Pilgrimage Tour
Pilgrimage Tour

Vaishno Devi Travel Guide

One of the holiest pilgrimages in India, Vaishno Devi Yatra allures devotees from all around the globe. To seek blessings of the Vaishno Goddess, devotees undertake the 13km trek from Katra to reach the Holy Cave of Vaishno Devi, located at Trikuta Hills. Settled at the splendid height of 1,560 m above sea level, the holy cave is believed to be the place where the Goddess resides. This pious cave is believed to be one of the 108 Shakti Peetha. The Goddess enshrined inside the cave Holy Bhawan in the form of a rock with three heads known as Holy Pindies.

The trail to the temple is beautifully dotted with heavenly natural vistas. Vaishno Devi is reckoned to be a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Durga. Devotees experience pure bliss and spiritual aura during the pilgrimage tour.

If you are looking for a complete guide to Vaishno Devi Yatra then this article is for you!

How to Reach Vaishno Devi

The starting point of the yatra is from Katra. Vaishno Devi is well connected by road till Katra. From Katra, 13 km trek to Holy Bhawan starts. Katra is located at a distance of 50 km from Jammu.

By Air –The nearest airport to Vaishno Devi is Jammu Airport. The airport is well connected to major cities of India. From the airport, one can easily get a cab/taxi to reach Katra.

By Rail- The closest railway station to the pilgrimage is Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Railway Station. It is located 20 km away. As many superfast trains ply on this route one can easily overnight reach Katra from Delhi.

By Road-Almost all the north Indian cities are well connected by road to Vaishno Devi. Many private buses and State Transport buses are available from all the major destinations of India for Katra (Jammu). If you are traveling by your own vehicle then take by-pass from Kunjwani that is around 10 km off Jammu. Next, head straight to Katra.

Once you reach Katra by air, rail or road you can start the Vaishno Devi Yatra. You can also rest for the day and stay at a private hotel or book a room/dormitory beds offered by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. There are many guest houses of Shrine board like Shakti Bhawan, Ashirwad Bhawan, Niharika Yatra Niwas, and many others.

Vaishno Devi Yatra Registration Counter

Before commencing the yatra, every devotee must get registered when they reach Katra. Yatra Registration is done at Yatra Registration Counter (YRC) near Katra Bus Stand. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board is the only organization that is licensed to issue the yatra slips. Yatri needs to give the name, basic information and get photographed for the registration process. A yatra slip/parchi is issued to the yatris after he/she gets registered. The slip works as the official document permitting the journey towards the Holy shrine. Yatris must make sure to cross the first check post at Banganga (1.5 km away from YRC) within 6 hours of the issue of the slip. Failure results in confiscation of the slip and yatris will be required to get a new yatra slip/parchi.

Yatra parchi is not needed for children below three years of age.

Vaishno Devi Trek Guide

Located 1 km from the bus stand, Darshani Darwaza is the entry gate to the track route. You can walk up to the Darshani Darwaza by yourself or hire an auto-rickshaw. There are two entry gates present a new gate and an old one. The old gate directly leads to the stairs. At the new gate which has been developed by the Shrine Board, adequate space for the parking of the cars is present. So, if you are traveling by your own car then you can leave your vehicle parked at the new gate which is adjacent to Darshani Darwaza. Make sure to lock your car properly and don’t leave important belongings in the car.

As you’ll proceed further you will reach Ban Ganga. Many pilgrims stop at this place. There is a small bridge present under which the holy river Bal Ganga flows. As the river is considered sacred, many devotees bathe in the holy waters of the river before proceeding further. Many ghats have also been constructed. Around 750 m from Ban Ganga on the way to Charanpaduka is located Geeta Bhawan temple. If you want you can visit this temple.

