Shiv Khori Temple is a must-see if you are planning to visit any place in Jammu & Kashmir. This temple, situated in a cave, fills you with awe and a mystical calm. Located in the district Reasi, about 80 kms from Katra and 140 kms from Jammu, it is housed atop a hill and one needs to trek for about 3.5 kms to reach the temple. The trek route is flanked by mountains on one side and a river on the other. The unadulterated beauty of nature and the caress of the cool winds are complemented by chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivay’.
The trek is comfortable and the distance manageable but the gradient makes it difficult for some people. Ponies and ‘palkis’ are easily available for such pilgrims.
Life springs even in the hardest of situations. The trees and their prop roots emerging from the rocks and clutching on to them for support literally validate the saying.
The track is peppered with covered shelters where you can see men on the ‘dhol’ fervently playing music that instantly lifts up your spirits and alleviates fatigue. You can also spot small temples of different deities on the way.
As you reach near the Shiv Khori cave, you come across the spectacle of faith and hopes of millions of people in the form of red dupattas tied on the railing. Every tie is an aspiration, an evoked blessing, a faith in the Almighty.
Near the Shiv Khori temple is a cloak room where you submit your bags, cameras, wallets and other leather items before you enter the cave. There are two ways to enter the cave- one is the natural entrance where you have to traverse 150 metres of a narrow passage through rocks to reach the place where the natural Shiv-Lingum resides, while the other is the option of entering through the exit of the cave which is a walk-in passage. The former is the adventurous one but not an easy thing to do, so you may decide according to your preference.
Since photography inside the cave is not permitted, I could not click any but sharing some from the shrine board’s website, which you can access to know more about the place.
The natural Shiv-Lingum inside the cave is bathed with water dripping from the ceiling, the appearance of the ceiling in that particular area is in the shape of a cow’s udders. On the eve of Shivratri, milky fluid drips from the same. The entire cave is adorned by the natural images of ‘Om’, Sudarshana chakra, Sheshnag, and legend has it that 33crore Gods and Goddesses can be seen as natural impressions in the rocks.
Shiv-Lingum signifies the force of creative energy and is said to hold energy in harmony and balance. The balance, if lost, can result in devastation and destruction.
As the ‘pandit’ inside invokes God’s blessings while telling you the story behind the rocks inside the cave, you cannot help but be stupefied by the sheer beauty and aura of the cave.
As I said in the first sentence, this place must not be missed if you are visiting Vaishno Devi or any place in Jammu and Kashmir, for that matter.
Om Namah Shivay!