Vaishno Devi - The Holy Shrine Of Mata Vaishno Devi:- Vaishno Devi Yatra - a sacred and spiritual journey that requires immense devotion, zeal and dedication towards the goal. The yatra is associated with the temple of Mata Rani (Durga) located at the Tirkut Mountains of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Considered as the incarnation of Goddess Durga and her shrine is said to be among the 108 Shakti Peethas found across the globe. Thousands of Pilgrims visit every year to seek blessings and show unflinching faith in this temple. A religious trekking destination where pilgrims walk about 13 km uphill to reach the little caves, which is among one of the 108 Shakti Peetha.
Helicopter service is also available from Katra to Sanjichhat. The pilgrims who use Helicopter have to alight at Sanjichhat and proceed further to Bhawan - the holy shrine of Mata Vaishnoi Devi.
The deity is worshiped inside a dark cave in the form of three pindies (rocks) as Maha Kali, Maha Saraswati and Maha Laxmi.
With the emergence of the shrine of Vaishno Devi, several mythological stories are connected. Among which the tale of Bhairon Nath and Vaishnavi is considered to be the most famous. It is said that the three major manifestations of Goddess Durga united together and created a girl who later took birth as the daughter of Ratnakara. The girl was later blessed by Lord Rama when she was meditating in a dense forest. Bhairon Nath, a wicked Yogi wanted to take revenge on the deity and in the course of time Devi slaughtered the head of Bhairon Nath. Realizing the power of Vaishnavi, Bhairon Nath sought forgiveness of the deity and as a result Mata blessed him with the boon that whoever will visit Vaishno Devi will have to visit the temple of Bhairon Nath to complete their pilgrimage. Soon after the incident, the deity sat on meditation and transformed into the form of a rock face which are worshiped today as pindies.
TOP PLACES TO VISIT IN VAISHNO DEVI
1) VAISHNO DEVI TEMPLE
How to Reach Vaishno Devi Temple
Air: Jammu has a civil airport, which hosts many domestic planes. From there one can take taxi to reach Katra. The distance is 48.3 kilometers.
Rail: Sree Shakti train that starts from Delhi on Friday evenings and returns to Delhi on Sunday morning is the best way to reach Vaishno Devi.
Road: Katra is the nearest place to start the journey to Vaishno Devi. Taxis and buses regularly run on this road.
Trek From Katra To Vaishno Devi
The trek itself is very enjoyable, though it might be a little difficult for kids and elderly people. However, ponies and palanquins are available by various vendors to take you there at the top.
The Vaishno Devi Bhawan is open for devotees 365 days and the governing body of the Bhawan has made it probable to do the trek 24/7. The complete trekking pathway is lit up for devotees. The dazzling ignited path is visible from the Katra bus stand. The whole way is decently paved with lots of shops selling snacks, food items and various religious goods, refreshments, tea, drinking water, medical aid, comfortable sitting benches, toilets etc. There are also police check posts at regular intervals. The pilgrims show their dedication and enthusiasm by shouting slogans and singing songs in the praise of Maa Vaishnavi all along the road.
At the beginning of the trek, at Banganga check post, luggage scan and security check is conducted.
One has to cross Banganga at Katra. Photography is not allowed at the shrine
Overall, a great place if you are inclined towards both Hinduism and nature.
2) Ardh Kuwari Cave
Mata Vaishnodevi, before making the Bhavan her abode, was believed to have taken rest in this cave for 9 months. Today, this cave acts as a stopover for the pilgrims on their journey up to the Bhavan.
An adventure for the kids, one has to crawl on his knees to reach the other side. Once on the other side, you can see a large shrine which is built dedicated to the three Goddesses - Kali, Laxmi and Saraswati. The darshan route is semicircular, so that you exit from a different opening at a small distance from the entry route.
