|Vaishno Devi Temple||Stationed about 12 kilometers from the Katra town|
|Bhairon Nath Temple||Located 2 kilometers away from the Main Bhawan of Vaishno Devi Temple|
|Main Bhawan||Grand white colored edifice nuzzled in the cradle of the Trikuta Mountain and visible from distance as well while you are heading towards the Vaishno Devi Shrine|
|Darshani Darwaza||Located at the approximate distance of 1 kilometer from the Katra bus stand|
|Banganga||Situated about a kilometer away from the Darshani Darwaza|
|Charanpaduka||Nestled at the elevation of about 3,380 feet and positioned at the distance of nearly 2.5 kilometers from Banganga|
|Himkoti||Sited about 2.75 kilometers from Ardh Kuari and approximately 8.75 kilometers away from Katra on the new Yatra track from the Darshani Darwaza|
|Sanjichhat||Positioned about 3.25 kilometers from Ardh Kuari and nearly 2.5 kilometers away from the Vaishno Devi Shrine|
|Jhajjar Kotli||Situated about 15 kilometers from Katra on the National Highway 1A leading towards Srinagar|
|Baba Dhansar Temple||Located about 36 kilometers away from Katra near the village Karua in the proximity with a holy Karua Jheel|
|Dera Baba Banda||Located in the Reasi District of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and placed on the banks of the river Chenab about 75 kilometers away from Jammu city|
|Aghar Jitto||Located in a small settlement of Reasi District stationed at the distance of just 6 kilometers away from Katra|
|Bawey Wali Mata||Located within the premises of the Bahu Fort of Jammu|
|Shiv Khori Cave||Located about 80 kilometers from Katra in Ransoo Village of Reasi District|
|Mantalai||Located in the Chenani Tehsil of Udhampur District in the state of Jammu & Kashmir|
Vaishno Devi Temple
The Vaishno Devi Temple one of the holiest Hindu Shrines of India where Shakti; the female manifestation of power is worshipped in the form of a deity has acquired global standing for its legendary shrine dedicated to Goddess Vaishnavi. Highly venerated by the devotees of Shakti from all over the world and greatly thronged by the pilgrims all round the year, the Vaishno Devi Temple of Katra, cuddled atop the Trikuta Mountain in a hilly cave happens to be India’s second most visited Hindu pilgrim destination after Tirupati. Approximately 8 millions devotees perform the pilgrimage of the Vaishno Devi Temple every year. Also exalted by the title ‘Mata Rani’, the Goddess Vaishno Devi is believed to be the collective incarnation of the Goddesses Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati.
The Vaishno Devi Temple stationed about 12 kilometers from the Katra town and suspended at the altitude of 5300 feet can be reached on foot from Katra taking the Katra – Ardh Kuari – Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan route, or pilgrims can also hire ponies, pitthus, palkis, electric vans or helicopters for an easier odyssey. The Vaishno Devi Temple is administered by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. As per the prevalent mythological yarn, Goddess Vaishno Devi was born as Vaishnavi to Ratnakar Sagar living in Southern India. In her pursuit of superior spirituality and unification with Lord Vishnu, Vaishnavi renounced the worldly pleasures and she is still performing penance at the Vaishno Devi Cave in the form of a rock waiting for the Kalki Avatar (the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu) to unite her with Him. It is said that Vaishnavi killed Bhairon Nath who was charmed by her celestial beauty and wanted her to get married to him. This lore is supported by the Bhairon Nath temple situated close to the Vaishno Devi temple.
The Temple of Mata Rani is opened to the public all through the year, even at nights, however due to the heavy rush devotees have to wait for hours for the auspicious darshana of the Mother Goddess. It is believed that Vaishno Devi is a wish fulfilling deity and those who take her darshana never go back empty handed. At the Vaishno Devi Cave, the presiding deity is enshrined in the form of three natural stones in the shape of three Pindies representing the Goddesses Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati. The devotees hold a belief that this cave of Goddess Vaishnavi (Garbh Joon) is sanctified by the presence of 330 million Hindu Gods and Goddesses and all of them are present in front of the Mata Rani at the time of the daily Aarti. Devotees are not admitted inside the sanctum sanctorum when the Aarti is going on.
