One of the dream pilgrim destinations of very Indian is sacred adobe of Mata Vaishno Devi situated on serene hills of Trikuta Mountains. One of the oldest holy shrines in India where lacs of devotees from country and world visit every month. Here are the complete details of a family trip to Vaishno Devi experienced by me recently in the month of August 2022.
Vaishno Devi Temple & Significance
Recognized as major Shaktipeeth is dedicated to three goddess Parvati, Saraswati and Lakshmi is revered at Bhawan of Vaishno Devi Shrine. Located at 13 Km distant from Katra (beginning point of Temple Trek) is at a staggering height.
How to Reach Vaishno Devi
The beginning point to visit Temple is Katra-located in Jammu. Katra is approx. 60 Km from Jammu centre. With its vast connectivity with major states, People access to Jammu with different means of travel as air, road or train. To reach Katra from Delhi, there are easily available trains running on different time slots.
You can book the train seats from other cities in India for katra. Katra railway station (SVDK) is run of 11-12 hours approx. from Delhi railway station. We hop on train at 7:10 PM on Thursday and arrive Katra by morning at 6:00 AM. There is another luxury train-Vande Bharat which departs in Morning 6:00 PM from NDLS and arrives in 8 hours to Katra in the afternoon.
Another option is flight to Jammu Airport and then hire a cab or bus to reach Katra. Many tourists come directly form their cities by Bus, Tempo Travellers. You can also book a bus from Delhi to Katra directly.
After arrival at Katra, the next target is to reach Bhawan. We are in 2022, where many new ways are developing everyday to reach Mata ke Bhawan.
The most popular way is to trek a path of 13 Km form Katra to Bhawan chosen by most of pilgrims. There are two routes: 1) From Katra to Ardhkuwari and then Bhawan 2) Form katra to Bhawan via himkoti- It is new path developed for battery operated car which is very smooth and well equipped with food vendor & other facilities.
Ponis & Palanquins
Unable/not willing to trek can hire Ponis or palanquins to reach the revered destination. They have fixed rates as per Board but you can face some amount of bargaining with them. There are also facilities of pram for children for which they normally charge an amount of 350-550 INR depending upon the distance to cover.
Helicopter ride adds excitement to overall experience for which you have to do advance booking. The helipad is situated near Udhampur Road, near Katra bus stand which takes just 8-10 minutes to reach Sanjhi Chat. You can book the helicopter tickets: https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/helecopter_detail.aspx and avail the current charges. At present helicopter ride per person is 1830 INR. From Sanjhi Chat, Bhawan is 2.5 Km Approx which can be covered by trek, Pony or palanquins. To come back, the way is similar.
Battery Car in Vaishno Devi
At present battery cars are available from Ardhkuwari to Bhawan. But the huge difference between number of devotees and cars availability, it is very tough to get a right time slot or seat reservation. For ease, you can book the services online in advance through official website: https://batterycar.maavaishnodevi.org/LogIn1.aspx
To book the services, create your login ID and then book the battery car seats as per your travel date & time. The battery cars take 20 minutes approx. to reach and charge INR 354 per person for one side. Keep it in mind that you have to do reservations for both the sides if you wish to travel form both side on battery car. For Vaishno Devi Yatra parchi is mandatory which can be booked online as well as offline. Its free of cost. I had booked online yatra parchi that saves my time.
Best Time to Visit Vaishno Devi
Vaishno Devi can be visited throughout the year, but visitors will receive crowd at time of Navaratri or any special occasion. Weather in Vaishno Devi is pleasant and change at any moment. In the high heat of May and June, clouds can hover the sky and make the way smooth to travel. July and August months witness heavy rainfall due to which yatra can get halt for some duration, but it never gets stopped completely. Summer months are usually crowded as families rush to visit with their children. As per Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, the normal capacity of yatra per day allowed is 50,000 visitors. During Mid November and December, temperature touches around zero degree, so one must be physically fit to travel in extreme climate.
If you want to avoid too much crowd, plan your trip in weekdays, not on weekends. Many pilgirms are desperate to have darshan in Navratris. At this time, there is a diffrent beautification of Mata Bhawan. I am sure this guide will help you if you are planning a trip in Navratri/Durgapuja.
Routes for The Vaishno Devi Yatra
There are two popular routes to trek up the height of Vaishno Devi shrine. It usually takes 6-7 hours to trek up and 3-6 hours to trek down depending upon your stays and walking speed. We begin our trek at 9 am morning and reached Bhawan by 5 PM with a break of 2 hours at Ardhkuwari. We took the old route that passes through Banganga, Charan paduka and then Ardhkuwari. We decided to have darshan at Ardhkuwari in return trek. So we move forward towards Bhawan via new route that is very clean and made for battery cars specially. You can also take a new route of Tarakote that was inaugurated by PM Modi in 2018. It is quite longer by 1 KM but free from Ponies, Palanquins & pithoos.
Battery Operated cars booking and boarding facility is at Ardhkuwari stop, but it is better to book the facilities online. Our experience of trying to book the battery car at time got invain & wasted our 2 precious hours. Anyways, we took the Himkoti Marg which is 6KM approx. from Ardhkuwari to Bhawan. Unlike the old route, you will not find any ponies, palanquins. To make the travel smooth with children, we hired prams for children which was charged at 350 INR/pram from Ardhkuwari to Bhawan. Beware of their bargaining and get cheated by Pram Pithoos. The new route was very clean, less steeped and available with tea/coffee stalls. We had fruits, biscuits, coffee on the way. We take a small stop at Himkoti and had snacking of Vada Sambhar at the Bhojanalya.
