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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Vaishno devi Tours |Vaishno Devi Temple | Jammu and Kashmir

Deities: Goddess Vaishnavi
Location: Katra, 61-km from Jammu, J&K
Altitude: 1,700m (5,100ft)
Best Time to Visit: March to July and September to October

Faith has moved mountains. From a cave shrine tucked away deep in the Trikuta Mountains of Kashmir the call of Mata Vaishno Devi.

Vaishno Devi is one of the holiest Hindu Pilgrimage sites which are dedicated to Goddess Shakti. The temple is located around 12 km away from Katra in the Udhampur district. The temple is situated at an altitude of 1615 m on the Trikuta Hills of Shivalik Range. Pilgrims, especially Hindus from all over the world visit Vaishno Devi making it the second most visited shrine in India after Tirupati Balaji Mandir.

The Vaishno Devi yatra is probably the most hallowed pilgrimage of Northern India and attracts over five million devotees a year. It entails a 13.5 km trek from Katra, which in turn is 61 km from Jammu. It is situated at an altitude of 1,700m. The abode of the goddess is in the mountains of Trikuta Hills, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in north India.

The Goddess resides in a beautiful cave in the form of three ‘Pindis’ in the name of, “Maha Kali”, “Maha Laxmi” and “Maha Saraswati”. According to legends Goddess Durga has killed the demon Bhairon here. The cave ideally handles just 8 or 10 thousand people a day, as only 12 or 15 people are let into the cave at a time. On the full moon day in Kartika (October/ November) the line to get into the cave can be 4-km long. It is believed that the arm of Goddess Sati fell at this place.

Vaishno Devi only when the Goddess herself wants them to and beckons them. If you are reading this, probably this is your call for making the holiest trip of your life. Come prepared to lose your old self and find the new you who will be more wise and chaste.

The journey amidst snow capped mountains and sprawling forests arise from within the holy shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi. There is a common faith among the folk that Goddess-Vaishno sends a ‘Call’ to her devotees and that once a person receives it, wherever he or she is, marches towards the holy shrine of the great Goddess. A supernatural power seems to draw them through the mountain and they climb up those great heights step by step, chanting

‘Prem se bolo, Jai Mata Di’.

Discovery of the Holy Shrine:
According to a legend the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi was discovered by a Brahmin, Pandit Sridhar about a thousand years ago. He used to live in Hansali village at the foothills of the Trikuta Mountains. One day, as he was grazing cattle, he met a beautiful child, Vaishnavi, on the hills. She urged him to call the people of his village to a feast. By mid-day when his guests arrived he had still not made arrangements for any provisons.

Suddenly, he saw Vaishnavi coming out of his hut and she asked Sridhar to call his guests saying the food was ready. He watched in amazement as all the villagers went inside his small hut and finished their meal. As they left, he called out to young Vaishnavi knowing that the answer to the mystery lay with her. But she was not to be found.

His search for her led him to a cave up a cliff where he thought he spied her. But in vain. As he wept in anguish a light shone on him, and he had a vision: Vaishnavi was transformed into a transcendental beauty with eight arms and astride a lion. She told him she was Shakti and in this cave she was manifested in her three forms of Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Sridhar’s progeny have been worshipping the Goddess in this Holy Cave since those hoary days!

Other Shrines at Vaishno Devi:
Bhumika Temple
Ban Ganga Temple
Charan Paduka Temple
Ardh Kuwari
The Sri Ram Temple
The Bhairon (Bhairav) Temple

How to reach:
Vaishno Devi is located 14-km from the town of Katra and 52-km north of Jammu. Katra is situated at 2,800 feet and takes about 2 hours to reach from Jammu by bus.
by Air: The nearest airport is in Jammu, which is 48-km from Katra. There is a helicopter service that departs from the airport at Sanjhi Chat in Jammu in the morning.
by Rail: The nearest railway station is in Jammu, which is well connected to all the major cities in India.
by Road: There are regular buses leaving for the 52-km trip from the central bus stand in Jammu to where the road ends at Katra (2 hr). Walking From Katra it is a steep 13-km walk. You can rent a horse or be carried up from Katra. You can go up to the cave and back in the same day. It takes about 4 hours to climb up and 3 hours to come down. Pilgrims must get a Yatra- Slip from the tourist reception center near the bus stand in Katra to get passes Ban Ganga. It is hard climb to Vaishno Devi.

Visit for more information on Temples, Ashrams, Gurus, Festival and Daily Panchangam (Hindu ephemeris).

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