Bhairon Nath Temple
As the prevalent mythos suggests, when Vaishnavi was performing severe austerity in order to attain union with Lord Vishnu, a Tantrik named Gorakh Nath wishing to check her chastity and her spiritual gravity appointed his ardent disciple Bhairon Nath to monitor Vaishnavi secretly. Although, while performing his duty of keeping an eye on Vaishnavi, Bhairon Nath was absolutely enchanted by her divine beauty and fell head over heels for her. He started chasing her and pursuing her to get married to him. Vaishnavi, trying to avoid him and longing to continue her penance fled away to the present day site of the Vaishno Devi cave in Trikuta Mountain. Bhairon Nath followed her there as well and was successful in locating Vaishnavi after the endeavor of nine months. The infuriated Vaishnavi blasted an opening at the other side of the cave with her trident and assuming the form of Maha Kali beheaded Bhairon Nath right outside the cave.
The place where Bhairon Nath’s cut off head fell happens to be the current site of the Bhairon Nath Temple. It is said that the boulder situated at the mouth of the Vaishno Devi Cave is the torso of Bhairon Nath. After his death, Bhairon Nath apprehended the vainness of his hound and asked for forgiveness from the Goddess Vaishnavi. The kindhearted Goddess had mercy upon him and granted him a boon that the pilgrimage to the Vaishno Devi Shrine will not be fruitful without paying homage at the feet of Lord Bhairon Nath. The Bhairon Nath Temple to be found about 2 kilometers away from the Main Bhawan of Vaishno Devi Temple and perched at the elevation of 6619 feet can be accessed after undertaking a steep climb of 2 kilometers.
Tourists can reach the Bhairon Nath Temple on foot or they can hire ponies or palkis. Lord Bhairon Nath is enshrined in the form of a boulder in the sanctum of this temple and a Havan Kund is positioned right in front of the shrine whose ashes are deemed sacred by the devotees.
The Grand white colored edifice nuzzled in the cradle of the Trikuta Mountain and visible from distance as well while you are heading towards the Vaishno Devi Shrine from Katra is the Main Bhawan Complex of Vaishno Devi Temple. Apart from being the operational center of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, the Main Bhawan is also the canopy that shelters the holy cave of Goddess Vaishno Devi in its heart. Main Bhawan is the destination where the trek initiated from Katra terminates. Once the pilgrims reach the Main Bhawan Complex, they have to obtain the group number for the darshana of the Mother Goddess. This number is provided at the counters installed right at the entrance of the Main Bhawan towards your right as you cross the threshold. Once you get the number, you will have to wait in the Main Bhawan until your number is announced or flashed on the screen. The TV screens are displayed at various places of the Main Bhawan Complex. As your turn comes, you can get into the queue for the darshana with your group.
Instead of rushing for the darshana right away, some pilgrims prefer to rest and have a bath before approaching the wish fulfilling Goddess Vaishno Devi. Self contained and well furnished dormitories and separate rooms are available at the Main Bhawan where Yatris can relax after the climb. Moreover, even after the darshana, pilgrims can also spend a night here instead of returning immediately. As only certain offerings and cash are allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum, it is mandatory for the devotees to deposit their extra luggage in the cloak rooms or lockers at the Main Bhawan Complex. The Cloak Rooms are provided by the temple trust free of cost. Adding to that, the Shrine Board also runs a Bhojanalya at the Main Bhawan where devotees can relish the savoring taste of the Prashad of the Goddess.
Apart from the chief shrine of the Goddess Vaishnavi, other sub shrines are also present inside the Main Bhawan complex. These include Lord Shiva Cave, Mata Durga Shrine, Ram – Lakshman – Sita Shrine, Lord Hanuman Shrine, etc. These sanctuaries dedicated to various Hindu deities are positioned at distinct places inside the Main Bhawan Complex. Signposts have been put up inside the Main Bhawan to guide the pilgrims.