Finally, we are at Bhawan- At Mata rani Ke Darbar. The whole trek was so lovely and enchanting with jayakare of Mata Rani. Some of our family members were too tired, but we all reach the Bhawan by foot with the blessing of Goddess. We made a hurry to queue up for the darshan as it get a pause for 2 hours for Arti from 7PM to 9 PM. We all took a bath at the restrooms made sperate for men and women. Men of our group gone to deposit footwears, camera, mobile phones, bags in cloak room. We bought prasad from the counters available and stand up in queue. A different kind of energy, we were feeling in the atmosphere. Tiredness of trek gone away in couple of minutes. There was only three words uttering from mouth- “Jai Mata Di”. We got darshan of the goddess idols and offered our prayers. Now the time is to go back, we collected our prasad form the receiving counter & take an exit.
Dinner at Sagar Ratna (Situated in Bhawan Complex).
After darshan, we all were feeling hungry, so we had our dinner at Sagar Ratna which was serving north Indian and South Indian dishes without onion & garlic. I must say, the dosa varieties were delicious. We ordered fried rice, dosa, Idli & most important tea.
Bhawan to Bhairon Ghati
As I said earlier, few members of our family were really tired and unable to trek more. They stayed for some time at Bhawan complex, but few of us headed for Bhairon Ghati Trek. The distance is approx. 1.5Km and takes 2 hours to climb up the steep hills. The new ropeway is the easiest way to reach Bhairon Temple which takes just 3-4 minutes.
Some tips for Bhawan to Bhairon Temple Ropeway Services:
• Timings for the ropeway are 8 AM to 6 PM
• It is fully airconditioned and available for everyone
• It can take time to get a ticket for the ropeway services. So, it is important to manage your arrival time as per the ropeway timings.
• Cost per head is 100 INR
• Come back in the ropeway within the time limit.
Due to time constraints, we were not able to take the services of Ropeway. So we trek up and back on foot. We cam down by 12 PM after darshan of Bhairon Baba. Afterwards, we started downward trek to Katra which was looking an easy job, but it wasn’t. Upto Ardhkuwari, we managed to show our strength, but after that our foot was not supporting us. For the convenience, we hired ponies from Ardhkuwari to Banganga for some members.
It took approx. 4 hours to trek back to Katra. There are several massage points, where you can sit back and take massage service for quick relief.
After arrival, we return back to our booked rooms in Hotel and slept tight for 6-7 hours.
Tips for Vaishno Devi Yatra
Here are some tips which can make your Vaishno Devi Trek and complete Yatra easy and convenient after the worthy experience of ours. Every trip differs as weather, season and way of travelling vary. But some basic things can help you a lot on your next trip.
1. Must book the yatra slip and RFID registration for the Yatra.
2. If you are physically fit, then only try for trek. Options of Ponies, palanquins, battery cars will make your way short and easy.
3. If you are not rush friendly, avoid festive season or long vacation like summer holidays, Christmas eve, holi vacation or long weekends.
4. Want to travel with battery cars from Ardhkuwari, make your online registrations in advance as it is very tough to get the seats in just in time at your slot.
5. Take a pair of breathable shoes, light weight clothes for comfortable trip.
6. Don’t make your backpack heavy with unnecessary stuff. You can get various food vendors on the way. But keep some stuff essentials for young kids.
7. Plan you trip as to get ropeway services. It give a very beautiful view of Bhairon Ghati and cut short your travel time from 3 hours to 5 minutes.
8. For darshan at Ardhkuwari Garbh Grih, there remains a long queue, so if want to have darshan, take your token and stay for sometime.
9. Carry woollen clothes in winter as the temperature falls near zero degrees.
10. For Helicopter services, do the advance bookings as it is high in demand. Be ready for unexpected weather conditions, in such cases, helicopter services may get cancelled. Explore other options too for the darshan.
Temples In Vaishno Devi Yatra
Settled against picturesque backdrop of Trikuta mountains hovering over by clouds, there are 5 important temples which are associated with Vaishno Devi Yatra.
Banganga- It is the first major point for pilgrims where River Ganga flows with roaring sound. Here pilgrims take bath in the holy water or take the water as blessing before trekking up. It is believed that the Goddess had shot an arrow here to make a gushing flow of water. It quenched the thirst of monkey walking along the Goddess at that time.
Charan Paduka Temple- Pilgrims can witness the charan(footprint of Goddess here) in the beautiful Temple. It is believed that Devi stopped here for the first time to check whether Bhairon Nath is following her or not.
Ardhkuwari Mata Gufa/Temple- The Ardhkuwari Temple is believed to be Garbh Grih where Maa Vaishno meditated for 9 months to hide from Bhairon Nath. Whenever, he entered the cane, the goddess shown the fiercest form of her. Then Maa Vaishno Devi finally reached Bhawan which is her adobe afterwards. It is the midway stop before reaching Bhawan.
Vaishno Devi Bhawan
Situated at the height of 5200 feet, It is one of the most visited Temples in India. Pilgrims has get darshan at holy cave where three idols of Goddess in form of Maa Saraswati, Maa Kali & Maa Durga.
Bhairon Baba Temple
As per Hindu Mythology, When Goddess beheaded Bhairon Nath, his head landed up the mountain known as Bhairon Nath Temple. He sudden realized his mistakes and repented for his sins and the Goddess gave her moksha. She blessed him that the yatra will be not get completed without visiting his Darshan.
Hope you like the the detailed guide of vaishno Devi Yatra. Share your experience too by writing to us as evry yatra is different.