|The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is
one of the most visited pilgrim sites in India. Situated at a height of 5,
300 ft., the site is located inside a cave in a hill. One of the most
visited pilgrim sites in India, the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is located
in a cave, amidst the folds of the Trikuta Bhagwati hill at a height of 5,
300 ft., in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K). This cave temple is
at a distance of 61 kms from Jammu and the last 13 kms of the way have to be
negotiated on foot by the yatris, as the devotees are called. Once at the
entrance to the cave, the path turns into a narrow tunnel with a cold stream
named the Charan Ganga running through it. The pilgrim has to wade through
this to reach the sanctum sanctorum.
The holy cave shrine of Vaishno Devi is nestled in a beautiful recess of
the Trikuta Mountains forming a part of the lower Himalayas. It is located
61 km north of Jammu at a height of 5,200 feet above the sea level in the
state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the cave there are images of three deities
viz. the Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati.
The Vaishno Devi shrine is nestled in the Trikuta Mountain. It lies 61 km
north of Jammu in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. Perched at a
height of 5,200 feet above the sea level, Vaishno Devi is a cave in the
lower Himalayas. Katra, the town at the foot of the Trikuta hills is the
base camp for the Vaishno Devi shrine. Katra is 48 km from Jammu, 650 km
from Delhi (via Una), 520 km from Udhampur, 410 km from Chandigarh and 80 km
from Patnitop The shrine is visited all through the year, but the path is
difficult during the winters when the route is often blocked by snowfall.
Vaishnavi - The Manifestation of Goddess Shakti
The temple of Vaishno Devi is dedicated to Vaishnavi, the human
manifestation of Goddess Shakti. Within the temple is the deity in the form
of a five and half feet tall rock with three Pindies or heads. It is written
that the goddess to achieve her destiny of finally merging with Lord Vishnu
assumed the form of a human and was born as Vaishnavi, in the household of
one Ratnakar. Even as a young girl, Vaishnavi displayed an immense thirst
for knowledge that soon out thought her teachers. Soon she started to search
within herself for the answers that she couldn't find elsewhere and learnt
the art of meditation. Realizing the importance of Tapasya (meditation)
Vaishnavi renounced all worldly comforts and betook herself to the forest to
meditate in peace.
Legend has it that while Vaishnavi was in the forest she encountered Lord
Rama, prince of Ayodhya, who was in exile. Recognizing him immediately as an
avatar of Lord Vishnu she begged him to merge with her, but Lord Rama,
knowing that the time was not ripe promised her that on the completion of
his exile he would again pass that way. If she recognized him then he would
fulfill her wishes. True to his word he returned in the guise of an old man,
but Vaishnavi failed to recognize him. Rama consoled her and advised her to
set up an ashram at the base of the Trikuta Hills and continue with her
The holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is unique as it contains the
holiest of holy Pindis manifesting Mata in her three forms which are Maha
Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati. Each of these forms represent
Maha Kali represents Tam Guna : Tam stands for darkness or unholiness. In
her attribute of Maha Kali, Mata is constantly endeavoring to vanquish the
forces of darkness. She blesses her devotees by giving them strength to
never lose heart and constantly battle the forces of darkness till they
prevail upon them. Maha Lakshmi represents Raj Guna : Raj stands for
sustenance, prosperity and well being. In her attribute of Maha Lakshmi
Vaishno Mata blesses her devotees with wealth and prosperity and thus makes
their life more comfortable and happy.
Maha Saraswati represents Satva Guna : Satva stands for purity and
goodness. In her attribute of Maha Saraswati, Mata blesses her devotees with
pure thoughts and a high intellect. This enables them to distinguish between
the good and the bad, between righteousness and unrighteousness and helps
them to adopt the correct path in life.
A combination of these three attributes in a single Shakti is known as Mata
Vaishno Devi Ji and this unique combination is what makes her revered all
over the world. Each person on earth contains the attributes of Tam Guna,
Raj Guna and Satva Guna in some degree or the other. His or her behavior is
therefore, conditioned by the attribute that is predominant. However, to
lead a full and meaningful life a balance has to be struck amongst the
three. This balance is extremely difficult to achieve. It needs divine
blessings. It is only at Vaishno Devi Ji that such blessings are possible
simultaneously from a single source of Shakti . This is what makes the holy
Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji unique in the world.
Yatra begins at Katra and pilgrims have to cover 13 km of terrain on foot to
reach the Darbar. One kilometer away from Katra, is Banganga, place where
Mata quenched her thirst and at 6 km further down, is the holy cave at
Adhkawari.The entire 13 km route is quite wide and tiled. Besides, the whole
path is lit up every night by powerful sodium vapour lamps. The whole route
is swept and cleaned from time to time throughout the day. Yatris are
requested to keep the path clean.