The next important step on the way to the Bhawan is Charanpaduka. Situated at a height of 3380 ft, Charanpaduka is located at a distance of 1.5 km from Banganga. At this place, footprints of the holy Goddess are imprinted on the rock. A temple is present here where devotees seek blessings by touching feet of the Devi Maa. Further, you will reach Inderprastha. Located just before Adhkuwari from here the journey follows two routes:

  1. Old Route or ‘HORSE WAY’ passes through Adhkuwari and has a steeper path. This route is difficult in comparison to the new route but palanquins, ponies, and porter on this route are available. The route passes via Adhkuwari, reaches Bhairon Ghatia and ascent down towards Bhawan.
  2. New Route or Alternative Route is 5.5km shorter than the old route. This route passes via Himkoti and no ponies are allowed on this route but electric auto-rickshaws are available. But the auto-rickshaws facility is only for children and old aged people.

So, if you are planning to visit Adhkuwari the ‘Holy Cave’ then its better you take the old route.

Important places en route to Maa Vaishno Devi Holy Bhawan

Adhkuwari-Located 6km from Katra is Adkuwari which is a Holy cave that is settled at a height of 4,800 ft. It is believed that mere passing through the cave washes away the past sins of one’s life. Being the cave very narrow only one person at a time can pass through the cave.

Himkoti- Himkoti is a quaint place that lies on the new route. It is located 2.5 km from Adhukwari. Yatris enjoy the gripping beauty of this place. A viewpoint by Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has been developed here from where yatris get to savor the picturesque with of the entire valley.

Sanjhichatt-Situated at a splendid height of 6,200 ft, Sanjhi Chatt is the highest point of the trek. From here Holy Bhawan is located 2 km away. A helipad is present here that runs helicopter services between Katra and Sanjhi Chatt. Yatris traveling Vaishno Devi by helicopter have to deboard at the helipad here and then continue the further journey.

Bhairon Ghati-On the old track route Bhairon temple is situated on the way. After the darshan at the Holy Cave, devotees pay reverence at Bhairon temple. Yatra is believed to be incomplete without visiting the Bhairon temple. The shrine is located at the same place where Goddess Vaishnavi beheaded Bhairon Nath.

What to do at Holy Bhawan?

After taking the route you will reach the Holy Bhawan that houses the sanctum sanctorum. It is the prime destination for the devotees. In the holy cave, devotees are allowed to carry only the prasad. You can buy prasad/Bhaint from the Shrine Board Bhaint counter. Next, show your yatra slip (parchi) at Bhawan Shrine Board’s counter and obtain a group number for the darshan of the main temple. Once you get the group number to wait for your darshan.

Various Bhawans and facilities like a locker room, blanket store, souvenir shops, Bhaint shops are available on the route. Now the coconut offerings are not allowed. So, remember to submit your coconut at the waiting hall and in return, a token will be issued to you. Keep this token safely. You can avail of the locker facilities to store your belongings like camera, phones, shoes, etc.

After the darshan of Vaishno Devi Gufa

Pay reverence to the three-headed Holy Pindis that represents Kali Ma on the right, Mata Lakshmi in middle and Ma Lakshmi on left. After the darshan, nearby to the gate, you will find the Amrit Kund and Charan Ganga. A tap is present from where devotees drink the holy water as prasad and also store the water in bottles. It is believed that the water has high medicinal values that cure various skin diseases. You can get the prasad from the Prasad Counter. Don’t forget to collect back the coconut as prasad. You will have to show the token that was issued to you for collecting the coconut.

You can book a room at Bhawan or rooms of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. If you want you can also move towards Bhairo Temple.

From the Holy Bawan of Vaishno Devi, Bhairo temple is 2 km away. You can also hire a horse for reaching the Bhairo temple. It is believed that the Vaishno Devi yatra gets completed only after offering prayers or darshan at the Bhairon temple. After the darshan, ascent down to reach Ban Ganga and then towards Katra.

Vaishno Devi Ropeway

A new ropeway has been installed for the devotees traveling from Vaishno Devi Bhawan to Bhairon temple. Though Bhairon temple is just a few km away from the Holy Bhawan, the steep ascent makes it hard for the devotees to travel. But now with the construction of the Ropeway from Vaishno Devi Bhawan to Bhairon Nath temple has made the journey simple. By the ropeway, it takes only 5 minutes to reach the Bhairon shrine.

