Pilgrimage in Jammu & Kashmir - Shahdra Sharief
The shrine of Shahdra-Sharief in Rajouri district, 177 kms from Jammu, is one of the most popular Muslim shrines of Jammu region, visited by thousand of devotees every day. Built in the 19th century on a beautiful hillock in Thanna Mandi area and situated about 29 kms from Rajouri town, the Shahdra Sharief has great historical significance in the context of the origin of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to historical sources, in 1820 AD, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab sent his army general Gulab Singh to defeat an adversary. Out of the 150 companies of troops taken on this expedition, only 25 soldiers could stay with the General. At last he camped at Thanna-Mandi and went to call on a local recluse named Baba Ghulam Shah ‘Badshah’, who lived in the nearby locality of Shah-dara and was known as a wise and pious person. When Gulab Singh approached the saint, he found him sitting under a tree with an apricot twig in hand and in deep devotion. (According to some legends it was the saint who had sent one of his disciples to invite the general). Gulab Singh climbed the mountain to cast his glance in the direction of Jammu, Kashmir, Kishtawar and Tibet. He was highly pleased with the recluse and expressed his intention to grant a ‘jagir’ to him. But the recluse said, "I have a piece of land granted to me since long, if the Shah-dara locality is added to it, it will suffice".
Consequently, the ‘Sanad’ for both the land and the locality were issued to him, which continued to be in the possession of his offspring to this day. Later, when the saint’s prophesy became true and Gulab Sigh became maharaja of the Jammu and Kashmir State, he visited Shah-dara to express his devotion to the saint. But as the saint was not alive anymore, Gulab Singh built a shrine dedicated to the saint to pay homage.
It is highly inspiring to learn that this Muslim shrine was built by the Hindu founder of Jammu & Kashmir. Today, thousands of devotees of all faiths, visit the shrine every day in deep faith and with great devotion. It is strongly believed by the multitude of the Baba’s devotees that their cherished desires are invariably fulfilled. Interestingly, the pilgrims and visitors to the shrine are provided free accommodation, food and other facilities by the shrine management. Now large-scale infrastructure development carried out by the shrine management as well as the State Government has made this holy heritage site easily accessible to everyone and the shrine now attracts large numbers of pilgrims every year.