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Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra

This place is about wish fulfillment. About a cave that lies 61 km North of Jammu, and the faith that surrounds it. People visiting Vaishnodevi undertake a tough yatra (pilgrimage) to reach the cave with the shrine of the 'Mata' (mother goddess) Vaishno Devi. She is represented in the three divine aspects of goddess-hood in Hindu mythology -- Mahakali (the fierce form of the goddess), Saraswati (goddess of knowledge) and Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth).

The gruelling yatra to the cave works as a kind of catharsis for the pilgrim soul. Believers -- and they are not just Hindus who come here but people of all faiths -- cover a 13 km trek on foot from Katra at the base of the Trikuta mountains to reach the holy cave.

Miracles are granted to those who are determined enough to make it to the cave. Stories are told of people ascending the innumerable stairs on foot when they have never walked small distances from their homes. The most common link is the shout of Jai Mata Di that dissolves in the cold air on the climb up to the cave.


Location:

The cave shrine lies in the Trikuta mountains, 61 kilometres north of Jammu. Situated at a height of 5,200 feet above sea level, this mountain forms the lower ranges of the Himalayas in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The cave is 30 m long and 1.7 m in height.

How to Reach:
Air:
The nearest airport is at Jammu (48 km from Katra). You can catch daily flights from Delhi and Srinagar.

Rail:
The nearest railway station is Jammu which directly connects Calcutta, Delhi and Kanyakumari.

Road:
Jammu is the terminus of a large number of Inter State Bus Services.

Jammu to Katra
Buses leave for Katra every 10 minutes from the main bus stand at Jammu between 5.30 am to 8.30 pm. During rush hour extra buses are pressed into service between Jammu and Katra.
You can hire private taxis between Jammu and Katra. These can be engaged from Jammu Airport, Jammu Railway Station and the Tourist Reception Centre in the city.


The Yatra
A 13 km journey that covers Banganga, the Adhkawari cave, Sanji Chhat, Bhawan, the shrine and the Bhairon temple.
The entire route has been widened and tiled recently. It is also well-lit at night with sodium vapour lamps. Other facilities include, rest shelters, cafeterias, drinking water fountains and coolers and a public utility with an automatic flushing system.
The yatra begins at Katra as pilgrims go on foot to reach the darbar (the sanctum sanctorum). A kilometer away from Katra is the Banganga, the place where the Mata is believed to have quenched her thirst (see legends). Six km away is the holy cave at Adhkawari.
Produce the free yatra slip (collected from the Yatra Registration Counter at the Tourism Reception Centre, Katra Bus Stand) which allows you to cross the Banganga checkpost.
After a six km trek, you reach Adhkawari, the holy cave where Mata meditated for nine months. Another 9.5 km takes you to Sanji Chhat where you can rest for sometime. Accommodation is also available at this place. Bhawan is just 3.5 km away.
On reaching Bhawan, show your Yatra Slip at the Registration Office and take down your batch number. This number is important as it will determine your place in the queue for darshan (glimpse of a deity or saint).
At Bhawan, you can bathe and change. All leather items and luggage can be booked here in the cloak rooms. Book your valuables separately. Preserve both the receipts. You can also collect blankets on a refundable deposit of Rs.100 from here. Offerings like prasad (food blessed in temple sanctuaries), chunri (veil for the goddess) and coconuts can be bought here.

The Temple
You can queue up for darshan according to your group number at gate number two outside the cave temple.
You will not be allowed to carry the coconut into the narrow cave. Deposit it before entering the cave and collect your token. In a bid to keep the shrine clean, your blessed coconut can be collected on your way out after darshan. The prasad of sweets can be carried inside. Inside the cave, the goddess exists in her three pindi forms -- Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati.
The water at the feet of the shrine is believed to be holy.
The yatra is considered complete after a visit to the shrine of Bhairon on the return journey. Bhairons Shrine is 2.5 km. from Bhawan.
It is important to collect your belongings deposited at Bhawan before leaving, as the return path follows a different route.
The Bhairon shrine joins the main path at Sanjhi Chhat.

Bhairav Temple
The place where compassion triumphed over rage. When Vaishno Devi slew Bhairav, this is where the head landed. It is called Bhairav Ghati. The temple has been constructed at the same spot. The body of Bhairav remained near the cave and the huge stone, outside the cave is a symbol of Bhairav's body.
Legend has it that while dying, Bhairav prayed to the mother for mercy. He is believed to have said, Mother, I am not mourning my death as I have died at the hands of mother creator. I only beg your forgiveness. I did not understand you were a goddess in the form of a human. If you do not forgive my sins, the world may hate me.
His boon was granted and today people throng here for darshan.


Your Itinerary for Vaishno Devi
(DELHI - JAMMU - VAISHNO DEVI - JAMMU - DELHI (6 Days) )

Day 01: Arrive Delhi and transfer to Hotel Imperial or similar. Dinner and overnight at hotel.

Day 02: Delhi/Jammu/Katra - After breakfast, transfer to airport to connect flight for Jammu. Arrive Jammu and transfer to Hotel Asia Jammu-Tawi to deposit the baggage with hotel security. Even though the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi is 61 kms from Jammu, the aura and the influence of the Goddess can be seen and felt as soon as one lands at Jammu. After lunch and a short break, leave for Katra by car/coach around 1700hrs. Arrive Katra at about 1900hrs and begin the Yatra on foot to the temple of Vaishno Devi (14kms/6hrs).

Day 03: Vaishno Devi/Katra/Jammu - Arrive the temple of Vaishno Devi - world famous holy shrine where your prayers are answered - at around 0100 hrs. The legend runs that over seven centuries ago Vaishno Devi was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Bhairon Nath, a tantric, was bewitched by Vaishno Devi and gave her a chase when she was going towards Trikuta Mountains. When thirsty, the Goddess shot an arrow into the earth and water gust-out at the place where the Ban-Ganga exists today. The imprints of her feet marked the spot Charan Paduka where she rested. She meditated in the cave at Adhkwari. Since Bhairon Nath took nine months to locate her, the cave is called Garbh Joon. When found by Bhairon Nath, the Goddess made her way out by blasting an opening with a trident. When she arrived at the holy cave at Darbar, she took on the form of Maha kali and chopped-off the head of Bhairon Nath. A temple after his name stands where the head fell on the ground. We spend about 2-3hrs at the temple for Darshan and Prasad and walk back to Katra at about 1000 hrs after breakfast at local restaurant. Start by car/coach for Jammu, reaching there around noon. Check-in and lunch at Hotel Asia Jammu-Tawi. Day at leisure to relax and recuperate. Dinner and overnight at hotel.

Day 04: Jammu/Patnitop/Jammu - After an early breakfast, proceed for a full-day excursion to Patnitop (112kms) with packed lunch. With all the exquisite beauty of a hill-station, it is a charming little plateau at an altitude of 1950m, where the time seems to stand still. The meadow is surrounded by dense woods and lush greenery of tall pines. Arrive back to Jammu around late evening. Dinner and overnight at hotel.

Day 05: Jammu/Delhi - After breakfast and lunch, transfer to airport for flight to Delhi. Arrive Delhi and transfer to Hotel Imperial or similar. Evening, city tour of Delhi, visiting Laxmi Narayan Temple. Hanuman Mandir and India Gate. Dinner and overnight at hotel.

Day 06: Delhi/Back Home - After breakfast, transfer to airport in time to connect flight for onward journey/back home.

Tour Ends.


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