Shelter cum sheds and shelter cum cafeterias are setup throughout the
route. Pure vegetarian food is available at these outlets. Price charts are
exhibited at all these outlets prominently. Drinking water has been made
available all along the route, with water coolers and storage facilities.
Public utilities with automatic flushing systems along the track and at the
Bhawan. After 6 km. of trekking, you would reach Adhkawari, the holy cave
where Mata meditated for nine months. Do visit the cave. After 9.5 km., you
would reach Sanji Chhat where you can rest for sometime. Accommodation is
also available at this place. Bhawan is just 3.5 km. away.
At the entrance to the cave is a place called Bhavan where the worshipper
buys prasad (offering to the God, a little of which is returned to the
devotee for distribution amongst his near and dear ones) and other
offerings. Here the Yatri is issued a token number on showing the Yatra
ticket. The group no. and the time for the Yatri's turn is mentioned on the
At Bhavan there are cloakrooms, lockers for your belongings and change
rooms. It is customary to bathe and change clothes before joining the queue
for the darshan. Amidst the continuous chanting of Jai Mata Di, pilgrims
wait patiently for their turn after depositing their coconut at the entrance
for which they are given tokens. Each one has to enter the cave alone as the
tunnel to the shrine is very narrow and has to be negotiated with care. Once
inside it widens out to provide darshan of the goddess. The return is via a
different route that takes the devotee to the shrine of Bhairon and then
back to Katra.
The total length of the holy Cave is about ninety eight feet. Here you can
see symbols of a large number of Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon.
At the mouth of the original tunnel to the holy Cave on the left hand side
of the rock face you can see the symbol of Vakra Tunda Ganesha. Adjacent to
the symbol of Lord Ganesha you can see the symbols of Surya Dev and Chandra
Dev. When you crawl into the holy Cave through the natural tunnel you cross
over the Dhadh of Bhairo Nath who was beheaded by the Goddess at the entry
point to the holy Cave. The Dhadh is fourteen feet long. After this you come
across the symbol of Lord Hanuman who was also called Launkra Beer.
Beyond the Launkra Beer point you have to wade your way through water
Twenty three feet beyond Launkra Beer, on the left upper hand side, the roof
of the cave flares out and the weight of this over hang appears to the
resting on the innumerable heads of Shesh Nag. Immediately below Shesh Nag
there is the Havan Kund of Mata. Adjacent to the symbols of Shankh, Chakra,
Gada and Padam. Higher up, almost touching the ceiling of the cave are the
symbols of the five Pandavas, the Sapt Rishi, the Than of the divine cow,
Kamdhenu, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiv and Parvati.
Three feet further ahead, on an elevation some what lower than Shiv and
Parvati, is the Khamba that was gripped by the legendary worshipper
Prahalad. Diagonally below this, at the water level you can see the Yantra
with innumerable mystical signs and symbols inscribed on it. Twenty two feet
beyond this point, the Sher Ka Panja symbolising the lion, which is the
mount of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is located.
The distance from the entry point to the Sher Ka Panja is fifty nine feet..
Six feet further ahead, on the left hand side, are the symbols of Shankar
and Gouri. Thirteen feet beyond the symbols of Shankar and Gouri the holiest
of the holy Pindies of ``Mata Maha Kali Ji'', ``Mata Maha Lakshmi Vaishno
Devi Ji,'' and ``Mata Maha Saraswati Ji''.appear .To the right of the holy
Pindies on the upper side we can once again identify the symbols of Ganesh,
Surya Dev, Chandra Dev and Goddess Annapurna. Slightly behind the holy
Pindies, on the right hand side you can see the symbol of the seated Sinh
Raj. A little ahead of this you can make out the full hand of the Goddess
raised in the Vard Hast mode, granting boons to the world. Immediately
opposite the Holy Pindies is the natural symbol of Lord Pashupati Nath.
Water(Charan Ganga) gushes out of the base of the holy Pindies and flows
out of the holy Cave. Charan Ganga is collected in small containers by the
devotees and is taken home. It is also channelised to the bathing ghat and
the devotees can take a bath in this water before they join the queue for
Darshan of the holy Pindies.
The cave at the Trikuta mountain is indeed a unique cave as it is in this
cave that Shakti in her incarnation of Vaishavi resides in a petrified rock
form and it is only here that she is manifested in her 3 forms Maha Kali ,
Maha Lakhsmi and Maha Saraswati The holiest of the holy Pindies of "Mata
Maha Kali Ji", "Mata Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Devi Ji" and "Mata
Maha Saraswati Ji which are the ultimate destination for pilgrims are
located at a distance of 91 feet inside the cave .In the surroundings
symbols of 'Surya', 'Chander', 'Sinh Raj', 'Pashupatinath', 'Shiva' and
'Dhrupad Ji' are quite prominent.
