One of the holiest places on earth, Vaishnodevi in Jammu nestles at an altitude of 5300 ft above sea level. The shrine lies 12 km away from the base camp of Katra. Devotees need to undertake a trek from the Katra to reach the temple. The presiding deity- Mata Vaishno Devi resides inside a sacred cave in the slopes of the Trikuta mountains.
Millions of pilgrims from different corners of the country and abroad visit this temple every year to offer prayers to the Goddess. Vaishnodevi Temple is one of the most significant Shakti Peeths of Goddess Durga. A holy and lengthy Aarti of the Goddess is performed two times a day in the temple. Darshans are kept on hold during the hours of Aarti.>
There are quite a good number of shops near the temple from where items like bangles, chunnis, laminated photographs of Mata Vaishnodevi, CDs of Aarti and Kashmiri shawls can be purchased. Gold and silver coins having the image of the goddess engraved on one side and that of the Holy Pindies on the other are remarkable souvenirs. Water bottles can also be bought so that pilgrims can fill them with Holy water flowing out of the Holy Cave. The Shrine Board has set some local shops from where above mentioned mementos can be purchased at affordable rates. Bhawan, Vaishnavi Dham, Adkuwari and Sanjichhat are important places of shopping in the area.
There are many refreshment units and eating joints that have been established by the Shrine Board. The refreshment units serve cold-drinks, milk, tea, mineral water, biscuits and coffee to pilgrims. A variety of Indian dishes are served at reasonable rates at the restaurants of Batote, a nearby place.
Perched high at an altitude of 5300 ft, Vaishnodevi witnesses freezing cold weather during winters. During monsoon, mud slides are very common. Summers are pleasant, and maximum pilgrims arrive here for darshan during this season. The best time to visit this holy shrine is from the month of March to October.
The main purpose of a visit to Vaishnodevi shrine is for darshan and offering prayers to the goddess. Besides the main temple, there is another important religious site called Ragunath Mandir, where devotees flock in from distant places. Dedicated to Lord Ram, this temple complex is considered to be one of the largest in the northern part of Indian Subcontinent.
For adventure-seekers, an excursion to Batote can be highly rewarding. Close to the holy cave of Vaishnodevi, spectacular hilltop locations of Sanasar and Patnitop are located, which command attention.
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