Dham, Arth, Kaam, Moksh. The four pillars of human contentment find culmination at the Holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi. The journey to the shrine is in itself a spiritual experience and one can see people with ailments climbing up the holy shrine ignorant of their pain and miseries. As they say, nothing matters when âMata callsâ. So follow the call of Mata towards a path of revelation and cry out loud âJai mata diâ
Katra is the base camp of the shrine. It is situated 50 kilometers (null.06 miles) from Jammu. Thousands of devotees regularly throng Mataâs shrine in belief that Mata will grant their wishes, albeit in the righteous sense of the word. A pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi is considered to be one of the holiest in the country.
Mataâs prasad is the one main token that pilgrims take back from Katra. Apart from that, there are many small shops that sell shawls and woolen clothing like firan - a woolen tunic, caps, etc. Some shopkeepers also sell pashmina shawls, but you needs to be careful from where you buy to be sure that it is authentic pashmina. You can check out the State Handicrafts Emporium for such handicrafts.
Restaurant - Given the sanctity of the Shrine, the cuisine in Katra is all vegetarian. There are many privately-operated restaurants that offer hearty Indian, Chinese, South Indian and fast food dishes. These are tasty and pocket friendly. The Shrine Board too has arranged for bhojnalaya - large, community lunch-rooms.
Located 11 kilometers (null.8 miles) from Katra, on the Katra-Resai road is the idyllic Baba Dhansar Mandir. A small temple, it is about a kilometerâs walk from the main highway, a trip that is well rewarded by the beautiful view of cool water gushing down from the mountains before it settles into a tranquil pond. The quaint temple and the scenic natural surroundings combine to offer spiritual peace and calm amidst idyllic hills.
Sited in the scenic Trikuta mountains of Jammu & Kashmir, Katra is located at an altitude of 762 meters (null feet) above main sea level. Like much of the northern hills, the climate at Katra can be divided into three parts: pleasant summers, monsoons, and extreme winter. In summer the minimum temperature ranges from a minimum of 20 °C (null °Fahrenheit) and maximum of 41 °C (null °Fahrenheit). The temperature in winter can go to a minimum of 3 °C (null.4 °Fahrenheit).
The gates of the Holy shrine are open to the yatris through the year. However, the shrine sees a peak in the number of yatris in the summer months of May, June, July, and during the festivals of chaitra (nullspring), Sharad-Ashwin (nullautumn), Navratras and New year. At which time, the rush is such that a devotee may have to wait for 15-20 hours for a Darshan.
For a comfortable and not-rushed Darshan, you may plan a yatra during the winter or the monsoons. However, be sure to arm yourself with adequate clothing to face the chill during such time. A heavy raincoat is a must if pursuing a yatra during the monsoons. There is snowfall during the months of December and January, adding to the beauty and purity of the place. For the young and fit, this is the best time to visit the shrine.
Surface - Traveling to Katra by road, in a bus or a private car, is the most convenient, as you can head directly to Katra without necessarily halting at Jammu, which is a compulsion if traveling by trains or air. Travelers can take a by-pass from Kunjwani, 10kms off Jammu, and proceed to Katra.
State-owned public transport and private buses are ply from all major north Indian cities to Jammu. Both standard and deluxe buses are available. The roads are well maintained and the scenery beautiful.
From Katra, it is a trek of 12 kilometers (null.4 miles) to reach the Holy Caves. Though yatris traverse the distance on foot to prove their devotion to the Goddess, ponies and rudimentary palanquins are available for those who want to avail it.
One of the quickest ways to undertake the pilgrimage is by helicopter, which drops you 3 kilometers (null.8 miles) from the Bhawan, at Sanjhi Chatt. However, this option is also more expensive. It can upto Rs 1,225 for a one-way trip and Rs 2,450 for return. Electric cars are also available to take you from adh-kuwari to the Bhawan.
Train - Jammu is connected to the rest of the country by rail. It is an overnight journey to Jammu from New Delhi. Additional trains ply during the summer season and holidays, when it is the peak season for paying devotion to the Holy Shrine. Jammu has trains to all the metros as well as superfast trains to Trivandrum, Kanyakumari, Ahmedabad and Patna.
It is recommended that you refer to the train schedule some days before your visit as the schedule keeps changing.
Air - The nearest airport to Katra is at Jammu. All major airlines fly to Jammu from Delhi, offering convenient connections. The flight takes about 80 minutes from Delhi. Jammu is well connected from Mumbai and other metros as well. However, most flights will stopover at Delhi.
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