Vaishno Devi is one of the most frequented and revered Hindu pilgrimages in India.
Located atop Trikuta hills of the Shivalik range in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, this holy shrine is dedicated to ‘Mata Vaishno Devi’ and allures millions of devotees from all over the world.
The shrine is located in a holy cave called ‘Bhawan’ or ‘Darbar’ and consists of three natural rock formations called ‘Pindies’, representing Goddess Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati, symbolizing destructive, preservative and creative characters of the mother Goddess.
Vaishno Devi Yatra
The yatra begins from the base camp Katra which is well-connected with Jammu and Srinagar by road but beyond Katra one has to cover the journey by foot or by ponies.
Once at Katra, collect your yatra-parchi or slip from Yatra Registration Counter at the Tourism Reception Centre, near Katra Bus Stand. You can also acquire those online beforehand.
You can rent a room in a hotel in Katra where you can rest, refresh and leave your stuff behind before proceeding for Yatra. Go light! Carry minimum possible with you like a towel and a change as whatever you carry you will have to deposit in locker before entering the main temple.
Yatra pathway is neatly tiled and is well-lit at night and has all the basic facilities like rest shelters, cafeterias & bhojanalayas run-around-the-clock, drinking-water coolers, public utilities at every short distance.
A kilometer up from Katra is ‘Banganga’ where the ‘Mata’ is believed to have quenched her thirst.
Note: You will be allowed to cross Banganga checkpost only when you produce your Yatra registration slip.
Half-way down is ‘Ardhkawari’ where the Goddess is said to have meditated for nine months.
Further up 2.5 km short of Bhawan is ‘Sanjhichhatt’. Accommodation facility is available here for those who want to take some rest before proceeding ahead.
On reaching Bhawan you need to show your Yatra registration slip at the registration office and collect your batch number which determines your place in the queue for darshans. Batch numbers are flashed on the screens.
At Bhawan, you can take a bath if desired and then deposit all your luggage and leather items in the cloak room. You will also need to deposit your cell phones etc in a separate locker.
Offerings or ‘Bhaint’
Various shops in Katra market sell offerings in packets.
Also, to facilitate the convenience of devotees, Bhawan has its own ‘Bhaint’ shop from where pilgrims can buy neatly packed offerings in eco-friendly jute bags at reasonable prices.