Maa Vaishno Devi
A pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimages of our times. Popular the world over as Moonh Maangi Muradein Poori Karne Wali Mata, which means, the Mother who fulfills whatever Her children wish for, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji resides in a Holy Cave located in the folds of the three peaked mountain named Trikuta (pronounced as Trikoot). The Holy Cave attracts millions of devotees every year. In fact, the number of Yatris visiting the Holy Shrine annually now exceeds one crore. This is due to the unflinching faith of the devotees who throng the Shrine from all parts of India and abroad.
The Holy Cave of the Mother is situated at an altitude of 5200 ft. The Yatris have to undertake a trek of nearly 12 km from the base camp at Katra. At the culmination of their pilgrimage, the yatries are blessed with the Darshans of the Mother Goddess inside the Sanctum Sanctorum- the Holy Cave. These Darshans are in the shape of three natural rock formations called the Pindies. There are no statues or idols inside the Cave.
Darshans are open round the clock throughout the year.
Since the year 1986, when the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (commonly called Shrine Board) was formed, the management of the Shrine and regulation of the Yatra has been vested in the Board. The Board has undertaken a number of developmental activities aimed at making the Yatra a comfortable and satisfying experience for the Yatris. The Board continues to reinvest the offerings and donations received in carying out improvements in various kinds of Yatri facilities.
Like with most old Shrines, it is not possible to ascertain when exactly the pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine started. A geological study of the Holy Cave has indicated its age to be nearly a million years. Vedic literature gives no reference to the worship of any female deity, although the mountain Trikuta does find its mention in Rigveda, the oldest of the four Vedas The practice of worshipping Shakti, largely started in the Puranic period.
The first mention of the Mother Goddess is in the epic Mahabharat. When the armies of Pandavs and Kaurvas were arrayed in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjun, the chief warrior of Pandavs upon advice of Sri Krishna; meditated upon the Mother Goddess and sought Her blessings for victory. This is when Arjun addresses the Mother Goddess as ‘Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye’, which means ‘you who always dwell in the temple on the slope of the mountain in Jamboo’ (probably referring to the present day Jammu).
It is also generally believed that the Pandavs were the first to build the temples at Kol Kandoli and Bhawan in reverence and gratitude for the Mother Goddess. On a mountain, just adjacent to the Trikuta Mountain and overlooking the Holy Cave are five stone structures, which are believed to be the rock symbols of the five Pandavs.
Perhaps the oldest reference of the visit of a historical figure to the Holy Cave is that of Guru Gobind Singh who is said to have gone there via Purmandal. The old foot track to the Holy Cave passed through this well-known pilgrimage centre.
Some traditions believe this Shrine to be the holiest of all Shaktipeeths (a place where the Mother Goddess, the Eternal Energy has Her abode) since the skull of Mata Sati fell here. Others believe that her right arm had fallen here. But some scriptures do not agree with it. They do agree that at a place called Gandarbal in Kashmir, the right arm of Sati had fallen. Nevertheless, in the Holy Cave of Shri Mata Vaishno Deviji, one does find stone remains of a human hand, popularly known as Varad Hast (the hand that grants boons and blessings).
How to reach
In order to visit the Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, one has to reach Katra, a small town situated around 50 kms. from Jammu, the winter capital of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Katra serves as the base camp for the yatra. Katra is well connected to Jammu and Jammu, in turn, is well connected to the rest of the country by Air, Rail, and Road.
For the benefit of the pilgrims, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board provides clean, well maintained and very economical accommodation. This accommodation is available at Jammu (at Vaishnavi Dham, Kalika Dham and Saraswati Dham near Railway Station), at Katra (at Niharika Yatri Niwas, Shakti Bhawan, and Ashirwad Bhawan situated at the Bus stand) Katra. Another dormitory accommodation, Trikuta Bhawan, Katra is available at near the 2nd Yatra counter (YRC II). Accommodation is available at Adkuwari, Sajichatt and at main Bhawan also.
The available accommodation is in the form of rooms of various types, huts , suites and beds (dormitory accommodation). Rooms, both air conditioned and Non air conditioned are available. Dormitory accommodation is available @ Rs. 100/- per bed at Katra, @Rs.120/-per bed at Adhkuwari and @ Rs.120/- per bed at Bhawan. In all the accommodation units provided by Shrine Board, there is an additional facility of ahygienic, no profit no loss Bhojanalaya besides a Souvenir Shop and a free cloak room.
