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Shiv Khori - a magnificent Cave Shrine in Jammu and Kashmir | Shiv Khodi Cave Shrine of Jammu and Kashmir

Shiv Khori - a magnificent Cave Shrine in Jammu and Kashmir | Shiv Khodi Cave Shrine of Jammu and Kashmir

Shiv Khori is a cave shrine devoted to Lord Shiva and is located in the Sangar Village, Pouni, near Reasi Town, which is a district of Jammu and Kashmir (UT) in India.

Although there are several other shrines in Reasi District like Vaishno Mata, Merhada Mata, etc., which attract lakhs of visitors around the year, Shiv Khori is not much known to many people around the world and even in India who come to visit different temples in Jammu region.

Shiv Khori is situated in between the hillocks about 140 km north of Jammu, 120 km from Udhampur, and 80 km from Katra, and light vehicles go up to Ransoo, the base camp of pilgrimage. People have to travel about 3 kilometers on foot to reach the Shiv Khori Cave, which was recently constructed by the Shiv Khori Shrine Board, Ransoo duly headed by the Divisional Commissioner Jammu as Chairman and District Development Commissioner, Reasi as Vise-Chairman.

What is the meaning of Shiv Khori?
Khori means cave or Guffa and Shiv Khori thus denotes the cave of Lord Shiva.

This cave is about 200 meters long, one meter wide, and two to three meters high and contains a self-made Lingam, which according to people is unending. 

Although the measurements seem fine, the walking path to the chamber inside the cave is too narrow that people have to travel one by one behind each other to reach the chamber which is taken by the priest of the cave. Shiv Khori Cave also divides into two after walking a bit inside and is said to connect to the Amarnath Cave. 

But it is closed because some sadhus or saints that dared to travel to that cave never returned back. It may be because these caves may have crevices that are deep and may also be like a maze because of which people may get lost in them, therefore, it is closed for the good of people that come there and travel.

I remember once my mom went to Shiv Khori with their school during a picnic event and she was a bit horrified when she entered the cave because it seemed a bit claustrophobic at first and because the cave from inside is also like a maze so if you are lost then it would become difficult to find you, still we haven't heard of any such incidents because temple priest always accompanies the pilgrims.

The passage from the outer to the inner chamber is low and small. To reach the sanctum sanctorum or the main chamber of the cave, one has to stoop low, crawl, or adjust their body sideward. Inside a naturally created image of Lord Shiva, about 4 meters high, is visible. 

The cave also resembles idols of Mata Parvati Lord Ganesha, and even Nandi. The cave roof is etched with snake formations, the water trickles through these on Shiva Lingam. Pigeons are also seen here like Swami Amar Nath cave which presents good omens for pilgrims.

How many people visit Shiv Khori?
Back 30 or 40 years ago, not many people were aware of Shiv Khori, and hence the overall number of travelers or pilgrims that used to visit was only in the thousands, but recently lakhs of people have started visiting Shiv Khori to witness the magnificent cave where Lord Shiva is thought to have rested before going to Amarnath.

This was also because of the constitution of the Shiv Khori Shrine Board in 2003. In 2016 it was said that around 30% of the travelers were from within the UT and around 70% were from other states of India. 

What is Shiv Khori Mela?
A 3 days Shiv Khori Mela takes place annually on Maha Shivratri and thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the state and outside visit this cave shrine to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. Maha Shivratri festival is usually held somewhere at the end of Feb or the starting weeks of March every year, which is one of the reasons so many people travel to Shiv Khori.

Because of the increase in the number of pilgrims or travelers to Shiv Khori, the Shiv Khori Shrine Board has started working on several different projects to develop infrastructure for the pilgrims like construction of a Shrine Guest House, Reception Center, Pony Sheds, and tile work on the entire 3 km long walking path to Shiv Khori.

They also worked on electrical connections inside the cave because initially there was no electricity inside the cave and people had to walk behind each other and they were not able to see where they were keeping their next step.

