As per Hindu mythology Lord Rama is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu who symbolises morality, virtue and idealism. Some of the Slokas offered as part of prayers to Lord Rama describe him as chief amongst Raghus.
The Sloka says and I quote “Neelambhuj Shyamalkomlang Sita Samaropitvambhagam, Pano Mahasaikacharoochapam Namame Ramam Raghuvansh-natham” (Lord Rama is the chief amongst the Raghus. His handsome body is of dark blue colour like the blue lotus. He has Sita seated on his left. He is the one, who wields a beautiful bow and arrows in his hands. I bow to such great Lord.)
Going by this very Sloka, erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir Maharaja Ranbir Singh not only completed the construction of famous Raghunath Temple in 1860 which was started by his father and first Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh way back in 1835 in Jammu but also installed first ever idol of its kind in the sanctum sanctorum of this temple that’s thronged by millions of tourists and pilgrims every year. This is the first temple in India which is having dark coloured (Shyamrang) idol of Lord Rama that’s made of granite.
Head priest of the temple, Darshan Kumar Sharma in an exclusive interview to the writer informed, “Since Lord Rama is reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, the statue/idol in this temple was made of dark (Shyam) colour to depict Lord Rama in his truest form. J&K Dharmarth Trust is managing this historic temple besides 122 more temples located across the length and breadth of freshly carved Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory (UT). All the spiral-shaped towers have gold plated spires and the temples rest on a raised platform in an octagonal shape keeping in view aesthetics besides Vastu during that era.
Thronged by millions, Raghunath Temple, Jammu houses about 365 statues including that of Lord Rama, Sita and Laxman besides 12,25000 Shaligrams worshiped as iconic symbol and reminder of the God Vishnu. These Shaligrams that were brought in by the erstwhile Maharaja, collected from beds of river Gandaki near Muktinath in Nepal, are believed to be representing 33 Crore Hindu deities (Devi, Devtas) that include one Prajapati, one Indra, 8 Vasus, 12 Adityas and 11 Rudras that receive offerings in this temple every day.
The architecture of the temple is such that no steel has been used in its construction and walls of main temple besides 14 temples and Ahatas located around main temple are as thick as three to four feet that not only maintain inside temperature but also stop Sun rays from heating the premises where idols and Shaligrams have been installed. Masonry work of these temples have been done using lime mortar, clay and straws that bind so well that after centuries they gain strength of stones. Wooden doors of many temples resemble those used in Mubarak Mandi or in old Havelis of Jammu city.
Since the family of erstwhile Dogra Maharajas are said to be Suryavanshis, descent from Surya, James Tod an English officer of the British East India Company and a scholar had placed them in the list of thirty six royal races claiming that those who followed solar calendar for the calculation of time were called Suryavanshi. This is the reason that main entrance of Raghunath temple (Deodi) has a huge Sun built right in the centre of façade depicting Suryavansh.
The Deodi has been designed in such a manner that Lord Ganesha sits right in the middle and on the top of entrance and four elephants sit on a huge arc constructed in the shape of a bow (probably representing the one that Lord Rama carried in his hand). Beneath that is ornamentally designed Sun and then comes another bow shaped arc. Beneath this is the main entrance supported by huge double height columns. The rest of the entrance has been camouflaged with bunkers for security reasons. The bottoms of columns have fish shaped structures that have largely been damaged.
The temple according to Darshan Sharma who has been serving temple since past over 31 years has four Parikramas or Pradakshinas (circling sanctum of the temple) where devotees walk around the innermost chamber of the temple housing deities. After paying obeisance to Lord Rama, Sita and Laxman located in the gold plated inner most sanctum devotees do first Parikrama around this temple where statues of all four Dishas (Directions), Agni Devta besides Shani Devta and two Drawpal Jai and Vijay have been installed.
Right inside the main temple are also located three separate idols of Lord Rama also known as Raghunath, an Avatar of Vishnu, Sita and Laxman besides that of Radha and Krishana which are taken in a chariot during Ramnavmi, Vijaydashmi and Krishan Janmashtami after being worshiped during special prayers by Royal family, Darshan Sharma said adding that then comes second Parikrama where all Ahatas built in most intricate manner in the shapes of arches and inbuilt ventilators are located to enable worshippers pray comfortably. Huge passages lead to different halls and the temple never ever witnesses stampede because of its wide verandas, walkways and corridors.
Then comes the third Parikrama where idols of Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, Bharat, Shatrughana, Narsingha Avatara, Radha Krishan, Varah Avatara, Vaman Avatara, Mahalaxmi, Matsya, Kashyap Ji, Virat Ji, Lord Shiva and Luxmi Narayan are located in 14 beautifully designed temples around the main sanctum sanctorum. Interestingly the temple has been so well designed that it also possesses in its lap a hall called Ahata where all four Dhams including Badrinath, Dwarka, Jagannath Puri and Rameshwaram around Brahma Ji have been depicted. The place is historic and enlightens the devotees spiritually.
The 185 years old Raghunath temple though officially stands completed in 1860 yet installation of more statues and other development works never stopped here. Over a period of time idols of Mata Vaishno Devi, Hanuman and Nataraja and now Sai Baba have also been installed in the temple premises for devotees. In the last Parikrama a transparent Shivling brought in by Dr Karan Singh, a politician, philanthropist poet and son of Maharaja Hari Singh stands installed. Interestingly an Arti (Prayer) in Dogri by Dr Karan Singh also stands painted on a wall which reflects cultural ethos of City of Temples.
Statues of Maharaja Amar Singh, Maharaja Gulab Singh and Maharaja Ranbir Singh are also located in this last circle along with the main entrance. Statues of Swami Kartikeya and Goddess Maha Kali have freshly been added to the Temple treasure, which were installed by Dr Karan Singh in presence of his sons Vikramaditya Singh and Ajat Shatru Singh. A huge Shivling religiously known as Swyambhu Shivling brought in from river Narbada is also in this temple that’s thronged by devotees in large numbers. The Sphatik Shivling and Bagula Mukhi Nataraja are quite popular amongst devotees.
Recalling militants’ attack, Darshan Kumar Sharma said that temple has been attacked twice and two bullet marks have still been preserved that had hit main sanctum sanctorum without touching idols of Lord Rama and Sita. The day was gory yet all 88 persons serving the temple in different capacities including 45 priests were saved with the grace of God. “Today we get about 500 to 2000 visitors everyday who feel elated by paying obeisance here at the Raghunath Temple”, the head priest said.
Right at the back is a well that earlier used to serve purpose of drinking and washing. The modern day water supply schemes though have taken over the purpose yet the temple authorities have not closed that well which forms part of Parikrama. Some very small portions of temple inside Ahatas have been damaged due to weather vagaries that need to be fixed immediately before it’s too late. Call it religiously historic or historically religious but the temple that’s thronged by millions is both Historic and Religious that stands testimony to rulers’ magnanimity who give its subjects a temple that’s unique and first of its kind in India. The temple which has wide verandas and corridors besides large Parikramas never ever fell short for devotees and is today also able to hold large gatherings be it on any religious occasion.