Nestled high above the jagged peaks of the Trikuta Mountains of the Himalayas, Vaishno Devi is the abode of the holy Mother Goddess Mata Vaishno Devi. Thronged by millions of devotees every year from different parts of the world, Vaishno Devi temple is regarded as one of the holiest pilgrim sites in India and is believed to be built by the Pandavas. The deity Vaishno Devi is a powerful embodiment of the Goddesses Maha Kali, Maha Saraswathi and Maha Lakshmi.
Best Time to Visit
The abode of the holy Mother Goddess is open to pilgrims throughout the year; however winters can be extremely harsh in Vaishno Devi with temperatures plummeting to sub-zero levels. The ideal time to book Vaishno Devi tours in North India
is between March and October. Pilgrimage to the shrine is most active during March-April and September-October.
To have a fulfilling ‘darshan’ of Mata Vaishno Devi, you must make appropriate travelling and lodging arrangements. There are several private budget hotels, dharamshalas and tourist accommodations in Katra. The tourist accommodation facility is maintained by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) which even offers rented rooms to pilgrims on advance booking. The Shrine Board is also responsible for issuing ‘Yatra Slips’ to visiting pilgrims.
There are several other places worth visiting after completing your ‘darshan’ at Vaishno Devi temple. Pilgrims can head to the holy cave of Shiv Khori, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the morning during the second day of your trip. Another major pilgrimage centre about 30 km away from Katra is the shrine of Dera Baba Banda, which is visited by both Hindus and Sikhs. You can even head to Patnitop and bask in the beauty of the surrounding natural scenery. The last option purely depends on your Jammu and Kashmir travel
plan as it you will need an entire day for it.
Make sure you make all these arrangements immediately after touching
down in Vaishno Devi. It is essential to buy the right traditional
offerings for the Goddess which include a red-colored drape, silver or
gold ornaments, flowers and dry fruits. You can buy the ‘Prasad’ from
‘Bhaint Shops’ maintained by the Shrine Board. To preserve the divine
memories of your tour, you can collect a wide variety of souvenirs. You
can take home saris and shawls offered to the Goddess, audio cassettes
and CDs of Vaishno Devi, photos of the temple and even gold and silver
coins carrying inscriptions of the holy Pindies.
Vaishno Devi pilgrim centre is actually a cave located in the
Trikuta Mountains at a height of 1,615m above sea level. Katra is the
town lying at the foothills of the mountain and serves as the camping
site for Vaishno Devi pilgrims. Katra is well-connected to Jammu,
Udhampur, Delhi and Chandigarh. The nearest railway station is in Jammu,
which is around 48km from Katra. The nearest airport is Jammu’s civil
airport located at Ranibagh. To travel from Katra to Vaishno Devi cave,
you have to make a 13km steep ascent to the temple. You can also hire
ponies or palanquins from Katra to make the climb less tedious.
Planning Your Trip
It is recommended to avail tourist packages offered by various travel agencies as they provide lucrative itinerary schedules. A trip to Vaishno Devi can be ideally completed in 4-5 days inclusive of travel and sightseeing. The cost of such tourist package starts from Rs 4250 for a couple inclusive of accommodation, limited meals and travel charges. Most importantly, don’t forget to pack plenty of woolen clothing and blankets for a safe, cozy trip to the hills. When in Kashmir, tourists should not miss a holiday in Srinagar
Are you still waiting for the Mata’s Divine Call? Pack your bags and head to the hills of Vaishno Devi- the Altar of Divinity.