Situated at an altitude of 5200 feet, Maa Vaishno Devi temple at Katra, in Jammu is considered as one of the holiest pilgrimage of India. Mata Vaishno Devi resides in holy cave located in the fold of the three peaked mountains known as Trikoot. The devotees need to take a route of about 14 kilometers from Katra town to the hilly but metalled and properly carved route either on foot, ponies or by chopper to the nearest peak. In the temple premises there are three pindis dedicated to Maha Kaali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati.
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The journey to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji starts with the Call of Mata. It is not only a belief but also a strong experience of one and all that the Divine Mother sends a call to her children.
And once a person receives it, wherever he is, is bound to visit the Mother to receive Her unbounded love and blessings. It’s a matter of experience by almost all those who visit the Holy Shrine that upon the Call of Mata, a person needs to just take one step and leave the rest to Her and his journey gets completed with Her divine blessings.
This place is full of positive energy. If you are religious you can visit this place if you are adventurous you can visit this place. You can try food at restaurant Jewels and Sher-e-Punjab for lunch and dinner. There is a big market at the starting point of yatra where you can purchase all type of dry fruits. You will get best garlic available there which is used in most of the medicines. If you want to stay in Bhawan or attend morning Aarti you need to book all those things from online. There is a site of shrine board for the purpose. Same is for helicopter tickets. All these need to be booked at least two months before when you need to visit.
People say that the trek of about 14 kms uphill is not much of a strain since Mata Vaishno Devi provides the rejuvenation to climb up. It is amazing to see even elderly devotees walking up the hill, though there are options of the Palki ride or on horseback, and not to mention of the helicopter ride too. The entire trek is lined up with local dhabas, eateries run by the Shrine Board and also the yuppie crowd favourite CCD. It is a good trek with families or friends. Darshan at the sanctum Santorum will be fleeting but Her ashirwaad will last for a lifetime. The Shrine Board definitely deserves kudos for maintaining and running the entire system so smoothly since the number of pilgrims visiting each year run into lakhs. Only request to the pilgrims who visit is to keep it clean, because the housekeeping staff are at their best even late in the working to make everything comfortable for us. One can definitely try the horseback ride or the views from the helicopter one way. The visit requires a great deal of pre-planning. The website of the shrine board offers the prior booking of your darshan, rooms, helicopter services etc. Katra is full of hotels and restaurants and you find all variety of food here. The market has many ATMs as well. The services can be made better by providing better signage at pathway junctions, separate pathway for the pony riders and the palanquin bearers, so that the walkers can walk comfortably and better back up facilities in case of power failure in nights.
The journey from Delhi is now very comfortable in the New Rajdhani like direct train to Katra. There are a number of other trains and bus services catering to the devotees. The ambiance, scenery has been same with the early morning view from Katra railway station a great one. Basic amenities on the entire trek are very good. New food joints have opened up all along the way. Vaishno Devi is a must go place, If you are a Delhiite and want a weekend getaway then Vaishno Devi it is, start friday night and come back on Monday early morning.
The helicopter services to the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi are conducted by approved aviation companies. The helicopter service is carried out from Katra to the temple. The chopper services commence from Katra to Sanjichhat. During your ride in the helicopter you can take in the breathtaking views of the majestic Himalayas and the beautiful natural surroundings.
When travelling by the helicopter, you must keep in mind that the flight from Katra to Vaishno Devi would take around 8- minutes. At a time in one chopper a maximum of 5-6 passengers can be accommodated. The helipad is approximately two kms from the bus stand at Katra, Udhampur Road. The distance to be covered to the Bhawan is around 2.5 km from the helipad at Sanjichhat. With Helicopter Return Tickets in hand you can be rest assured of getting back when desired.
Yatra to Bhawan can be done on foot, through ponies (rate INR 700/- from Katra to Bhawan & back or INR 350/- one way), through palanquin @4000/- from Katra to Bhairon and back.
There is a motorable road getting ready upto Bhawan which will be open in next year. There are battery cars available from Adhkuwari (about 6 km from Katra) to Bhawan through new route but they are meant for old age, and people suffering with different abilities etc (carry certificates).
After either by trekking, pony or by chopper you reach the bhawan, take your yatra parchi without which you may not be allowed to enter the temple. Search for the entry gate displaying the group number and check your yatra parchi. Wait for your turn after depositing your footware at the designated place. Leather items, ladies purse, mobile and camera are not allowed inside, so keep them in the lockers. Try to enter inside the temple before closing hours, as after reopening of gate after closing hours it became heavy rush. Have the Prasad after darshan.
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