Did you know that the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine is flocked by millions of pilgrims every year! No wonder it is among the most well-known pilgrimage sites in India. It is among 108 Shakti Peethas and Maa Vaishno Devi Yatra and is considered the holiest sojourn.
Perched at an altitude of 5200 feet above sea level, the holy shrine is tucked in a three-peaked mountain named Trikuta Hills.
Mata Vaishno Devi is considered the incarnation of Goddess Durga and is believed to reside inside a cave. Three naturally formed rocks are inside the cave, known as Pindis, and are believed to be the manifestation of three Goddesses: Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi, and Maha Saraswati.
Devotees have to undertake a trek of 12 km to reach the holy cave. Katra is the base camp of the trek, and the registration of Yatra is mandatory, which is free of cost. The registration can be done in two modes – online and offline.
The offline counter is at the main market in Katra. For online registration, devotees can register themselves on the official website of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. In case of online registration, carry a printout of the Yatra Access Slip.
Pilgrims can take a pedestrian way or stairs to the holy cave. The other ways to reach the temple are by ponies/ horses, palki/ palanquin, or avail helicopter services.
How to reach Vaishno Devi Bhawan from Katra?
There are two ways to travel from Katra to Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan – by road and by air. Devotees can also hire ponies, palki, electric vehicles, and helicopters. Let’s see each in detail –
By Road (Holy track) –
By Pony/ Palki-
From Katra, pilgrims can hire a pony/ horse and palki/ palanquin from Darshani Darwaza – the starting point of the holy sojourn till Ardhkuwari or Bhawan. They can take a night halt at Ardhkuwari if required. Ardhkuwari is halfway through the holy Yatra, just 6 km from the base.
By Trekking –
Devotees who wish to walk till Bhawan can choose from three paths –
- An old track that starts from Darshani Darwaza and covers Ban Ganga, Charan Paduka, Ardhkuwari, Himkoti, and Sanjichhat.
- The second route also starts from Darshani Darwaza and covers Ban Ganga and Charan Paduka; starting just below Ardhkuwari near Indraprastha viewpoint. It is short by 500 than the old route, where ponies are not allowed. This track is much wider and gentler than other tracks.
- The third track is the newest, which starts from Tarakote, and doesn’t allow ponies and palkis. With a comfortable gradient and sideway amenities, this route has a ramp-type design and offers scenic views. Tarakote Marg is also linked with the Banganga-Ardhkuwari track, which takes off near Gulshan Langar. This is a 1.5 km link route that provides the choice to Yatris to choose between the Banganga-Ardhkuwari route or the purely pedestrian Tarakote Marg.
By Helicopter –
Devotees can embark on Vaishno Devi Yatra by helicopter, starting from Katra. The flight will drop you at Sanjichhat, just 2.5 km from the holy cave. The facility of online helicopter booking is available on the Shrine Board’s official website. Advance booking can be done 60 days before the journey. Passengers must carry valid ID proof, address proof, and debit/credit card with which payment has been made. In the absence of any of the documents, boarding can be denied.
Pilgrims can also book the ticket offline. Katra to Sanjichhat helicopter tickets can also be booked from the Current-heli ticket counter, where the passengers’ valid ID proof and travel documents should be presented. Offline ticket booking is subject to the availability of seats.
One-way or two-way helicopter tickets can be booked from the website. Vaishno Devi Yatra helicopter booking is also available for Katra-Sanjichhat-Katra. To and fro helicopter ticket is also considered a VIP Pass for Darshan. However, a one-way ticket from Katra-Sanjichhat or Sanjichhat-Katra is not considered a VIP Pass.
Availability of Yatra Registration Counter
The registration for Yatra is mandatory, and without a Yatra slip, pilgrims are not allowed to start their journey. Yatra registration can be done in two modes – online and offline.
Vaishno Devi’s online booking is free and can be done on the official website of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. Take the printout of the Yatra Slip as it is compulsory to carry the printout of the registration slip during the holy journey.
Offline registration can be done from the registration counter in the main market of Katra. In addition, the starting point of Tarakote Marg also has a counter from where you can register on the spot.
What to do after Darshan of Maa Vaishno Devi?
Upon reaching Bhawan, take a holy bath at the bathing ghat before heading towards the Bhawan for darshan. Seek blessing at the holy cave. After Darshan at Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan, head towards Bhairon Ghati.
Bhairon Temple is situated 1.5 km from Bhawan at an altitude of 6,600 feet above sea level. It is believed that it is a must to visit Bhairon Temple after Maa Vaishno Devi darshan, without which the Yatra will be incomplete.
How to travel from Vaishno Devi Bhawan to Bhairon Ghati?
Bhairon Ghat is visited by two routes – Ropeway and track.
By Track: Devotees can cover the distance on foot. They can also hire a pony/ horse or palki/ palanquin. The distance from Bhawan to Bhairon Valley is not much but the ascent is steep, which makes the hike tough.
By Ropeway: Cable car ride from Bhawan to Bhairon Baba reduces the hour-long tiring journey into a 3-minutes joyride. Vaishno Devi Ropeway service is operational only during day time.
Places to visit around Vaishno Devi Temple
Katra is a quaint little town situated in the Trikuta Mountains of Jammu and Kashmir in the Reasi district. Vaishno Devi Temple is one of the region’s major attractions, but there is much more to attractions here. There are several places to visit near Vaishno Devi Temple that will ensure you have a great time.
Here is the list of top tourist attractions around Vaishno Devi Temple:
Situated in the lap of nature, the Shiv Khori shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located 54 km from Katra. It is one of the many prominent cave shrines of the region which is 200 m long, 1 m high, and 3 m high. This cave houses a natural Shivalinga.
Tucked at an altitude of 2,024 m above sea level, Patnitop is a hilltop tourist destination. It is situated on a plateau in the Shivaliks and is located 85 km from Katra. Dotted with endless meadows and panoramic views of the snow-clad Himalayas, Patnitop is a paradise for nature lovers and shutterbugs.
Surrounded by gigantic confers, Sanasar is a cup-shaped meadow. This lesser-known hill station is a hub for adventure enthusiasts. Situated at a distance of 103 km from Katra, Sanasar is notable for its scenic views of mighty mountain ranges, including Brammah Massif.
This holy place is situated 13 km from Katra in Reasi district, Jammu and Kashmir. Baba Dhansar is one of the offbeat places to visit in Jammu, in proximity to Karua Jheel (pond). Bathing is not permitted in the sacred pond. However, devotees can take a bath downstream.
Encompassed by a lush green forested hill, Mansar Lake is situated 60 km from Katra. This place also holds a special significance as this lake shares the sanctity and legend of Lake Mansarovar. People take a holy dip in the lake on festive occasions. There are some ancient temples on the shore of the lake. This place is also ideal for boating.
The holy sojourn of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi beckons you. So, get ready to experience the blissful pilgrimage. Bask in the spiritual aura while admiring the natural beauty of this sacred place. Apart from delighting in the visits to holy shrines, emerald environs, and scintillating views of this majestic place, you will feel the purity overflowing in your being.
Maa Vaishno Devi COVID Guidelines:
1. Wearing face masks will be compulsory throughout the yatra.
2. Proper social distancing will be maintained and any group or gathering will not be allowed inside the shrine.
3. Devotees coming from other states will have to undergo the COVID-19 antigen test.
4. Any individual will only be allowed to proceed further if the report is negative.
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