Accommodation for all Shrine Board Guest houses/dormitories can be booked (subject to availability) at the reception of these guest houses or at the Enquiry and Reservation counter at Niharika complex. Online booking is also possible through this website. For maximum chances of obtaining confirmed room reservations at various locations devotees are advised to make the necessary bookings well in advance. In addition, since heavy rush is experienced on weekends and holidays, pilgrims are advised to plan their Yatra on weekdays.
Dos and Don’ts
- Before proceeding for the trek, obtain a Yatra slip from Yatra Registration Counter, near bus stand KatraThe slip is issued free of cost. . No one is allowed to proceed beyond Banganga check post without obtaining the Yatra slip.
- In case you wish to avail of the facility of rented accommodation at Katra, Adkuwari, Sanjichhat or Bhawan, please get the room reservation done from the Enquiry and Reservation Counter at Niharika Complex (near the Bus Stand) Katra.
- Kindly confirm the rates of the Porters, Ponies and Palanquins before hiring them and ensure that they carry a valid registration card. Note down their numbers before entrusting them with your valuables. Please do not pay more than the approved rates.
- Video cameras and other electronic equipment are not allowed on the track. Please make arrangements for their safekeeping at Katra itself.
- Travel light. Please leave all unnecessary clothes and luggage at Katra itself. Food, drink and blankets are available. There is no need to carry these items along.
- Please uphold the sanctity of the pilgrimage and avoid loud dresses, vulgar language or offensive talk or gestures. The yatra is a journey of faith. Please do not treat it as a picnic or a vacation outing.
- Respect the sentiments of co-pilgrims.
- Cooperate with the security agencies for security checks.
- Please avoid resting near landslide prone areas.
- Refrain from smoking, chewing tobacco and betel leaves, spitting, spreading litter, playing cards etc. Consumption of liquor, intoxicants and non vegetarian food is strictly prohibited.
- Keep the environment clean. Do not dirty the hill slopes. Throw the disposables in the dustbins only. In particular, minimize use of plastics.
- Avoid carrying too much cash, jewelry and valuables. Take proper care whatever you carry and beware of pickpockets and petty thieves.
- Don't trust strangers with belongings. Deposit all excess baggage in the cloak rooms.
- Don't eat anything offered by strangers.
- Beware of suspicious persons and unclaimed articles and report about the same to the security personnel.
- Don't encourage begging. Begging is strictly prohibited.
- Obtain cash receipt for any cash paid at the Shrine Board outlets.
- Avoid using routes closed for repairs. This can prove extremely dangerous.
- Yatries with high blood pressure or heart or asthamatic problems must seek clearance from their doctors before starting the journey.
- Yatries with any kind of medical problems are strongly advised against using the stairs.
- Sticking posters, writing on the walls, mutilating or damaging the property is a legal offence punishable with both fine and imprisonment.
- Don't crowd anywhere. Instead keep moving.
- Video film shooting is prohibited enroute. Please leave your video cameras at Katra.
- Self service is the motto at all Shrine Board outlets, hence no room or table service is provided.
- On arrival at Bhawan, obtain the group number at the Yatra slip check post to get into the queue for Darshans.
- Proceed for Darshans only when the Group number is announced and avoid crowding for Darshans at Gate No.1. Abide by the procedure and wait for the turn of Darshans. Do not attempt to jump the queue.
- Don't use soaps, shampoos, oils etc. at the bathing Ghats.
- Freshen up and wear clean clothes before proceeding for the Darshans.
- Nothing except cash and selected offerings are allowed inside the Holy Cave. All other belongings need to be deposited in the free cloak rooms.
- Deposit your Coconuts inside the main waiting hall against a token.
- While inside the Sanctum Sanctorum, focus your attention on the Holy Pindies of the Divine Mother.
- Chanting of slogans of praises inside the cave is not allowed as it disturbs the other pilgrims.
- Don't offer any cash or jewelry in front of the Holy Pindies. Instead deposit the same in the donation/jewelry boxes.
- Deposit donations in the donation boxes kept at various locations or at the computerized donation counters against a proper receipt. No individual is authorized to accept any donation on behalf of the Board.
- Kanya Poojan is strictly prohibited.
- Please do not offer any tip or dakshina or any other gratification to any employee or person.
- Darshans at Bhairon temple are done only after Darshans at the Holy Cave.