A Pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi
About Vaishno Devi
Vaishno Devi temple is one of the holiest shrines dedicated to one of the 108 Shakthi Peethas in Jammu and Kashmir. About 8 million pilgrims visit this temple every year to seek blessings from Mata Sherawali. As the living Goddess sends a call to devotees, they get drawn by the divine power to cross the steep ascent of the mountains chanting “Prem se bolo, Jai Mata Di”.
Mata Vaishno Devi’s shrine is located in a cave which is 5,300 feet in the Trikuta hills of the Himalayas. Flights and trains are available till Srinagar. Srinagar car rentals offer road trip services to Katra after covering a distance of 242 km in 8 hours. The journey is full of scenic wilderness set amidst snow-capped mountains that takes travellers to the most sacred and mystical shrine.
Jammu to Katra cabs with Savaari Car Rentals take tourists around 1 hour 25 minutes by covering a distance of 45 km to reach the base camp at Katra. From there one has to trek up 12 km along with an additional 2 km for a visit to the Bhairon Baba temple which is a part of the pilgrimage.
Legend of Vaishno Devi
As per the legend, Vaishno Devi had taken a vow of celibacy. Bhairon Nath was tantric who chased her. However, a battle between Bhaironath and Veer-Langur, the guard of the goddess led to Bhairon’s defeat.
The three natural pindies of Maha Saraswati, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Kali inside the cave represent the creative, preservative and destructive aspects of the divine energy.
The Goddess sheds her human form and meditates here after assuming the face of a rock. The holy Ganga’s cold and pristine water washes the lotus feet of the Mata’s ‘Pindian’.
The journey to Mata’s shrine is incomplete without visiting the Bhairon Temple on the way back.
Obtain a slip from the Yatra Registration Counter in the Tourism Reception Centre, at the Katra Bus Stand to cross the Banganga check-post. After a trek of 6 km, one can reach Adhkawari. Pilgrims can rest at Sanji Chatt after 9.5 km of walking as the shrine is just 3.5 km away from here. The queue for the darshan begins from the Bhawan.
The 12 km downhill trek may seem difficult, but the enthusiasm of the co-travellers make it easy.
Best time to Visit
Navratri sees maximum tourists during September-October. “jagarans” are held throughout the night in honour of the Mata during Navaratri festival.
Light woollens are required even during summer months while heavy woollens in winters. Carry your umbrella and a torch as unseasonal rains are common.
Porter services, pony or Dandi (Palanquin) rides are available for the comfort of the tourists.
The entire route till Adhkuwari is dotted with shelters, bathing facilities, cafeterias and storage facilities.
All payments towards the Shrine are made to the Shri Matadi Shrine Board. Public toilets and waste bins are available for use along the way. Even round-the-clock health care services at the Primary Health Centre, Katra, Adhwakari and Bhawan offer medical assistance for patients in need.
Buy Prasad, “chunari” and coconuts from shops near the temple. Don’t forget to pack some Jammu Rajma, Basmathi rice, walnuts and the special garlic from Katra on your way back.