3) Bhairavnath Temple
No journey to Katra is complete without having visited Bhairavnath Mandir. The cave temple of Bhairavnath is dedicated to a saint by that name. A steep 2km journey from the Bhawan leads you to Bhairavnath temple.
The temple provides picturesque views of the forest fed mountains. Ponies are available for the up down journey incase you can not climb the steep stairs.
4) Dera Baba Banda
An old Gurudwara, Dere Baba Banda is dedicated to Baba Banda Bahadur who was one of the favorite Jathedars of Guru Gobind Singh. The walls are filled with pictures depicting the times of war and various important personnels of that time.
Being one of the important religious centers in Kashmir, the Gurudwara attracts a huge number of Hindus and Sikhs, especially during the three-day Vaisakhi mela.
The shrine of Vaishno Devi, one of the most important places of worship in India calls the little town of Katra its home. Located in the Uddhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir, Katra is mostly visited by devotees of Lord Shiva. Your pligrimage route is complete, only when you visit Shiv Khori, 1.6 km away from Vaishno Devi. Katra has a large collection of water bodies which can be easily accessed.
Growing as a tourist attraction, people now have access to helicopters and eco friendly vehicles. Even if you are not on a pilgrimage, Katra is worth visiting. You can find attractions like the Banganga, the Chenab river, and a large amount of peaks around offer great places for mountain climbing and family outings.
Best time to visit Katra
The best time to go Katra is by mid April or after Diwali, even though you can visit the place all year round.
How to Reach Katra
Air: Closest airport to Katra is in Jammu. From here you will easily be able to get road transport.
Rail: The Katra railway station of the northern railways provides service for the town.
Road: One can find direct buses as well as cabs to Katra from Jammu.
Day 1: Jammu - Katra Pick-up from Jammu airport / railway station upon arrival and transfer to Katra followed by check-in at the hotel. Proceed for Darshan to Mata Vaishnodevi Temple. Overnight at Katra.
Day 2: Katra - Patnitop (80 Kms) is placed on a beautiful plateau, at an altitude of 2024 m, across which the Jammu-Srinagar highway passes. Beautiful picnic spots, peaceful walks and breathtaking views of the valley of the Chenab basin and the Pir Panjal range can be witnessed by the tourists beyond at Patnitop. Day at leisure to enjoy the natural beauty. Overnight at Patnitop.
Day 3: Patnitop- Jammu (112 Kms) After breakfast, transfer to the Jammu railway station / airport to move to onward destination.
6) City Shopping, Vaishno Devi
This destination is an unlikely shopping destination as well, as it is most famous for its revered temple Vaishno Devi. Shopping is mainly done by pilgrims, which includes Prasad, saris and shawls which are offered to the goddess. Gold and silver coins embossed with the images of the goddess are also sold here. Other goods that find a place here includes bangles, embroidered fabrics, saris and suits which are quite popular among women of all ages.
A few destinations and shopping areas are present in Vaishno within its bounds. The Katra Main Bazaar is the main shopping area here, and you can find everything that is native to Jammu here. You can find delicious dry fruits such as walnuts, almonds, berries and dried apples.
The Bhawan market of Katra offers traditional goods that are offered to the holy goddess in the temple. The Sanjhi Chhat market of Vaishno has a wide collection of traditional fabrics, shawls and Kashmiri motifs.
How to Reach City Shopping
Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation has many buses plying to and fro from Vaishno and can be easily accessed.
Ardh Kuwari Market
The Ardh Kuwari Market of Vaishno is a must visit destination for all shopping lovers. Buzzing with activity, this marketplace has a lot to offer to every stratum of tourist. Ranging from warm and fuzzy blankets to colorful traditional fabrics, this marketplace is a shopaholic’s paradise.
You can also buy embellishments such as brooches, bangles, hairpins and colorful motifs. Buy religious souvenirs, ethnic cane baskets, picnic and fruit baskets for near and dear ones. You can also try out the local cuisine at the various eateries here.
Carry cash as most shops in Vaishno do not accept cards.