The Darshani Darwaza, also known as the ‘Darshani Deodhi’ is an impressive edifice that serves as the entry gate to the Mata Vaishno Devi Pilgrimage. Alighted at the elevation of 2,800 feet above the sea level, the Darshani Darwaza is located at the approximate distance of 1 kilometer from the Katra bus stand and also from the Yatra Parchi counter. The venue receives its title after the fact that from this point tourists can perceive the panoramic view of the entire Trikuta Mountain. The term ‘Darshani’ denotes the meaning ‘to view’. Thus, figuratively Darshani Darwaza is the earliest point from where the first ‘darshana’ of the Vaishno Devi Yatra is attained. As the legend goes, Goddess Vaishno Devi met Pundit Sridhar at this spot in the form of a girl child named Vaishnavi.
The imposing ‘Darshani Darwaza’ is bequeathed with two gates. The older gateway leads the pilgrims to a flight of stairs that would direct us to the Vaishno Devi Shrine on foot whereas the newer gate, recently developed by the Shrine Board, leads to a colonnaded portico having parking facilities for the private vehicles. Those pilgrims who arrive till Darshani Darwaza in their own vehicles can park them here at their own risk. It is advised that keeping valuables in the vehicle is not believed to be that safe or secured. Apart from that, an army assistance counter is also set up in the proximity with the Darshani Darwaza. Devotees can reach the Darshani Darwaza from Katra either on foot or by auto rickshaw. A seat in a shared auto will cost you just 5 rupees while the whole rickshaw should charge about 20 Rs.
Moreover, a free bus service is also provided by the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board from the Yatra Parchi Counter to the Darshani Darwaza. This bus plies at a frequency of half an hour. From Darshani Darwaza the pilgrims can begin their Yatra to the Vaishno Devi Temple either on foot or on a pony or palki. The holy shrine of Goddess Vaishno Devi is positioned about 12 kilometers from the Darshani Darwaza and the entire pathway from here to the temple is paved with cement tiles. Besides, this track is lit with sodium lights at night and drinking water outlets, toilets, shelters, vatikas and refreshment counters are also installed on the way at regular interval. The first resting point after the Darshani Darwaza is Banganga.
Banganga, situated about a kilometer away from the Darshani Darwaza is the first stopover for the pilgrims headed towards the Temple of Mata Rani; Goddess Vaishno Devi from Katra on foot. As you cross the Yatra Parchi Check Post and the Police Check Post you would come across the Banganga River which is stationed about 11 kilometers away from the Main Bhawan of Vaishno Devi Temple. Regarded extremely sacred by the devotees, the Banganga River originates at the Samkhal Pond and meanders down the Trikuta Mountain flowing around the Vaishno Devi Shrine. As per the popular belief, when Vaishnavi had escaped from the sight of Bhairon Nath and was approaching the Garbh Joon, she felt thirsty due to the elongated and difficult excursion through the woods. At the very moment Vaishnavi shot an arrow into the ground from where a spring of water gushed out. Thus this river was named ‘Banganga’ i.e. the holy river viz. ‘Ganga’ created by the ‘ban’ or arrow. This river meandering over the plateau at the elevation of 2700 feet above the sea level is always profuse with water, all twelve months of the year with rare exception of severe famine and scarcity of rain and snow during monsoon and winter respectively. As this river was miraculously generated by Goddess Vaishno Devi Herself, the pilgrims of Vaishno Devi Yatra consider the Banganga River exceedingly auspicious and they make it a point to bathe in the sin cleaning waters of the Banganga River before proceeding towards the Main Bhawan. Two bathing ghats have been constructed on the banks of the Banganga River for this purpose.
