The divine festival of Navratras that falls in the Chaitra month (March-April) begins on Thursday. The city of temples has started celebrating the nine nights with religious fervor, fasting for all nine days and worshipping Goddess Durga in her nine forms.
All the temples in the city have been illuminated with lights. All the major roads and streets of the city are decorated with lights.
The famous Bawe wala mandir, Mahamaya mandir, Shree Ranvireshwar mandir, Shree Raghunath mandir and others including the Chichi Mata mandir are decorated beautifully with flowers.
Special attention is paid to Bawe wala mandir, thronged by the most number of pilgrims during Navratri. Long metal pipes have been fitted for the pilgrims, in order to get into unbiased queues to enter the Darbar.
Also, pilgrims from various parts of the country have started accumulating in Jammu, as well as Katra, to acquire the sacred darshans at Mata Vaishno Devi Darbar.
Security has also been paid special attention. All the major religious places in the city are stuffed with metal detectors and CCTV cameras. The state police have also stepped up security in the city, especially at busy markets.
"We have put in place all necessary arrangements and all vehicles entering the city are being thoroughly checked," a police official said.
A large number of religious pragrammes are also to take place in the city, on Mohalla level, which is projected to add a little more colour to the festival.
"The auspicious day of first Navratra is observed as the beginning of Hindu New Year, along with the beginning of Chaitra month," told Ishwar Das, priest at Mahamaya Mandir.
Chaitra Navratras starts on the first day in Chaitra month and ends with 'Kanya Poojan' on the ninth day of the month. It is also known as Vasant Navratras, and Spring Navratri.
On the first day of the Navaratra, there is a holy norm followed by Hindus, called 'Khetri Beejan'. A small bed of mud and sand along with jaun or wheat and water is prepared starting the puja and thus seeds are sown on to it. This is called as Khetri (wheat grown in mud pot). At the end of the Navratri festival, the shoots are about 3 - 5 inches in length. This is a sign of prosperity and abundance. After the puja, the seedlings (looking like long grass) are pulled out from the mud pot and are poured in the running water, and thus on the last day of festival, a large amount of people throng the Har ki Pauri temple, on the bank of Tawi river.
People observe fasts during these days and offer prayers to the goddess Durga for health, wealth and prosperity. The festival of Navratri culminates in Mahaashtami or the eighth day although some people do it on Mahanavmi, the ninth day in which devotees break their fast.
Kanya Pujan is performed on this day. Young girls representing the forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped on this day. Young boys are also called in the homes. All these young girls and boys go to different homes where the kanya pujan or "kanjak" (in Punjabi) is performed.