Location: Katra, 61 Km North of Jammu
Significance: Pilgrimage center of Hindus.
Best time to Visit: March-April
Come Spring Season and pilgrims pack their luggage for a holy trip. Vaishno Devi at Katra(16 kms in the north of Jammu) is one of the popular Hindu pilgrimage centers in India. It is the holy abode of Mata Vaishno Devi, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. Every year, between March to April, believers make a religious trip to the cave of Himalayan mountains and fill the ambiance with the echo of hymns – “Prem Se Bolo, Jai Mata Di, Jor Se Bolo, Jai Mata Di”.
The divine journey to Vaishno Devi temple is a life-time experience. The pious shrine is positioned at an altitude of 5, 300 ft on the Trikuta Mountain. Devotees start their yatra from Katra, situated 13 kms away from the temple. The high steps are covered on foot and pilgrims enjoy trekking for about five hours. Many opt for a comfy ride on pony/horse. The main offering to the Goddess includes glittering red-color chunri, coconut and fruits. Many offer ‘Halwa-Puri’ and Chana for the purpose of ‘Bhog’, performed during morning hours.
Beside visiting the main cave, Vaishno Devi tour package also covers nearby attractions like Ban Ganga Temple, Charan Paduka Temple and Ardhkuwari Temple.
Hotels in Katra
Pilgrims on the way to Vaishno Devi temple can take rest at some comfortable staying hotels in Darbar, Adhkawari & Sanjichhat. Shri Mata Vaishnov Devi Shrine Board also offers accommodation at Niharika/Vishram Ghar. Visitors can also find some space at Dharmshalas in Katra.
How to reach Vaishno Devi Temple
The nearest Jammu airport is situated 48km away from Katra. Flights of Indian Airlines and Jet Airways offers services at regular intervals. Travelers can opt for boarding Helicopter service from the airport at Sanjhi Chat.
The nearest railway station is in Jammu. The Railway Department in India introduce a special train for pilgrims, on the peak season of summer and holidays.
The central bus stand in Jammu operate daily buses, which leave for the 52 km trip to Katra. Developed road NH 1A connects Jammu and Srinagar. Besides, inter-state buses and private coaches ply over North Indian cities and offer travelers safe journey.