The abode of 33 Crore Devtas

Shiv Chander Sharma
Jammu city is well known as the City of temples the credit of which, goes to Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1857-1885), who is well known for his scholarly and religious approach in the annals of history.
Ranbir Singh during his rule tried to convert the city into another Kashi, now Vanaras and he succeeded. Though he may not have built the main temple in the city, Raghunath temple, still the credit of installing idols and Shaligrams representing all the 33 crore Devtas in Hindu Mythology again goes to him.
This Raghunath temple is visited by lakhs of visitors to the city including Vaishno Devi pilgrims every year and has also been a victim of militants. The temple is situated in the city centre and is a huge complex of temples and was attacked by militants in 2003 when they entered into the complex killing many people including security personnel.
Since then the temple complex can be entered from main entrance only after thorough security check and frisking. Earlier, there were two main entrances to the temple with smaller entry points from various sides. But now all these entry points have been sealed. Two Rath Yatras are also taken from this temple on the eve of Ramnavmi and Janamshtmi festivals.
The foundation of this renowned shrine of all gods and goddesses in one complex was laid in 1851 AD by the founder of Jammu and Kashmir State Maharaja Gulab Singh. He wanted to complete this great temple complex during his life time and rather succeeded. But his son and successor Ranbir Singh converted it into the abode of 33 crore Devtas who inaugurated it in 1857 AD, the very first year of his rule. Later, the Samadhi of its founder Gulab Singh was also built in this complex.
It is a unique temple complex comprising as many as eighteen big temples. As per name the main temple is of Lord Rama, his consort Sita and brother Lakshman. The main temple is enclosed with an enclosure which contains on the outside a number of temples in which various incarnations of Lord Vishnu besides Shiva and Ganesha says Mahesh Sharma living in adjoining locality.
The Vishnu incarnation images include Matayasya, Narsimha, Varah, Kurma, Radha Krishna, Virat Rupa (Lord in the cosmic aspect) and Vamna.
Six halls on the sides of the main temple contain innumerable Shaligrams representing all gods and goddesses. These Shaligrams were procured from the bed of river Narmada.
Interestingly, a huge underground water body was also built in this temple complex which still exists and the entire rain water pours into it. Earlier, the water of this water body was used by the priests. The people of adjoining localities also used its water during shortage of water in the city till recent last decade before the militant attacks.
This temple also had a Sanskrit Pathshalla (a school-cum-college up to graduation level), Goshala, Dharamshalla, 24 hours round the year Langar and Sanskrit library. But only library remains that too in shabby condition.
Interestingly, why this temple complex had two main entrances has an interesting story, said Brij Bhushan Sharma. Since Gulab Singh had handed over the throne to his son Ranbir Singh during his lifetime, he wanted to convey something to him. But as a founder Maharaja he had to bow before his son during his meeting with him as a matter of rule because he was ruler at that time. At the same time Ranbir Singh had also to touch the feet of his father which was not possible since he was king.
Gulab Singh avoided this and sent a message to his son and successor, Ranbir Singh to construct a second entrance of Raghunath temple which was done. Then he fixed a time with Ranbir Singh for entering into the temple at the same time. Ranbir Singh entered from the main entrance for being a ruler, Gulab singh entered from the second entrance. Both reached the main temple of Rama at the same time and bowed before god also at the same time standing adjoining to each other. During those few minutes Gulab Singh conveyed some important lessons to his son and none of them bowed before each other.