Vaishno Devi Trek Detail information:
The journey to the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi starts with the call of Mata. It is not only a belief but the strong experience of all that Goddess sends the call to her children. And once a person receives it wherever he is bound to visit the mother to receives her unconditional love and blessings. Simultaneously it is also believed that unless there is a call or Bulava no one can visit the shrine and have her blessings however high and mighty he may be.
One of the most popular pilgrim centers in the world, the holy shrine of Ma Vaishno Devi is situated in the foothills of Trikuta mountains in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. No wonder that Millions of devotees trek uphill to the holy cave amidst the reverberating chants of ‘Jai Mata Di’ and pass through the beautiful breathtaking views of the entire valley. Devotees swear that if one prays at Vaishno Devi Goddess is sure to answer your prayers. The number of Yatris visiting shrine annually now exceeds one crore. Holy cave is the ultimate destination of devotees. At the culmination of the pilgrimage, devotees are blessed with the darshan of Goddess inside the sanctum sanctorum the holy cave.
How to reach Katra:
A number of flights are available from Delhi and major cities of India to Jammu.
By Train :
Trains are available from Delhi to Katra Railway station official named Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Railway (Station station code: SVDK). From there devotees can take auto rickshaw to fountain chowk Katra. Trains are available for Jammu from Whole India. From Jammu, you can hire cabs or minibus to Katra.
Devotees can hire a bus from Delhi to Katra Bus stand.
Katra is at a distance of 633 km from Delhi. I started my journey in the morning by the car at 7 AM and reached Katra at night 8 PM.
Yatra Registration Access Card:
1.Offline Registration Card or Yatra Parchi:
After entering Katra and before starting divine yatra first and foremost thing which all have to do is to get Yatra Parchi or Yatra registration card. So, I headed towards Yatra Registration Counter Katra near Bus stand at fountain chowk. One can get Yatra Parchi even at Saraswati Sham Jammu.
In case of the crowd, all have to stand in a queue to get a registration card. but when I visited there was no rush so I got registration card in just 2 minutes without any hassles. The officials at registration counter asked about me then I answered my name and hometown. They gave me a printed slip with my name printed on it as you can see in the pic below. This Registration pass is free of cost and is very important. I kept this pass with myself during my complete Yatra because I had to show it at many security points.
2.Online Yatra registration card:
Online Yatra Parchi also available free of cost from the website of SMVDSB. For online booking, one has to register on the website with username and password. then log in with username and password and click to get Yatra Parchi and enter details about yourself. Yatra Parchi is generated then take a printout of that Parchi. This is valid for the one full day.
Modes of Reaching the Shrine:
There are many modes available to reach the shrine by foot, Helicopter, Palaquin, or Pony ride.
Devotees who wish to hire helicopter service can book online at Vaishno Devi Shrine board website. Current tickets can be booked on the counter of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.
2.Climbing by foot-up:
The real challenge starts when a devotee wishes to climb the mountain by foot. If a devotee is regular runner jogger or athlete then it will not be tough for them. And if you are with your family and friends then trekking is a fun trekking. There are many halts during the trek. When you take halt you can enjoy the beauty of nature. When you see other people walking up then this thing act as a motivator. Devotees who wish to climb up by foot should wear shoes and loose clothes.
3.Ponies and Palkis:
Ponies and Palkis are available at Banganga gate. Vaishno Devi shrine Board decided standard rates for these.
There is a service of battery car to transport pilgrims on a 7 km trek from Adhkuwari to Main Bhawan. Devotees have to pay 300 INR for availing this service from Adkuwari to Bhawan and 200 INR from Bhawan to Adhkuwari.
Darshani Darwaja or Darshani Deodhi:
Darshani Darwaja is the main entry gate to Vaishno Devi Yatra. The term Darshan means’ view’ and Darwaja means ‘Gate’. Hence symbolically this is the first darshan of the yatra. Darshani Darwaja or the entry gate to the track is 1 km from bus stand at an altitude of 2800 feet above sea level. According to legend Mata Vaishno Devi met Pandit Sridhar at Darshani Darwaja in form of a girl child. I headed towards entry gate after having my registration card from this way. I decided to walk from the registration counter to the entry gate. One can either walk or hire an auto rickshaw up to the Darshani Darwaja.
At Entry Gate of Yatra, I had the full view of majestic Trikuta mountains from the ground. There are two gates at this point, First one leads to a flight of stairs and other one is new and developed by Mata Vaishno Devi shrine board which is for foot walkers.
Banganga or Balganga:
Banganga is the first major stop of pilgrim when devotees undertake on foot journey from Katra to Bhawan. The legendary river Banganga associated with miracles and legend of Mata. Ban Ganga is situated on the bank of small rivulet Banganga. After police check post and Yatra Parchi check post, I walked on foot around 1 km on this way as all you can see in the pics below.
According to legend when Mata Vaishno Devi on her way to holy cave shot an arrow into the ground and a spring gushed out when Langoor veer, who accompanied her to Trikuta hills felt thirsty. It is also said that Mata washed her hairs in this water. Name of the river comes from two terms Ban means ‘arrow’ and Ganga. some people also call it Balganga, Bal here means hair. It is considered sacred and devotees wish to take a dip in it before proceeding further. some people skip it due to changing times.
When I reached Banganga I saw a bridge below which Banganga river flows. There are a couple of bathing ghats on Banganga first one is very crowded and another one is spacious. One bathing Ghat is near to tulsi Bhojnalaya. Another famous ghat is of Geeta Mandir bathing ghat which is near to Geeta Mandira you can see in the pics below.
Geeta Bhawan Temple:
Around 750 meters from Banganga, I come across a beautiful temple called Shri Geeta Bhawan temple. The outside view of the temple is as divine and sacred as inside, two lions gracing the gate of the temple with the majestic idol of Lord Hanuman. The temple is beautifully constructed with goddess idol in sanctum sanctorum. Devotees take a halt at this temple and take the blessing of the Goddess.
Charan Paduka is second stop in Vaishno Devi Yatra, is about 1.5 Km from the Banganga and at an altitude of 3380 km. Charan Paduka is a place where Mata pious footprints believed to be imprinted on the rock. It is believed that Goddess stopped here for a while moving on to Trikuta Mountain to look back and confirm whether Bhairon Nath was chasing her or not. Due to standing here for quite some time her footprints got engraved and hence the name Charan Paduka.
A temple is constructed at this place. Darshan at Charan Paduka temple doesn’t take more than a few minutes during the normal day. Symbolically it means touching the feet of Mata to get her blessings at the start of the journey.
One bizarre thing which I observed during my Yatra is a strange way of controlling horses. I have never seen and heard anywhere that horses can be guided and controlled by catching and pulling their tail. If the horse owner wanted to direct the horse to move left then he pulls the tail on the left side and if the horse is to move right then horse owner pulls the tail on the right side. If the horse is to be stopped then he pulls his tail straight. The rate of horse ride varies and it becomes more when helicopter services are suspended due to bad weather
Indraprastha has situated 6 km from Katra or 5 km from Banganga. Just before Adkuwari, there is a halting point at Inderprastha. From here journey follows two routes one from Adhkuwari which has steeper steps and Adkuwari cave darshan and the other via Himkoti marg. Himkoti marg is new route developed by SMVDSB. When we reached Inderprastha I was in a dilemma which way is best for us. Some group members want to go from Adkuwari way so that they can get darshan at Adhkuwari other wants to go from Himkoti way.
It is important to note that newer track via Himkoti bypasses Adhkuwari thus devotees desirous to have darshan of temple and Garbh Gufa at Adhkuwari may not take this path or they can take this track while coming back from Bhawan. So I decided to have darshan at Adhkuwari first, and then return at Himkoti track.
Battery vehicle facility is available at Inderprastha and Adkuwari for older, sick, and handicap people which depend on availability. The Shrine board runs 5 full-fledged Bhojnalaya on no profit basis. One is situated at Inderprastha one at Sanjhi chat and other 3 at Main Bhawan. I took a halt at this point and have lunch for myself.
Adhkuwari is situated 6 km from Katra at an altitude of 48oo feet. Adhkuwari is second most important darshans on the yatra to Vaishno Devi second only to main darshan at the holy cave. It marks the midpoint of Vaishno Devi Yatra. The term Adhkuwari means “the eternal virgin”. According to legend Goddess Vaishnavi mediated and observed spiritual discipline for nine long months in a womb-shaped cave. That’s why this cave is called Garbh Joon. It is believed by merely passing through this cave all sins of devotees are cleansed and his soul becomes pious again.
Around 500 meters from Inderprastha, I get a glimpse of fluttering flag and temple sires of Adhkuwari. Anybody can hear the continuous announcement from announcement booth much before actually reaching Adhkuwari. Darshan of the cave done through number system. Devotees desirous of darshan of the cave have to get a sequence number by showing his Registration card at the counter. Only one person can pass through the cave at one time. Entrance is broad but as I entered I wondered whether it would be possible for me to pass through it or not. I started chanting ‘Jai Mata di’ remembering Mata in heart crawled and crawled and I was out of cave fully recharged with divine energy given by Goddess.
Himkoti is one of the beautiful spots on this route to Bhawan with beautiful scenic and bird’s eye view the f entire valley. Himkoti is situated at distance of 2.75 km from the Adhkuwari at an altitude of 5120 feet. This place doesn’t have any religious and cultural significance. The natural magnificence of Himkoti envelops the pilgrims in an ethereal and mysterious charm. SMVDSB has developed a viewpoint, restaurant and dosa point. There is an adequate place to enjoy the beauty of nature at this point.
On the one side, I saw trek covered by me on the Trikuta mountain, scenic view of Katra town below which you all can see in this pic. Himkoti is considered one of the most beautiful halting points in the holy trek due to the breathtaking scenic view of the whole valley. This way offers a sumptuous display of mountains, plantations and different colors of the sky and the complete aura of a sparkling show of nature’s show in my whole trek from this way and I was mesmerized. Many members of the group were tired and exhausted and every milestone showing the proximity to Bhawan acted as a booster.
As I continued approaching towards Bhawan chanting Mata rani’s name divine Bhawan of Mata Rani becoming visible to my eyes. The spirit of devotion and vibrant positivity around me is really mesmerizing and ease all the fatigue exhaustion and enervation of the journey when I saw the beautiful divine peaceful view of Bhawan in the majestic mountains after the long arduous trek. Bhawan is located at a distance of 13 km from Katra at an altitude of 5200 feet. The sight of new Bhawan instilled new excitement and enthusiasm in my heart and I walked final few meters with renewed exuberance and devotion.
And the moment I saw the divine glimpse of the Bhawan, I was speechless and perplexed over the aura and radiance with which the marble white Bhawan nestled amidst the range of mountains wearing a green sheet. The amber beams of setting sun provided the perfect backdrop with imagery of these touching the white surface of Bhawan making it glitter like never before. I just couldn’t hold myself but to halt for some moments to relish and cherish the mere look of Mata Rani’s abode of peace and tranquility.
Holy cave is the ultimate destination of devotees undertaking the track to Vaishno Mata. The main Bhawan houses the sanctum sanctorum. As continued on my track further, I reached Bhaint and Prasad shop established by shrine board. This is the last shop on this track so I decided to buy prasad. It is advisable for devotees to halt and take prasad according to their requirement and budget. Though there are private shops selling Prasad further, devotees prefer to take prasad from Shrine board shops. just after Bhaint shop there is accommodation facility (Manokamna Bhawan) established by Shrine Board for devotees desirous to take rest there before proceeding with darshan at main Bhawan.
The most important role of slip is at Bhawan where slip or yatra registration card is used to get group number. The group number is allocated at yatra check post immediately after luggage check post. I obtained group number immediately after reaching Bhawan irrespective of the rush.
There is a ritual of performing a daily Aarti at the holy cave twice a day for 2 hours- in the morning at sunrise and evening at sunset. When we reached Bhawan ritual of evening Aarti already completed. We arranged for our accommodation in Parvati Bhawan. After getting our token for darshan we got to know that our timing of darshan is next day morning so we decided to stay at main Bhawan whole night. First, we headed towards clock room and lockers so that we can deposit our luggage there. I deposited my shoe camera and mobile phones in the locker as these were not allowed inside the holy cave. leather items, belts purses, and wallets are prohibited inside the holy cave. Devotees are allowed to carry the only parsad inside the cave. A number of facilities like accommodation, refreshment, locker room, Blanket store, Bhaint shop, souvenir shops are available here.
In the morning I had a bath in the holy water before proceeding for darshan. The traditional offering comprises a coconut. For security reason, coconut offerings were not allowed to be carried by devotees beyond a certain point. Hence I deposited the coconut and a token is issued in return which I showed later after darshan to reclaim the coconut. Finally, I merged myself into the queue of aspiring devotees chanting Mata’s name waiting for the grace of her shower on me. Since the rush was less I was soon outside the tunnel for the eventual entry to the holy cave. Devotees everywhere were chanting ‘Jai Mata Di’ and ‘Bol Saache Darbaar Ki Jai’. I entered the cave chanting Mata Rani’s name. when I reached the middle of the tunnel one of the priests came and anointed my forehead with sandal tilak. Then finally the magical moment of Mata Rani darshan arrived and I was standing just before her manifestation in the form of Pindis There were no idols or statues in the cave so I focussed my attention to the three Pindis in the cave. Three Pindis represent Mata Kali(right)Mata Saraswati(left) Mata Lakshmi (center).
Just when I came out of the tunnel after having darshan of divine Goddess in the holy cave I saw a golden statue of Devi outside the tunnel covered with glass from all sides. Outside the tunnel on the left side of the cave is Amritkund. Pilgrims filled holy water of the cave in the bottles which they take it along with them. Then I received the blessing of Mother goddess in the form of Prashad Pouch which contains Mishris, blessed coin, and the image of Mata. Khajana Prashad is believed to be good luck coin. and it is not only believed but a fact that Khajana Prashad where ever kept bring good luck and prosperity. Then, I reclaimed my coconut in exchange for token given after getting the blessings of Mata Rani.
After the darshan in the morning, we had our lunch and collected our luggage from clock room. then, straight away headed to Bhairon Temple. Bhairon Temple is located at a distance of 14.5 km from Katra and altitude of 6619 feet. The trek to Bhairon temple is too arduous and steep as compared to track till Bhawan. According to legend when Bhairon Nath was killed by Mata he realized the futility of his life and prayed to the deity for forgiveness. Vaishno Mata gave him the boon of the last link on the pilgrimage to Vaishno Mata. That’s why now it is believed that Vaishno Devi Yatra of the devotee is complete only when he has the darshan of Bhairon temple after darshan of Mata.
One thing which I noticed during my whole Yatra that shrine board has constructed shelter sheds along the track. These shelter sheds save the devotees from shooting stones, rain sun snow and other adverse weather conditions. There is decent seating facility underneath these sheds which prompt the devotees to have little rest before proceeding further on the track. Toilets and refreshments are provided adjacent to these shelter sheds.
There is constant movement of ponies on the way as many devotees prefer to cover the path on ponies. This makes the movement of the pedestrian on the track slightly uneasy. while ascending the track when I saw the Bhairon Valley the scenery below is really exquisite. View of Katra town from up above is also very alluring.
Entire path whether it is Himkoti route or Sanjhi chat route is covered by signboards indicating good manners, headlines, distance and other important notifications by shrine board.
Returning to Katra:
While returning from Bhairon temple, devotees can take one of two routes available to head back to Katra. First one via Bhawan descending the track used to climb up to Bhairon Temple from Bhawan. Devotees can avail services of battery operated cars till Adkuwari on this way. The advantage of this route is that this is shorter by 1 km than the other way. And the second route is to directly descend from Bhairon Temple to Adkuwari via Sanjhi chat.
Sanjhi chat is located at a distance of 9.5 km from Katra at an altitude of 6200 feet. Sanjhi chat is the highest point in the whole track from Katra to Main Bhawan. There is a big halting platform built at the Sanjhi Chat where devotees can halt and take rest before proceeding for the rest of the track. The helipad for landing of the helicopter and carrying the passengers to Katra is also situated at Sanjhi chat. I decided to return Katra by helicopter. If one is returning from the second way via Sanjhi chat devotees have good chance to see the helicopter operations during the daytime.
On reaching Katra, I had called the hotel reception for the cab.
Crowds and Shops:
The crowd is at peak during Navratri and other festivals. Crowd depends on season weather and holidays. If somebody lost then don’t fear just inform the security officer or inform at shrine board offices. They will announce the name and locate the person.
Mobile and Internet:
Only postpaid and local sims work here. I had to buy new sim here for my mobile. cellphone and internet work here continuously.
Ponies donkeys and monkeys:
Monkeys are not present during the whole track. I saw monkeys one or 2 times during my trek. Protect your eatables from them. They have an eye on eatables. Donkeys used to carry ration and other supplies to the top also irk a walker. Continuous walk of ponies also acts as a hurdle in way of devotees.
Maps and Directions:
No need for maps and directions here. The flow of pilgrims will take you to the Vaishno Devi shrine.
My request to all devotees and people who visit Vaishno Devi to protect our mountains and rivers and religious places. Don’t loiter the place. Use dustbin to throw trash. Don’t harass or touch the animals. Don’t encourage the beggars. help other pilgrims
I saw a mini India during Vaishno Devi track as devotees from different states of India visit Vaishno Devi.