Vaishno Devi ropeway has the capacity of carrying 800 people each hour. At a time 45 pilgrims can travel in the cable car. There are two cable cars, one on each end. Tickets for the ropeway are available at the Bhawan. The cost of the ticket is just ₹100

Travel Tips for Vaishno Devi Yatra

  • It is advisable not to visit Vaishno Devi during peak season or Navratri festive period. During this time, many devotees visit the temple which leads to a long queue and you’ll have to wait for your darshan.
  • Get the Yatra Parchi Slip from the Registration Counter at Katra. Keep in mind to keep this slip all along the route with you.
  • In winter carry heavy woolens as the weather gets really cold. During summer season pack light woolens.
  • Do carry a pair of good comfortable walking shoes.
  • After getting the group number to wait for the announcement of your group number at Gate No. 1.
  • Facilities like blanket stores, medical centers, food shops are all available along the route. So, do not carry any extra luggage.
  • Carry only the things you require. For a relaxed journey travel light.

Facilities available during Vaishno Devi Yatra

  • Medical Facilities

Vaishno Devi trek is a high altitude trek and requires proper medical fitness. So people suffering from ailments like heart disease, asthma, cardiac or orthopedic problems must consult a doctor before proceeding for the holy yatra. For the convenience of the yatris, the medical block has been set up at Katra and a 24-hour charitable dispensary is opened by the Shrine Board. Oxygen cylinders and medical drugs are also easily available. Pilgrims can also access the medical facilities at Adkuwari, Sanjichhat, Banganga, and Bhawan.

  • Accommodation

Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board provides clean & economical accommodations for the yatris. Yatris can choose from a wide range of rooms at Vaishno Devi according to their requirements & budget. Accommodation facilities of various types like lodges, guest houses, cottages, ordinary & luxury hotels, and resorts all are available. Pilgrims can stay at Niharika & Shakti Bhawan situated at Katra. Sara is/Dharamshalas, dormitory accommodation at Katra is also available. A 500 bedded room is also present in Trikuta Bhawan.

For the benefit of the yatris, free rooms are accessible at Niharika Complex & Parchi Counter (YRC II). You can book the All Shrine Board Guest Houses/Dormitories at the Enquiry and Reservation Counter at Niharika Complex. Even you can also online book the room in advance at the www.maavaishnodevi.org website.

  • Cloakrooms

For the safekeeping of the luggage of the yatris, Shrine Board has made the free cloak facilities available at all the room services offered by them. Other guest houses, hotels or lodges also offer cloakroom facilities. Yatris can leave behind their unrequired luggage/ belongings at these cloakrooms and travel freely. For security purposes, mobile phones, cameras, and other electronic equipment are not allowed on the route. So, yatris must make proper arrangements for safely keeping these items. Cloak facilities at Bhawan are also available where yatris can deposit items that are not allowed to carry inside the Bhawan like shoes, belts, etc.

  • Bhojanalyas/Food and Refreshment Point

Many bhojanalyas are present along the way to Vaishno Devi temple. These bhojanalyas run on a no-profit basis and offers vegetarian food without onion & garlic at a very cheap price. Various eateries, privately owned food joints are present on the route. Refreshment points that sell cold drinks, biscuits, milk, light snacks, tea, coffee, mineral water, and other items also exist. People can enjoy hot beverages with the refreshing views of the nearby surroundings.

  • Banks

Branches of various nationalized and private banks are present at Katra. Adequate ATM facilities are also available at Katra. Branches of J& K Bank and Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) is also situated at Bhawan Complex. So, it is advisable to not carry extra cash.

  • Blanket Stores

At Vaishno, Devi weather gets cold at night. For the ease of the yatris blanket stores are situated at various places on the route. To avail of the blanket facilities, Yatris are required to pay a refundable security deposit fee. This security fee gets refunded on returning the blanket.

