the cave. After performing the havans and other rituals, he established a asthan of Mangla Mai at this very place and people started coming for darshan.

In those days, a shepherd who was residing near Mangla Mata said that this is all fraud and Mangla Mata cannot shift himself from Hamirpur to this place. He took the pindies of Mangla Mata and tried to destroy but could not. When the followers came to know about it, they immediately re-installed the pindi in the cave. On the other hand, the shepherd who had destroyed the pindi fell from a tree and his back-bone was broken and lateron he died with this vary pain.

It is a beautiful cave with the pindies of Mangla Mata. No doubt that the people are visiting every day to this place, but two important melas are also organized during the days of Navratras during the months of April and September, every year. It is said that the people had seen tigers visiting the site during night hours. Apart from the pindies, there are two snakes of stones carved in the cave. It is said that originally, this cave was closed but when the people started coming for darshan of Mata Ji, the cave automatically opened. Apart from main cave, there are two other caves also namely Vaishnoo Cave and Naina Mata Cave. The pindies of Naina Mata are also installed in the cave.

It is said that in 1974-75, Raja Karan Singh had a dream in which Mangla Mata gave him darshan. He rushed from Jammu, reached at this place and offered prayer. After that, the asthan became popular in the area. Every month on the night of full moon, the people of surrounding area come for Jagrata and remain engaged in bhajan and kirtan for the whole night. Presently, a committee has been constituted for the management of the asthan. A Yatri Nivas has also been constructed apart from pacca path which is leading towards the asthan from the main road. Power and water supply is available at site. Yatries cook their meals in the Langar. The asthan is located in a beautiful forest area. The scenic beauty of the area is such that this place can be developed as religious tourism by constructing Sarais, viewing desks, Dak Bungalows etc. By this way, the economy of the area can also be developed apart from the encouragement of the yatries

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About 60 Kms. to the west of Rajouri town a small village known as Veer Vadweshavar is situated just on the border between Rajouri and the Pak Occupied Kashmir. On the top of this hill at a height of plus 5000 ft. above sea level an ancient temple after the name of Veer Vadweshavar exists. Since the temple is located in the restricted area, prior permission of the District Magistrate is required. The bus journey between Rajouri to Temple takes three hours on a light vehicle. The bus service terminates at Keri from where the restricted area starts and onwards journey is made only after getting permission from the local army authorities. The moment one reaches at the top of the hill, one feels that he has reached in some unique sacred place on this earth. The view of some of the villages of the Pak Occupied Kashmir is quite clear. The temple was got constructed by King Kaniishka in the year 142 A.D.

All the four sides of the temple and both the sides of the passage to the temple are covered with numerous bells which on shaking produce melodious sound.

It is said that this temple belongs to the Lord Shiva and Goddess Sati. This temple was got constructed by Kanishka in the memory of Veer Vadweshavar, the son of Lord Shiva. The legend goes that in the ancient times, the father of Sati named king Dakasha had arranged a huge congregation in which free food was served to the people after the "Havan" ceremony. In the said function king Dakasha did not invite either Shivji or Sati, but without any prior invitation Sati came to attend the said function. Seeing her presence king Dakasha talked very ill of Shivji as well asSati. Since Sati could not tolerate this humiliation to her and to her husband in his absence, She preferred to burn herself alive in the burning "Kund". When Shivji wastold about this episode, he got so angry that he forcefully threw his "Jata" (entangled mass of hairs on his head) on the earth. As legend goes, Veer Vadweshavar took birth out of this "Jata" to avenge the humiliation done to his mother. Thus in his life time Veer Vadeshavar attacked the kingdom of Daksha and gave him a trouncing defeat. On his way back Veer Vadweshavar stayed at this place where king Kanishka, later on, constructed a temple. Henceforth people started calling this area as "Peer Badesar" instead of "Veer"

The Pakistani forces not only damaged this temple in 1947 but also captured it. However, a little later in 1948 the Indian forces re-captured this area after inflicting heavy losses to the enemy's side.

It is also said that once upon a time there used to live a kind-hearted Lumberdar in a nearby village. He had only one son whose legs were too weak to move and as such remained mostly confined to bed. For the well being of his son, he used to come to seek the blessings of this Temple. One day when all the members of Lumberdar's family were out, his lonely son was lying in his cot in the open veranda, suddenly a strange animal appeared in front of his house and started jumping at the tied Cows and Buffaloes. Feeling nervous, the boy jumped inside the room and began to realize that his legs were as strong as arms. He picked up sharp-edged weapon lying behind the door and charged on the animal. In the evening when Lamberdar and other family members returned, they were astonished and glad to hear about the bravery of the boy. Overjoyed, the Lumberdar narrated the whole story to the people of surrounding areas. He tool huge quantity of padddy, Maize, cash, etc. and went to the temple to offer al,l these things to this temple with folded hands. There is prayed and said "To some you may be Devta, Guru or Saint but to me you are Great Peer". Thenceforth people started calling this area as "Peer Badesar" instead of "Veer Vadweshvar".

