Ground Report| Wahid Bhat
Vaishno Devi, also known as Mata Rani, Trikuta and Vaishnavi, is a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Mata Adi Shakti, also known as Mahalakshmi/Matrika Goddess. The words “maa” and “mata” are commonly used in India for “mother”, and thus are often used in connection with Vaishno Devi.
Since time immemorial, Maa Vaishno Devi Yatra has been one of the sacred pilgrimages in India. Millions of pilgrims eagerly await ‘Mata ka bulawa’ to embark on a holy sojourn every year. It is believed that until the Goddess doesn’t invite, you can’t pay homage at the Vaishno Devi Shrine.
Nestled beautifully amidst Trikuta Hills, the temple is the holy abode of Mata Rani who resides here in ‘Pindi form’ within a cave. Considered as a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Mata Adi Shakti, the presiding deity fulfills the wishes of anyone who comes here with a pure heart.
So, if you, your parents or family are wishing since long to plan this Yatra, here’s a complete Vaishno Devi travel guide for you. Whether you are a first-timer or have already been to the sacred Bhawan of Maa Vaishno, this blog may help you a lot.
From new routes, Yatra registration process to accommodations, you can find detailed Vaishno Devi information here. Plan a trip soon, as only a few lucky ones get a chance to cherish this heavenly experience.
What to remember – Obtain a yatra slip only from the yatra registration counter at the Tourist Reception Centre at the Katra bus stand and nowhere else. Without an authentic yatra slip, crossing of the Ban Ganga check post is not permitted. Take official receipts for all payments made to the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMV Shrine Board) as well as those made to private vendors. Use only the donation boxes provided by the SMV Shrine Board. In case of donations at the donation counters of the board at Katra (central office), Ardhkawari, Sanji Chhat and various points at the Bhawan, obtain a formal receipt for the same. Donations to the shrine are exempt from income tax under the Income Tax Act. Avoid over straining yourself on the climb.
Walk on the paved track, instead of the stairs. Do not relax at points where warning notices are displayed. Do not break traffic discipline or try to over take others at difficult stretches. Good accommodation, with bedding facilities is provided by the SMV Shrine Board on payment. Facilities for booking of such accommodation on fixed rates are available at various offices of the Board.
To maintain the sanctity of the place do not indulge in playing cards, smoking or chewing betel (paan) at Bhawan or enroute. Do not paint, stick posters or disfigure signboards, and also avoid littering the area. Fellow pilgrims are bound to you by their faith in the Mata. Avoid playing transistors or tape recorders too loudly or creating blockage or hindrances in the passages meant for circulation of the yatris. Qualified doctors are available at the Primary Health Centre, Katra and at the dispensaries at Adhkawari and Bhawan, round the clock. They are also available at the evening clinic at Katra bus stand. Medical Aid Centres run by the SMV Shrine Board provide necessary assistance to the pilgrims at the Katra bus stand, Banganga and Sanji Chhat.
Where to eat?
The Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMV Shrine Board) and various private vendors runs a large number of cafeterias and viewing points along the trail between Katra and the shrine where snacks, coffee and cold drinks are provided to the yatris on a no-profit-no-loss basis. The Shrine Board also runs ‘bhojanalyas’ at Katra, Adhkawari, Sanji Chhat and at the Bhawan / shrine for providing hygienically prepared food to the yatris on a no-profit-no-loss basis.
Clothing – Light woolens are required at night even during summer. During the remaining parts of the year heavy woolens are required.
How to reach Katra?
Jammu, 48 kms from Katra, is the nearest airport, railhead and inter-state bus terminus. Buses leave for Katra at 10 minute intervals between 5:30 am and 8:30 p.m. During peak season, additional buses are pressed into service. Taxis are available both at Jammu and Katra for the journey. In Jammu city, these can be hired from the Jammu airport, Jammu railway station and the Tourist Reception Centre. We also conduct tours to Katra regularly from Delhi and other major cities of India.
Pawan Hans operates two flights daily from Jammu and 5 flights from Katra to Shrine. Its capacity is of 6 persons per flight. This service has been discontinued for the time being.
Where to Stay?
The Vaishno Devi Shrine Board provides a number of economical accommodation options at Jammu and Katra. However, owing to the large number of pilgrims all year round, these need to be booked well in advance. Choose between the low-priced Hotel Bhavini, Hotel Arya, and New Parkash Guest House, all conveniently located near the Banganga Check Post, the starting point of the yatra.
When to Go?
The shrine is open throughout the year, with Navratras being the peak season. For a comfortable trek, visit Vaishno Devi between March and October when the weather is cool and pleasant. For those who can brave the cold, snowfall during the winter months makes the experience even more charming.