shrine of Vaishno Devi, the Mother Goddess, is one that millions of
Indians from across the subcontinent go to on pilgrimage. Situated in
the Himalayan trail foothills, the Devi's cave is visited throughout the
year by the devout. It is said
anyone who treks theHimalayan to her shrine to ask for a boon will
rarely return disappointed whether the request is for a son, an early
marriage or good results in a forthcoming examination. According to
legend, Vaishno Devi took the cave for her home upon being chased by a
demon, Bhairon, whom she slayed outside the shrine. A visit to the
temple dedicated to Bhairon who was absolved of his sin before he died,
is an obligatory part of the pilgrimage. Katra from where the 13.5 km.
trek to the cave shrine begins is 50 km. from Jammu. The average time
taken for the climb to the cave shrine is approximately six hours.
Permits to enter the shrine have to be obtained in advance to avoid
overcrowding. Light woollens and raincapes should be carried.
to the shrine is the Adhkuwari temple, where the Goddess Vaishno is
believed to be have spent nine months on her way to the mountains.
Inside the 100-meter long cave, the shrine is narrow and pilgrims have
to walk through a running stream of cold water called the Charan Ganga
to get to the sanctum sanctorum. Within, three rock-cut idols of the
goddesses, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati are venerated under
canopies of silver and gold. Previously the Shrine had only one natural
entry cave, but now two more exit caves have been constructed. The
shrine can be visited all through the year.Important
- The Shrine Board at Katra has setup a number of counters for
issuing `Yatra Slips' to the visitors. After obtaining the slip, the
pilgrims must clear the Banganga check point within a period of 6
hours from the time of issue.
- On reaching the Darbar (The main temple), the pilgrims are
assigned to groups which are permitted `Darshan' in a set sequence.
- Only 20,000 visitors are allowed to cross the Banganga check
point daily. If the prescribed number of slips have already been
issued, the pilgrims are issued with `Waiting Slips'. The `Bhaint'
(offerings) for the goddess must include coconut, mauli (sacred
thread), red `Chunni' (headscraf) with gold/silver trimmings,
dryfruit, bangles, incense and vermillion powder.
- Other offerings include `mehndi' (henna), `supari' (arecanut) and
`Chattar' (holy Umbrella). There are facilities for hiring blankets,
and for buying `bhaint' (offerings) at fixed prices.
- Visitors would do well to have non-leather walking shoes, cotton
bags, torches, caps and walking sticks. Most of these items can be
hired at Katra. Visitors should leave all their leather belongings
and other heavier baggage at Katra.
It is believed that the journey to
Mata's shrine is complete only after visiting the shrine of Bhairon, 2.5
km from the Bhawan, on your way back. You have to collect your
belongings before going to this shrine, as the return path from the
Bhairon shrine joins the main path at Sanji Chatt. Shopping
things at Katra are brought from Jammu, so if one has time, shopping
should be done there. The shopping here should be restricted to the
`bhaint' requirements. These should be bought from shops run by the
Shrine Board outside the temple.Do's and Dont's
(or porters) can be hired for carrying your luggage. Those who have
problems climbing, can hire the services of a pony or dandi (palenquin).
It is advised that you should avail of the services of only registered
people, whether it be porters, pony or dandiwallas and keep their token
for the time period they are engaged.How to reach
Daily flights are available from Delhi and
Srinagar to Jammu. These flights (Indian Airlines) connect
Chandigarh and Amritsar on specific days of the week. Jet Airways
also flies to Jammu from Delhi via Srinagar.
By rail, Jammu is directly connected with most
major cities in the country.
Jammu is the terminus of a large number of Inter
State Bus Services. Buses leave for Katra every 10 minutes from the
main bus stand at Jammu between 5.30 am to 8.30 pm. JKSRTC runs
buses and luxury coaches from the Jammu railway station to Katra.
Private taxis are also available for hire between Jammu and Katra,
from Jammu Airport, Jammu Railway Station and the