One of the most ancient Shiva temples in Jammu also known as the “City of temples” is the Peer Kho cave temple. This historic temple is situated on the banks of the holy Tawi river surrounded by igneous rocks and acacia forests. Locals regard this cave temple to be the oldest in the Shivalik region.
Legend has it that after Sri Rama Pattabhishekham, Chiranjeevi Jambavan who had been blessed with long life, extraordinary strength and the opportunity to have darshan of Lord Krishna in Dwapura Yuga by Lord Rama came to this sacred place to meditate.
This temple cave complex is about 100 feet long and 20 – 30 deep dedicated to Lord Shiva, Navadurga and Jambavant. The complex has a large courtyard with temples on either side opening into it. The architecture has both modern and old design elements. There is a recently made inverted lotus dome which has merged into the ancient boulders of conglomerate deposit of Tawi river made by successive flooding and receding of water over centuries which is the entrance to the cave. The influence of both Mughal and Dogra is seen in the style of paintings on the ceilings. There is some unconfirmed evidence that this temple structure was built in the 15th century but the use of indigo in the paintings suggests that these were added later around the 19th century.
There is a small opening from the domed entrance leading to a passage with a low celling to the Jambavant Cave on the right which also has a temple of Lord Shiva. It is said that there is an opening of a cave dug by Jambavant during his time here which leads to Amarnath Cave. The Shiva Linga is swayambhu and of black stone. Locals say that the morning and evening aarti is an divine visual spectacle and not to be missed.
An opening on the left side leads to the Navadurga shrine which further leads to the Navadurga Cave. There are beautiful statues of Devi in her nine glorious forms dressed in bright red sarees.
There is an eternal Gorakhnath dhunni placed in the centre of the temple courtyard. There is a Shani Devata temple within the complex which is revered by locals. This entire temple is built on an elevated platform to safeguard it from possible floods.
Locals say that Guru Garibnath of Guru Gorakh Nath came to this place in the 15th century and resided at Peer Kho. Kho means cave in the local dialect and with time, this cave came to be called as Peer Kho. There is a local saying that one can go to all the other caves and temples outside our country through the intricate network of tunnels under this temple.
People throng this sacred place on Amavasya, Ekadashi, Purnima, Maha Shivaratri and in the month of Shravan.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)