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Another equally important place of pilgrimage is the shrine of Sain Ganji Sahib Qadri located about 10 kms, from Rajouri town over-looking Darhal nallah, which too attracts thousands of pilgrims throughout the year especially on the eve of the annual Urs which usually takes place in the first week of October every year. The Shrine is regarded as a symbol of purity and tolerance and it is because of the sanctity of the place that a large number of people belonging to different religions visit there to seek the blessings of the Saint. Born in a Gujjar family at Fatehpur near Rajouri, the Baba was a mystic who become a legend in his life time and devoted his entire life for the betterment of mankind. About 10 thousand devotees visited the shrine on the occasion of this year's Urs celebration on 4th and 5th of October.

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During 17th Century, the 6th Guru Ji had sent number of Saints from Punjab towards the mountainous ranges and foothills of Peer-Panchal for spreading of Sikh-ism and teachings of Guru Ji. One of such Saint was Baba Beeram Shah Ji Dutt of Sialkote (Pakistan) who established his Dera at Jhangar and remained visiting Nowshera, Dharamsal (Kalakote Tehsil), Rajouri and Poonch and NWFP areas. The Deras of Baba Beeram Shah are still existing in these places. The number of followers of Baba Beeram Shah Ji Dutt is in lacs.

The Dera Baba Beeram Shah Ji Dutt is located on a mound. Apart from Gurudwara Sahib, a yatri house has also been constructed. Recently, a road has been approved by a local MLA, which will connect the Dera Baba Beeram Shah Ji with the main road. The followers of Baba Beeram Shah Ji are visiting the Dera every day. The main function is organized every year on the following Sunday of Baisakhi. Hindus and Sikhs from all over Poonch and Rajouri areas are visiting the Dera and participate in the mela. The people of the village are having blind faith on Baba Beeram Shah Ji. They say that though the actual line of control is passing through the village and every day the enemy is shelling on the village but due to the blessing of Baba Beeram Shah Ji, people are safe and no loss of life has taken place.  

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 A few Kms. away from Rajouri town is another, shrine named Panch Pir. A large number of people including Army and Para Military personnel visit the place round the year especially on Thursdays for seeking blessings and paying obeisance. Being located at the road side, the shrine is within the easy reach of every passerby. These are the graves of five saint brothers and a sister who had come here from Punjab.

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Even the ever busy and over crowded Rajouri town itself is not without the privilege of such divine blessings. In the heart of the town, there exists the shrine of Baba Sakhi Sultan, is the place thronged by people professing varied faiths for spiritual strength.

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The Ziarat of Qutab Shah Wali at Dani Dhar near Rajouri is also very popular which came up around the 9 yard long grave of the Saint, and locally known as Naogazi, meaning nine years, Ziarat. People of different religions visit the place round the year to seek blessings of the Saint whole family lineage is believed to be the same as that of Roshan Shah Wali Sahib, whose shrine exists at Jammu.

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Chani Prat

About 10 kms. from Sunderbani is located the majestic two storeyed Raghunath temple at an isolated place near village Chani Prat, which is believed to have been constructed during the reign of Maharaja Gulab Singh, through the efforts of a Sadhu who had casually visited the place as a matter of routine wandering.

He liked the place very much and wanted to stay there for meditation. After spending some time, the idea of constructing a temple struck his mind. The construction was started on the pattern of the double storey Varansi temple, the map of which was brought by the Sadhu alongwith him. The structure and design of the temple is unique because there is no temple of such structure in this region. It contains the images of Lord Rama, Goddess Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. Miniature paintings on the walls depict various episodes of Mahabarata and Ramayana epics. A grand yagya is arranged at the temple on 6th and 7th of June every year.

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Manma Mata Mandir, Kalakote

Another important place in Kalakote area is "Shrine of Manma Mata". The temple is about 6 kms from Kalakote Town located in the Southern side. There is a cave at site and legend goes that Lord Shiva had gone to Kashmir via this cave. Lateron, Manma Mata Devi had come to this place and meditated for several years in the cave. Once a bull fell from the top of the mound where the cave is existing, but the bull remained protected due to the spiritual power of Manma Mata. Thereafter, the habitants started worshiping this place. A beautiful temple of Manma Mata near the cave along side the road has been constructed by the devotees. Every year, Yagya is organised in the temple of Manma Mata on the eve of Navratras. Devotees from various places of Kalakote and Rajouri participate in this Yagya.

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Similary, at Banpuri temple in Sunderbani, a grand Yagya takes place on every Baisakhi in which large number of people from Rajouri, Poonch and Jammu districts participate and perform religious rites. The Ziarat of Sain Walidad located at village Bhathian in Thannamandi against the backdrop of the towering Pir Kalewa Mountain is also a prominent place of worship and attracts a number of pilgrims. The Ziarat at Rattan Pir also commands great respect by people of different communities.

In short, there is hardly any locality in the district where is no shrine of community or the other

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