When Goddess Vaishnavi escaped from the Bhandara organized by Sridhar and headed towards the Trikuta Mountain in Northern India in order to keep away from Bhairon Nath and continue her penance, she halted for a while at three places namely Banganga, Charanpaduka and Ardh Kuari before reaching the holy cave of ‘Garbh Joon’. ‘Charanpaduka’ is a locus on the banks of the river Banganga that was sanctified by the divine feet of Goddess Vaishno Devi. The footprints of the Goddess marked on a rock are still intact and greatly revered by the devotees of Shakti. A temple has been erected here and the sanctum of the sanctuary enshrines the foot imprints of the Vaishno Devi. Renowned by the appellation, the Charanpaduka Temple, this hallowed locale happens to be one of the major highlights on the way to the Vaishno Devi cave from Katra. Nestled at the elevation of about 3,380 feet and positioned at the distance of nearly 2.5 kilometers from Banganga, the Charanpaduka Temple i.e. the temple where Mata Rani’s footprints are engraved on a rock slab is a must visit place of worship before reaching the Main Bhawan Complex.
Himkoti sited about 2.75 kilometers from Ardh Kuari and approximately 8.75 kilometers away from Katra on the new Yatra track from the Darshani Darwaza is one of the most enthralling spots on the way to Vaishno Devi Temple from where the most enrapturing vistas of the entire Vaishno Devi Valley can be perceived. Even though Himkoti enjoys no religious or traditional significance, its amaranthine natural splendor beckons hordes of pilgrims en route the Mata Rani Temple. The Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has developed a vantage point at Himkoti and several restaurants, food joints, Medicare center and cassette & souvenirs shops are also set up here. Pilgrims can buy packed food, meals and hot & cold beverages from here. Apart from the captivating prospects it offers, Himkoti is also an idyllic halting point for the pilgrims to respite and relax in the vicinity of splendid nature. An artificial pond and an attractively landscaped garden add to the ethereal glamour of Himkoti.
Sanjichhat, positioned about 3.25 kilometers from Ardh Kuari and nearly 2.5 kilometers away from the Vaishno Devi Shrine, is yet another viewing point and resting station situated on the way to the Main Bhawan. Perched at the altitude of 5870 feet, Sanjichhat happens to be the highest point on the old track where the uphill climb towards the temple ends and the downhill descend begins. Particularly exalted for the spellbinding vistas it offers, Sanjichhat yields the mesmerizing prospects of the beautiful valley and the snow crowned Himalayan Peaks. From here, the panoramic sight of the Chenab River majestically flowing into the Pakistan plateau can be beheld whereas innumerable rivulets making way to meet the Tawl River of Jammu look extremely captivating. On one side of Sanjichhat one of the three peaks of the Trikuta Mountain can be seen while the far flung snow clad peaks of the Pir Panjal Range also offer a perfect Arcadian tableau from here. The Shrine Board has made accommodation facilities available for the pilgrims at Sanjichhat whereas hygienic food is also offered here to the devotees at reasonable rates. Moreover, a 24 bedded hospital, souvenir shop, a shopping complex and many other stores are built here. A water reservoir with a capacity of 20,000 gallons is located at Sanjichhat that provides electricity on the Trikuta Mountain. A helipad, a small school, a pony stand and a large platform with a Trishul shaped fountain and a waterfall are the additional attractions of Sanjichhat.
Jhajjar Kotli situated about 15 kilometers from Katra on the National Highway 1A leading towards Srinagar is a tourist complex established on the banks of the river Jhajjar. Very popular amongst the visitors of Katra and Srinagar and also favorite amongst the residents of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, Jhajjar Kotli is a tourist picnic spot and a renowned weekend getaway highly praised for its unparalleled scenic pulchritude. The most noteworthy attraction of Jhajjar Kotli is the cool and crystal clear waters of the river Jhajjar that would wipe out all your exasperation and leave you completely revitalized and rejuvenated. A luxurious and lavish tourist bungalow, a tourist cafeteria and a bar are maintained and run by Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation at Jhajjar Kotli. This extravagant and ostentatious tourist bungalow is equipped with all kinds of modern amenities and deluxe and cozy rooms, both well furnished and well decorated can be booked here at quite cheap prices. An assortment of Indian cuisine is served at the restaurant here and the bar is also well stocked. The clam and bucolic milieu of Jhajjar Kotli marked with gentle and balmy ambience attracts myriads of picnickers, particularly during the summer months. Jhajjar Kotli is the perfect niche to unwind and get rid of all the tension of every day city life. The ancient Rani ka Talab is an additional attraction near the Jhajjar Kotli.
