IntroductionMata Vaishno Devi is a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Durga Devi. This Goddess is also known as Mata Rani, Trikuta and Vaishnavi Devi. The temple of this Goddess is located in Katra on the Trikuta Mountains. It is in the Jammu and Kashmir State of India. The temple is about 14 kms from Katra at a height of almost 1560 meters above sea level. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi temple is being managed and maintained by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. The whole area of the till top is well maintained and all the arrangements required for the pilgrims are made by this board. The shrine in the temple is a natural rock. This rock is a single rock at the base. It has three heads at the top. These three heads are popularly known as Pindies. They are the main deities worshiped here. The entire rock is in water and a marble platform is made. The holy Pindies are having different colours and textures even though basically they are from the same rock.
Story of the GoddessMaha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswathi created a girl and asked her to take birth as a daughter to a Brahmin Ratnakar. The parents named her Vaishnavi Devi. The girl has shown a lot of interest in acquiring knowledge and became an ocean of knowledge. She soon learned the art of meditation. She relinquished all worldly comforts and gone for meditation deep into the forest. Lord Rama during his aranyavasa met her and she prayed for her merger into the God. Rama promised her that while return he will meet her and if she recognises him, he will get her merged into him. As promised after killing Ravana while going back, he came to Vyshanvi and unfortunately she couldn't recognise her as he came in as an Oldman. Rama gave her darshan and asked her to start meditation at Trikuta hills. She went there and started her meditation. MahaYogi Goraksh Nath Ji, who had the knowledge about this great lady wanted to see her level of spirituality and hence sent his disciple Bhairon Nath. When Mata was in a community meal program organised by her devotee Sridhar, Bhairon Nath started pestering her to marry him. To avoid him Mata started going away but he followed her. Finally, when she reached the holy shrine cave, she decided to kill him. As there is no other option to her she killed him. After his death, Bharion recognised his mistake and prayed Mata to forgive. Mata with mercy gave him a boon. She allotted a permanent place to him on the hill. She made the visit to his temple mandatory. If anyone is not visiting his place the yatra is not supposed to be complete.
How to reach Katra Katra is about 40 Kms from Jammu. Direct flights and trains are available to Jammu from Delhi. From Delhi to Jammu it is an overnight journey by train. Jammu is a big city with good hotels and restaurants for stay and food. From Jammu, there are many buses and taxis to reach Katra.
Where to stay The shrine board is providing accommodation to pilgrims at Jammu at Vaishnavi Dham, Kalika Dham and Sarasvati Dham near Railway Station. There are guests' houses of the shrine board at Katra at Niharika Yatri Niwas, Shakti Bhawan and Ashirwad Bhawan. These are available to pilgrims and they are situated at the Bus stand of Katra. There is another 700 bedded accommodation by name Trikuta Bhawan. Accommodation for the Yatries is also available at Adkuwari, Sajichatt and at main temple area also. In all the accommodation units provided by Shrine Board, there is a no profit no loss Bhojanalaya, a Souvenir Shop and a free cloakroom. The accommodation can be booked online also. We can book accommodation on the spot at the reception but the booking depends on the availability of accommodation at that point in time.
How to reach hilltopFrom Katra, pilgrims can reach temple on the hilltop by foot. There are well-constructed stairs for the tourists who want to go up on foot. There are Ponies, Palanquins operated by 4 persons. Helicopter service is also available up to Sanjichhat. The helicopter fare one way is Rs.1005/-. There is an online booking facility for these helicopters. Ponies from Katra to Vaishno Devi temple will be available for Rs.1000/-. The management of the temple is operating battery cars up to the middle of the mountains almost and from there again one has to opt for ponies to come down or go up. A ropeway is under construction and once it is ready for operation, commuting between Katra and the temple will become easy. Once we get down from the helicopter we have to cover another 4 Kms to the temple. From Helipad ponies and palanquins are available for the pilgrims who can't walk. A pony will charge about Rs.300/- rupees from helipad to the temple and palanquins are available at a rate of almost Rs.1500/-.
Other places around the shrine worth seeing
My experience A worth seeing place not only on the spiritual front but also for a thrilling experience. People who can walk down should prefer coming down on foot. We traveled half the distance on a walk and it is a very good experience. Then we traveled on Pony. A good experience. While going up we have gone by helicopter. One should try to spend at least one night on the hilltop. It is not very cold in the night also on the hill. The rooms are very good and even dormitories are also very clean and very hygienic. The Shrine board is doing a very good work in providing all required facilities to the devotees. The entire atmosphere on the hilltop is very pious and pure. No pollution. Very good greenery around and once we go there we feel like staying there only. The people who are staying in Katra are really blessed people and we should appreciate the locals there for their attitude in providing help to the devotees. Overall I feel one should visit this place at least once in their lifetime.
An excellent description of the pilgrimage to Mata Vaishnodevi. The author has covered almost everything including the spirituality and the mythological story associated with this very sacred place. The author has also mentioned other sacred places in the neighbourhood including the Bhairon Temple.
The article has explained in details how to reach Katra and then to the sacred Temple from Katra. In this connection, I would like to mention that Katra has now been included in the railway map of India. The Jammu-Baramulla railway line goes through Katra. It will attract more tourists when it will be extended on both sides.
A very nice article explaining the mythological story behind Vaishno Devi.
It is a very famous place. Besides going to Vaishno Devi temple one can plan to visit Patni top which is a good place to visit. Also, there is a place near Katra named Shiv Khodi. This place is appx 80kms from Katra and is situated on a hill. It is around 3 kms track where one can go on foot or pony. It's a natural cave around 200 meters long and it is said to have self-made lingum. A few years back this place was not much known but nowadays it is a popular place and people who visit Vaishno Devi visit this place also.
Bhairo temple is situated 4kms away from Vaishno Mata temple. It is believed that yatra is not believed to be complete if one doesn't go to the Bhairo Nath Mandir.
Vaishno Devi is normally visited during Navratris as it is believed that its good to visit here during Navratri. It's tough to get train tickets during the season so it is better to get them booked well in advance.