  • Other Facilities

Many other facilities that are available for the yatris are toilet facilities, drinking water, inquiry and announcement booth. Pilgrims can also find STD/PCOs, police station and bank branches on the route. A well-developed market complex is also functional where basic required items like eatables, medicines, toiletries; Bhaint shops selling prasad and souvenir shops all can be found.

Places to visit during Vaishno Devi Yatra

Apart from the Holy Bhawan, there are many sightseeing places near the Vaishno Devi temple where pilgrims can spend time and relax.

Nau Devi Temple-Nau Devi temple is a pristine cave temple that is located few kilometers away from Katra. Devotees have to walk through around a hundred stairs to reach the Holy Cave. Inside the cave temple, finds of nine deities are enshrined that is believed to be an incarnation of Maa Durga. Two holy cave is settled here one house the Shiva Linga and other the nine Goddesses. Devotees enjoy the freshness of the green scenery that surrounds the temple.

Bahu Fort-Bahu Fort is an ancient fort that was constructed 3,000 years ago by Raja Bahulochan. It is located 5 km away from the city center on the banks of river Tawi. A temple devoted to Goddess Kali is present inside the cave which is called Bahu Temple or Bave Wali Mata Mandir. The fort showcases the rich culture of Dogra kings and queens of the royal family. A beautiful terraced garden is located here which is famously called as Bagh-e-Bahu.

Patni Top-Sitting at an elevation of 6,640 ft, Patnitop is a famous getaway destination located at a hilltop. It is situated in Udhampur district on Jammu Srinagar Highway in the Indian state Jammu and Kashmir. The Chenab river that flows nearby enhances the beauty of this hill station. Tourists enjoy the peaceful walks through the green meadows that are dotted with dense Deodar and Blue Pine (Kail) trees. During winters Patnitop remains covered with snow and visitors enjoy adventure activities like skiing and sledding.

Mansar Lake-Sharing the sanctity of Lake Mansarovar, Mansar is a famed lake that is placed 62km away from Jammu. It is enclosed by dense green covered hills and temples. Mansar lake is a famous tourist site where people can spend a peaceful time and find relaxation in serene surroundings. On the eastern bank of the lake, a temple devoted to Sheshnag is present. One can also visit the Umapati Mahadev and Narasimha shrines located nearby to the lake. Tourist Department also offers boating facilities for visitors to Mansar lake.

Shiv Khori-Situated 70 km away from Katra, Shiv Khori is a highly cherished cave temple devoted to Lord Shiva. Shiv Khori is located in the Resai district of Jammu and Kashmir. The cave houses 4 feet high naturally formed Shivalingam. Inside the cave impressions of many Hindu deities can be found. One of the major attractions of this cave is the milky water that drops from the top of the cave on the Shiva Lingam. Shiv Khori holy cave is in the shape of the Shiva’s damroo. It has wide ends and gets narrow in the center.

Raghunath temple-Raghunath temple is a well-known site located in Jammu &Kashmir state. The temple is one of the largest shrine complexes of North India. Raghunath shrine has a wide complex that is covered with nine Hindu temples each having its own tower. Raghunath temple was built in the year1835 by Maharaja Gulab Singh, the first Dogra ruler and later was completed by his son Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1860. The main deity placed at the temple complex is of Lord Ram (incarnation of Lord Vishnu).

Best Time to visit Vaishno Devi

The ideal time for Vaishno Devi Yatra is from March to October. Although Vaishno Devi is open throughout the year, weather conditions in Vaishno Devi during these months are pleasant and optimal. Vaishno Devi experiences harsh winters. During the months from November to February temperature drops down to sub-zero levels. Vaishno Devi attracts a lot of devotees at the time of the Navratri festival. Due to which there is a crowd on the track routes and long queues for the darshan. For a relaxed darshan, avoid visiting during the Navratri festive season (March-April and September-October).

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