A stream of water gushes out of the base of the holy Pindies which is
commonly known as 'Charanganga'. After flowing through the cave this
Charanganga is chennalised to 'Bathing Ghat' at Bhavan where the devotees
take their bath before proceeding for Darshans of the deity. As a mark of
reverence the devotees also carry this 'Charanjal' in small containers to
The Aarti of the Goddess is performed twice a day, once during the
morning at sun rise and again during the evening at sun set. The holy
cave is closed for pilgrims during the period the Aarti is being
performed. It usually takes around two hours for the Aarti to be
completed. Only the Pujaris, Sahayaks and an officer are permitted in
the cave when the Aarti is being performed. The sequence of the various
activities that are performed at Aarti is as under :
- Chanting of Mantras
At the commencement of the Aarti the Pujaris utter aloud the 108
names of Durga. Then they perform Atam Puja for their own
purification and apply Tilak on each other's forehead. This is
followed by the chanting of mantras exhorting the Devas to give the
Pujaris sound health. Thereafter, Prithvi, Surya, Deep and Dhoop are
worshipped by the chanting of mantras. Once these activities are
over, the Pujaris chant the Pratigyaa Sankalp where they vow to
worship Mata Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Mata and Mata Maha
Pilgrimage Attractions at Vaishno Devi
- Ban Ganga Temple
After the goddess left the Bhumika Temple, she went to the Trikuta
Hills passing through here. At this time, Langoor Vir (Veer Langur)
felt thirsty. The goddess shot an arrow into the stone and a holy
river was produced, now known as Ban Ganga. It is called Ban Ganga
because the goddess washed her hair at this place. Most pilgrims
take bath here. You must show the slip you got near the Bus Stand in
Katra to pass this point. Ban Ganga is about 3 km from Katra.
- Charan Paduka Temple
This is where the goddess stopped for some time while Bhairon was
chasing her. Her footprints are supposed to be visible on a stone at
this place. Charanpaduka means "holy footprints". It is
about 1.5 km from Ban Ganga at 3,380 feet.
- Ardh Kuwari
Ardh Kuwari is the halfway point, and some pilgrims stay here for
the night. There is a 15-foot-long cave called Garbha Joon where the
goddess hid herself for nine months and showed herself to a saint.
The cave is narrow, and you have to almost crawl all the way through
it. When Bhairon entered the cave, the goddess made a new opening
with her trident and ran away. Ardh Kuwari is 4.5 km from Charan
Paduka and 4,800 ft above sea level.
at Vaishno Devi
- At Jammu
For the convenience of the pilgrims, Shrine Board offers
accommodation at Jammu at its Yatri Niwas, Vaishnavi Dham located
near the Railway Station. Dormitory accommodation is available.
Double bedded A.C. rooms and A.C.suite accommodation is also
- At Katra
On reaching Katra, the Yatris can get accommodation at
Niharika/Vishram Ghar complex of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine
Board. Following types of accommodation are available. Double Bedded
(Non-carpeted) Double Bedded (carpeted) Four Bedded (Non-carpeted)
Four Bedded (carpeted). Dormitory 8 bedded and 10 Bedded are also
- Private Hotels
Several hotels in private sector are also offering excellent
facilities for boarding and lodging. Information regarding these
hotels can be acquired from Travel agents in Jammu city and JKTDC
assistance at TRC counters Jammu, Katra and Railway Station Jammu.
- At Bhavan
Rented Rooms/Dormitories and free dormitory accommodation is
available at Bhawan and various locations en route. Booking for
these rooms is done from the Central Office, Katra.Rooms can also be
booked by sending Demand Draft in favour of the Chief Executive
Officer, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Katra ( J & K ).
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 each
from Jammu by bus.
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. The ride costs about Rs. 2,000 one way
(baggage 2 kg, 15 minute)
The nearest train station is in Jammu.
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).
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 pass Ban Ganga. It is a
hard climb to Vaishno Devi.
: 3 Days / 2 Nights
: Delhi - Jammu - Katra - Vaishno Devi -
to Vaishno Devi
: 5 Days
: Jammu - Katra - Darshini Darwaja -
Banganga Temple - Hathimatha Ascent
to Vaishno Devi & Other Shrines
: 6 Days
: Delhi, Jammu, Katra, Darshini Darwaja,
Banganga Temple & Bridge CharanPaduka Temple, Adikumari,
Hathimatha Ascent & Holy mother Shrine