Baba Dhansar Temple
Baba Dhansar Temple located about 36 kilometers away from Katra near the village Karua in the proximity with a holy Karua Jheel (puddle) in Reasi District is an ancient shrine dedicated to the mythological son of Sheshnag; the heavenly serpent that is seated around the neck of Lord Shiva. The legend suggests that when Lord Shiva went to the holy cave of Amarnath in order to narrate the story of his immortality to Goddess Parvati, for retaining the secrecy He left His serpent Sheshnag at Anantnag. There, Sheshnag resided in the human form as Vasudev and fathered several children, Dhansar being one of them. Dhansar was a pious and saintly person who was highly venerated by the people. During that time a demon dwelt near the Karua Jheel and troubled the residences of Karua Village. People went to Baba Dhansar and requested him to save them from the great catastrophe.
It is said that Baba Dhansar appealed to Lord Shiva to come here and rescue the villagers from the torments of the demon. On the plea of Baba Dhansar, Lord Shiva arrived at the village Karua and killed the demon with the assistance of Baba Dhansar. Presently, a temple dedicated to Baba Dhansar and a cave of Lord Shiva are placed close to the Karua Jheel. The waters of the Karua Jheel are believed to be extremely sacred, however, bathing here is not allowed. Even though, devotees can take a holy dip into the waters of the Karua Jheel downstream. The devotees of Lord Shiva believe that if you bathe in the waters of the Karua Jheel and pray with total devotion, all your wishes are rewarded by the blessings of Lord Shiva. An annual fair is celebrated at the Baba Dhansar Temple on the occasion of Mahashivratri every year when the place is thronged by thousands of devotees arriving from far and wide.
Dera Baba Banda
The Dera Baba Banda located in the Reasi District of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and placed on the banks of the river Chenab about 75 kilometers away from Jammu city is a Gurudwara Shrine dedicated to the revered memory of Baba Banda Bahadur; one of the most venerated martyrs of the Khalsa Sampraday. Earlier known by the title ‘Laxman Das’, and rechristened as ‘Baba Banda Bahadur’ by Guru Gobind Singh Himself, Baba Banda served as a Sikh Military Commander and is particularly aggrandized for his contribution in the struggle against the Mughal Empire in early 18th century AD. The Dera Baba Banda a 300 years old shrine is a historical Gurudwara where the Samadhi of blessed Baba Banda Bahadur is housed. Not only that, the Dera is also celebrated for housing the arrow that was handed over to Baba Banda by Guru Gobind Singh. Other weapons used during the wars of Sirhind such as huge swords are also preserved in the Dera Baba Banda. These historic and antique weapons are showcased for the delight of devotees and visitors at the time of the Mela Festival of the Gurudwara. Every year approximately 30,000 devotees from different parts of Northern India visit the Dera Baba Banda particularly on the occasion of Vaishakhi. A three days long fair is held at the Dera at the time of the Vaishakhi Festival.
Aghar Jitto, a small settlement of Reasi District stationed at the distance of just 6 kilometers away from Katra and about 85 kilometers from Srinagar is a peachy little hamlet especially noted for its spectacular location and pleasing ambience. Cuddled in the midst of gorgeous hillocks teeming with numerous perennial springs and blessed with tranquil and cool milieu that would fascinate its visitors to no extent, Aghar Jitto is one of the most sought after tourist attractions near Katra. The village coins its name after the shrine of Baba Jitto sited here. Baba Jitto was a revolutionary folk hero of yesteryears who is still remembered and esteemed for his crusade against the feudal system in order to improve and upgrade the condition and lifestyle of his fellow farmers. A huge marble statue of Baba Jitto along with his daughter Bua Gori is the most remarkable highlight of the Aghar Jitto Village. A very beautiful garden dedicated to Baba Jitto has been developed around the effigy.
