Our Visit to Maa Vaishno Devi Temple Katra Jammu
Last year in 2008 Christmas Holidays, our family plans to visit Maa Vaishno Devi Temple Katra located at a height of 5300 feet on the holy Trikuta Hills of the Shivalik Hill Range in Jammu. So we made Train reservations for Jammu Tawi Express Train for 26th Dec 2008 from Delhi to Jammu and back on 28th Dec 2008. This train is a super fast one and leaves New Delhi Railway Station at around 9.00 pm and reaches Jammu Tawi Station around 7.00 in the morning.
After reaching Jammu, there is a bus stand just ahead of Railway Station, we hired a private car for Rs 500/- to Katra. Katra is about 52 kms from Jammu and it took around 2 hours of journey time. In Katra there are several Hotels and Dharamshalas to stay. Hotels are of every range from budget hotels to 4 / Four Star Hotels. Dharamshalas are usually free, if you just want it for 1-2 hour for being fresh. So, we decided to take a Dharamshala instead and after being fresh we headed towards our journey to Maa Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage. Now for starting a journey, you have to obtain a ticket from Maa Vaishno Devi Trust. It is absolutely free and it contains serial number to know haw many people are ahead you to visit pilgrimage. Now, journey to pilgrimage starts from Banganga and it is approximate 1 km ahead of Katra. If you had taken a hotel in Katra, they arrange for your Journey Ticket and also arrange a vehicle for you to going to Banganga. There are several Auto Rickshaws running in Katra which takes Rs 10/- per head to leave you to Banganga.
Management of Journey and Maa Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage is taken care of by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. Now the real journey to Maa Vaishno Devi Holy Cave starts from Banganga. There is check point here, where you will be security checked. From here you can start journey by walking or by horse. Helicopter services are also available from Katra toSanjichhat or Sanjichhat toKatra which cost about Rs. 1,600 per person one way. Flight Timings are 8.30 A.M to 5 P.M. The flight from Katra to Vaishnodevi takes a total of 08 minutes. 5-6 passengers can be accommodated in one flight. There are about 10 return flights per day. We took horses from here. Maa Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage is 12 kms from here.
There are several restaurants and public facilities on the way. You can also do shopping on the way. Visitors can buy mementos of the holy cave, the Shrine Board operates Souvenir Shops at Bhawan, Sanjichhat, Adkuwari, Katra bus stand and at Vaishnavi Dham (Jammu). Chunris, Cholas, Saris, shawls which have been offered to the Holy Goddess are also available at these Souvenir Shops at nominal prices. These Souvenir Shops also include, audio cassettes, CDs, various publications of Shrine Board, laminated photos of the Holy Pindies, Jute Bags, Bangle Chura etc.
You can also take pictures of local sight scenes. Hilly route of this 12 kms stretch is very breathe taking and picturesque. There are special shoes and sticks available for walking. Oxygen is also less there, so heart patients are not advised to visit there. On the way, we take a small break and have breakfast cum lunch at the local restaurant. All the restaurants and hotels from Katra to Maa Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage are strictly pure vegetarians. Outside non-veg food are also not allowed. After 1 ½ hour of journey we reached mid way called Ardhakumari. Here is one of the temples of Maa Vaishno Devi where one has to visit before going to main pilgrimage. This 12 kms stretch yatra (journey) is open 24 hrs 12 months of year except when land sliding is there. Darshan of Maa Ardhakumari takes another 1 ½ hour.
There are 2 ways to go ahead from there. One way is for horse riders and a way for walking visitors and for auto rickshaws. Yes, you can go next 6 kms from battery operated auto rickshaws also. They take Rs 100/- per head to leave you at the end of your destination. We decided to take the same from here and left horses behind. Every visitor on the way is kept saying loudly “JAI MADA KI”. In half an hour time we reached mail pilgrimage called ‘Bhawan’.
There you have to take a shower bath under natural spring water before entering the queue of main pilgrimage of Maa Vaishno Devi. We also bought some Prashad and Bhainth to offer in to the holy cave. Our number comes in just 2 hours. And after taking blessings of Holy Goddess Maa Vaishno Devi, we go to another temple of Bhairon Baba which is just 3 km away from main pilgrimage. From there we went back to Katra taking horses. We took Horses because Auto Rickshaws didn’t run after 5 pm. From Katra we again hired a car to Jammu Bus Stand. Then we take a Hotel Vaishnavi Dham there and stayed overnight.
In the morning we take the breakfast from hotel itself and leave for famous Raghunath Temple in Jammu. There we do some shopping of Walnuts. Walnuts are to distributed with prashad (that we get from Maa Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage) to our friends and relatives back in town. After roaming some more time in Jammu, we get back to hotel to get ready for our train in evening.
This was our nice enjoyable journey. May Maa Vaishno Devi bless you all.
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