Also, to ensure that there is sufficient oxygen inside the cave, they have also worked on the exhaust system in the Shiv Khori cave. Several other facilities that as proper sanitation, toilets, and STD/PCO are also planned and would have been initiated for the pilgrims and devotees who are coming to visit Shiv Khori Cave.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a small stop in the number of people that used to visit as tourism was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, after some time, people were allowed to continue the travel after providing COVID-19 test Reports not older than 72 hours.

Having said that people are now allowed to travel to Shiv Khori with proper attire.

The beauty of this place in Jammu and Kashmir is utmost as it is also surrounded by several mountain ranges and because of this flora and fauna are also diverse. Although I would not suggest roaming around in the mountains during the night alone, still if locals are with you, then you can actually check out several places around that are worth tracking or hiking.

Just like Siyad Baba Waterfall, you will experience cool weather and beautiful scenery during your travel from Jamm to Reasi. This is because the highway is constructed really beautifully and is one of the main stops for several travelers who visit the Jammu Region.

This place is a bit cooler than Jammu, but in cold weather or from September to Feb, this place is just a beauty because you are always refreshed to go for a new adventure without any sweat.

Things to consider before traveling to Shiv Khori
Although you can go to Shiv Khori anytime and at your convenience, still there are a few things that you should take care of so that you enjoy the trip and also let the place remain beautiful;

  • Always carry some warmers during the cold weather, because this part of Jammu can get really cold, especially during nights and mornings.
  • Plan a trip for a few days so that you are able to conveniently experience and enjoy Shiv Khori and the surrounding areas.
  • As this is a pilgrim place, so please keep this place clean. Usually, several travelers who come to places like these also spread too much clutter on the road and on mountain ranges, which is difficult to clean and also difficult to maintain.
  • Don't feed anything to Monkeys. You will see several monkeys during your trip to Shiv Khori, and on the roads as well. But you should not feed them. As per government guidelines also it is not good as those are forest animals and should not have direct contact with humans as it may lead to several on-road accidents which affect their population as they are in search of easy food on the roadside and are attracted to humans for the same. Also, sometimes they may become aggressive and may snatch items from your hand if they become habitual with humans.
  • Be in proper attire. Especially if it is a traditional attire, that is awesome. This is because Religious Places are places for worship and we should adhere to the rules and customs of the same. There are several temples in the south in Maharashtra as well where we even have to take off our shirts before going inside for "Darshan", so it is always better to follow the dress code before going to any religious place as it is also part of local sentiments.

Some of the important places to visit near Shiv Khori are as follows:

  • Siyad Baba Waterfall
  • Katra
  • Mata Vaishno Devi
  • Swarg Ashram
  • Agharjitto
  • Nav Devi
  • Baba Dhansar
  • Bhimgarh Fort
  • Kalika Temple

Conclusion
Shiv Khori is one of the best places and cave structures in the world, and everyone should visit this place in their lifetime even if you are afraid of tight spaces, as it will challenge you and also at the same time will make you wonder about the beauties of the world.

Having said that tourists or travelers should be careful not to mess up these places because they're not only have beauty but religious sentiments attached to these places and hence should not be distorted or spread trash all over.

I am specifically pointing out these issues because I have seen several places become trash because of the increase in tourists in those places. But these caves and structures are for us and for ourselves, so we should only take care of these places and ensure that we guide others also to do the right thing, as sometimes people don't do wrong things wilfully and if they know what is right and wrong then they would mostly choose to be towards the correct things.

To meet the ever-growing rush of devotees in having smooth darshans of Lord Shiva, an exit tunnel has been constructed by Shiv Khori Shrine Board as well and the time has been restricted from 7 AM to 5 PM. Arti time is 7 AM to 8 AM and 7 PM to 8 PM. Advance Darshan Bookings are required for the same. 

 

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