Bawey Wali Mata
The Bawey Wali Mata Shrine located within the premises of the Bahu Fort of Jammu is an ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Mahakali that was established in the year 1822 AD subsequent to the coronation of Maharaja Gulab Singh. Goddess Mahakali, worshipped here by the title ‘Bawey Wali Mata’ is believed to be the presiding deity of Jammu and is regarded second only to the Goddess Vaishno Devi of Katra. The temple is thronged by the devotees every Tuesday and Sunday when the Goddess is offered the traditional ‘Tawi Flowing Worship’. The devotees believe that Bawey Wali Mata possesses certain mystical powers and the town Jammu was established and prospered due to her blessings only. Considered to be one of the most revered and highly treasured Kali Temples of India, the Bawey Wali Mata temple, also commonly referred to as the ‘Mahamaya Temple’ is one of the must visit destinations around Katra. This historic shrine was extensively renovated in 19th century AD.
Shiv Khori Cave
The term ‘Shiv Khori’ means the ‘cave (khori) of Lord Shiva’. Shiv Khori, located about 80 kilometers from Katra in Ransoo Village of Reasi District is a cave shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. As the legend goes, when the demon Bhasmasura having received a boon of turning anyone into ashes just by putting his hand on his or her head was chasing Lord Shiva, he hid himself into this cave to save his life. Later, Lord Vishnu in the form of Mohini killed Bhasmasura and rescued Lord Shiva. Shiv Khori is a natural cave that measures 20 meters in its length, 1 meter in width and 2 to 3 meters in its height. This commodious cavern enjoys the capacity of accommodating hundreds of devotees at a time. The inner sanctum of the cave is small where a self originated Lingam of Lord Shiva is enshrined. The devotees believe that this Shiva Lingam is endless. The passage that leads to the inner chamber is low and small and one has to stoop and crawl at times to reach the sanctum.
At one point the passageway divides itself into two paths, one of which is believed to be leading to the Amarnath Cave. However, it is closed now as some sadhus had ventured in there and never returned. The 4 meters tall Shiva lingam of the Shiv Khori Cave is surrounded by several natural objects resembling the images of Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha and the Nandigan of Lord Shiva. The roof of the cave is marked with snake like formations from where water constantly oozes onto the Shiva Lingam. Several pigeons similar to the Amarnath cave are also spotted here. The Shiv Khori Cave Temple of Ransoo attracts about millions of devotees every year and it is easily reachable from Katra and other destinations of Jammu and Kashmir.
Mantalai, located in the Chenani Tehsil of Udhampur District in the state of Jammu & Kashmir is a dandy little hamlet that is associated with the legendary wedding of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. Clasped in the midst of the luxuriant deodar forests and alighted at the elevation of about 2000 meters above the sea level, the Mantalai Village beckons thousands of devotees and tourists due to its immense religious magnitude and its astounding picturesque splendor. The Sudh Mahadev Temple of Mantalai is the most prominent pilgrim destination of this region which is estimated to be approximately 2800 years old. Hordes of devotees flock the Sudh Mahadev Temple particularly on the occasion of the full moon night in the month of August. The Sudh Mahadev Temple parked at the distance of about 8 kilometers from the downtown Mantalai enshrines the Lingam of Lord Shiva made of glossy black marble. The Gauri Kund Spring is the additional attraction of Mantalai as it is said that Goddess Parvati used to bathe in the waters of the Gauri Kund. The pilgrims immerse themselves into the Gauri Kund, cross the nearby Devika River and then approach the Sudh Mahadev Temple for the auspicious darshana of Lord Shiva. Other important tourist destinations around Mantalai include Patnitop and Krimchi.