Mata Vaishno Devi
A very famous pilgrimage place Vaishno Devi Temple for Hindu devotees and the only natural cave where Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati, the three Deities are situated in the form of three Pindies (stones) and worshipped together. Later temple is constructed at the entrance to the cave.
It is said that Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati got together one day and through their energy created a beautiful young girl. She was created so that she can live on earth and look after the wellbeing of every one, that she will have to grow spiritually and bless mankind and end the sufferings of poor and helpless people.
The place where she went into meditative state, after transforming herself into a five and half feet rock with three heads (Pindies) on the top is the main destination for every devotee. The three Pindies represents Maha Kali (right), Maha Lakshmi (middle) and Maha Saraswati (left), if a devotee is facing toward it. Though famous with the words ‘Jai Mata Di’, she is also known by the names of Mata Rani, Trikuta and Vaishnavi.
Mata Vaishno Devi’s cave is situated inside Trikuta Mountain. To reach Trikuta Mountain, one has to go to Katra in Jammu, the last stoppage for any train going in that direction. Train facility is available directly to Katra from almost all the states. Distance of Katra from Jammu is 50 km’s. Whether travelling through train or by four wheelers, since travelling through mountain, picturesque sceneries await everyone.
In Katra, staying is easy as numerous hotels and lodges are available in various price range. The city also has a good market place where one can purchase various items as momentous of the visit to this great place. The distance of the temple from the Katra bus stand is 13.5 km’s.
Before the journey one has to purchase Travel Slip which is checked in the main gate or entrance at the bottom of the Trikuta Mountain. This let the authority and the Shrine body know approx. how many devotees are visiting the temple apart from maintaining other statistics.
In the beginning the journey towards the temple is hard as climb is stiff, however later on the climb becomes a bit easier. In earlier days proper roads were not present, but now after climbing few km’s, special cemented pathways with shades are created keeping in mind the comfort of the devotees.
Devotees usually walk the distance of almost 10 km’s. Ideally it takes about 5 to 6 hours for a devotee to reach the main temple from the entrance, if not taking any break. But that much walking is not possible for everyone, and so devotees can take various service’s provided there like Horse ride, ‘Pithu’ (men taking kids or old light weight person’s on their back), Waggies (like palkies, to carry people who cannot walk that much distance) and battery operated electric four wheelers.
If the weather is clear then helicopter service is also available directly from Katra city to Sanjhi Chhat, a place on top of the Trikuta Mountain, only 2 km’s away from the mail temple.
Along the way to the main temple, devotees can take blessings in places like Charanpaduka, Ardhkuwari, and Hathi-Matha and take some rest as well. Upon reaching the temple the devotees have to wait, sometimes for more than one hour, in queue for their turn, since the temple always remains crowded. When turn comes, the devotees can enter the cave to pay obeisance to the Goddess Vaishno Devi. Further four to five Km’s up the hill is the Bhairon temple. It is said that visit to Mata Vaishno Devi is incomplete until you take the blessings of Lord Bhairon.
Along the way to the main temple, all sorts of emergency and necessary facilities are present like medical stores, rest rooms and for foodie’s restaurants etc. So devotees do not have to worry much and also shouldn’t carry much luggage which might hamper their journey.
During summer time devotees prefer night time for walking/travelling and in winter, day time, since the temple remains open 24 hours throughout the year. Shrine board has been formed in 1986 to look after maintenance of the facilities and to keep check the day to day activities happening there. It is estimated that more than 8 million devotees visit the holy shrine each year.
Apart from the excitement of visiting the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, other important factors which keeps devotees walking tirelessly is the awe inspiring scenic views of the Trikuta Mountain, the zig-zag pathway created alongside the mountain and huge number of devotees singing and dancing while walking on it.
Places to visit near Katra
- Batote – 25 km’s from Jammu, on Jammu Srinagar Highway.
- Jhajjar Kotli – 35 km’s from Jammu at the bank of river Jhajjar on Jammu Srinagar Highway.
- Kud –106 km’s from Jammu, famous picnic spot on Jammu Srinagar Highway.
- Mantalaii – Surrounded with beautiful scenic views particularly of Deodar trees, it is said that Lord Shiv and Goddess Parvati got married here.
- Patni Top – 112 km’s away from Jammu, is a Hill top location and famous picnic spot located at Jammu Srinagar highway
- Sanasar – Situate in Jammu province, name of two villages; Sana and Sar, is famous for Paragliding, Horse riding, Hot Air Ballooning and Camping.
- Shiv Khori – 70 km’s from Katra, one of the holly caves of Lord Shiva, while travelling to this place one can see the nature at its full glory.
- Baba Dhansar –15 Km from Katra and holy place of Baba Dhansar who was a saintly person.
- Baba Aghar Jitto – Named after spiritual devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi, he sacrificed his life for agriculture issues.
- Bhoomika Mandir – In this place it is said that Mata Vaishnavi revealed herself to Pandit Shridhar.
- Nav Devi temple – Located just 9 km from Katra and known for 9 Pindies of Mata, it is a natural cave carved in hills.
Apart from the above places there are many market places in Jammu like Raghunath bazar, Hari Market, Shiv Market, Gandhi Nagar, Trikuta Nagar, etc. where one can go shopping after visiting the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi.