During my last holidays, me and my family made a memorable trip to the temple of Vaishno Mata, which is located on the lap of the marvelous Trikuta Mountain at Katra, Jammu and Kashmir. This place is almost about 1560m above the sea level, which attracts millions of devotees every day.
How do you get there?
There are many ways to reach Katra, like you have the option to avail direct flights, buses, and trains from New Delhi to Katra. Previously, there was only one overnight train from Delhi to Jammu and then 3 hours bus journey to the actual destination i.e. Katra. But, I experienced an overnight train journey from Delhi to direct Katra by Jammu Mail. Staying is pretty reasonable here as you have many options to choose from.
Way to the temple:
The Shrine Board issue receipts at the Katra in order to control the number of pilgrims in the Bhavan. It is of utmost importance to collect this receipt because this is your ticket to enter the temple. Further, it’s a choice for the people if they are interested in hiking from Katra to Bhavan by foot or not as you also have options like palkis (Indian old royal transportation technique), ride on the pony or even a helicopter ride. You also can hire a pithoo (porters) who will carry your luggage from Katra to Bhavan and vice versa. The biggest majority of devotees walk all the way up & down as we did the same. On the way, you will be able to buy Prasad to offer the mother goddess.
The hike can be done on the paved path or up the stairs( shorter distance but steep and tiring). There are numerous foods and utility shops throughout the hike. And there are of course the Dhabas which serve the complete meal and the tastiest meal out there is Rajma-Chawal.
There is a midway stop at Adhkawar, this is where the Mother Goddess meditated for 9 months in a cave attaining spiritual powers and wisdom. Though I was unable to visit but expecting this at the next time.
At the Bhavan:
A typical start with freezing cold weather and water being showered on us. The actual manifestation of Mata Vaishno Devi resides at one end of this cave. In the morning, around 5:30 a.m. we finally reached and worshipped the Deity for just 2-5 seconds because of the continuous churn of devotees and we exited from the other end of the tunnel. The pilgrims keep reciting JAI MATA DI throughout the journey from Katra to Bhavan.
After worshipping the goddess, we headed towards Bhairon Mandir. Some devotees skipped a visit to this temple because of the high altitude and steepness of the hike. This is the highest elevation of 6600 feet in the entire trip. For this trip, would love to suggest you to carry your camera to capture the exact and live view of Himalayas.
After worshipping at this Bhairon Mandir, the downhill hike starts. However, be extra cautious of the monkeys on the way coming back as they might pounce upon you if you are using commonly used bags for the Prasad.
We took again the same train and back to Delhi.
This was my first trip and I must say I’m really thankful for the Mata’s call.