Known as “the city of temples” because of the many shrines that dot the town, JAMMU is more attractive than its reputation suggests and worthy of at least a full day en route to Kashmir, for which it is the railhead (at least until the line to Srinagar is complete). The main place of worship in town is the revered Ragunath temple, although it is surpassed in importance by Vaishno Devi, near Katra, some 60km north. The city also boasts the impressive Bahu Fort, which crowns a hill overlooking the River Tawi and the splendid Baja-u-Bahu gardens. The town’s principal museum is the mildly absorbing Amar Mahal, which showcases period art.
If you only have time to visit one of Jammu’s many temples, it should be the buzzing Ragunath, about ten minutes’ walk through the commercial lanes east of the bus stand. Once you’ve got through the tight security, you enter a large courtyard surrounded by multiple shikharas and two gardens. Within lies an inner courtyard, housing the main shrine of Lord Ragunath, an incarnation of Vishnu, and his two consorts, watched over by an orange-robed statue of Hanuman nearby.
The other main attraction is Bahu Fort, which stands proudly on a high bluff above the south bank of the River Tawi, around 3km southeast of the centre. The solid, squat battlements of the fort enclose some beautifully manicured lawns, although the principal draw for Hindus is the small Mata Kali temple within the complex. Next to the fort, the odd fish-shaped metal Aquarium Awareness Centre contains a mildly diverting assortment of fish. Descending in attractive tiers below the fort, the impressive Baja-u-Bahu Gardens contain a series of well-tended flower gardens and decorative pools, which act as swimming baths for the local monkeys.
A couple of kilometres northeast of the bus stand on the Srinagar Road, the Amar Mahal Museum, housed in a converted palace, is basically an art gallery with some regal memorabilia. The portraits and miniatures date mostly from the early twentieth century.