VAISHNO DEVI : Hotel and Helicopter Booking Information & Trek to Bhawan

To read the series from the start please click here

In coming final two posts I dedicate my wholehearted and sincere thanks to Maa Vaishno Devi because of whose blessings I was able t0 come here. It was only and only the decision of Great Goddess that I was able to perform my Amarnath Yatra and finally called by her. I am greatly obliged and feel lucky and fortunate one to be blessed by her. Along with Mata , I would also thank the authorities for managing this huge heavily visited shrine with such a thoughtful and  organised manner that if visited once would develop penchant of visiting again and again. 

Along with my travelogue I would also like to help the devotees by giving them each and every information known by me and share it on this common platform so that every body can benefited. 

At Katra

Here I come to my final destination of this ” Mighty Journey to Almighty ” i.e. Vaishno Devi , which is one of the biggest Shakti peeths in Hindu Mythology. Along with Kamakhya Devi it is the most important destination in Shakta tradition. Before going towards the journey I will start to narrate about hotel and arrangements in Vaishno Devi.  In  katra there are countless Hotels at every corner of the town. In fact I feel each and every building you see would come out to be a Hotel. But I stayed at Niharika Guest house which is organised and maintained by Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. I arrived at around 4.30 PM at Katra in the main Chowk and in the mean time I found this wonderful complex which has plethora of facilities.  I was once again very fortunate because only one room was available and it was me who got it, because this Hotel is always full with advance online bookings.

Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Accomodation (Niharika Complex)

Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board provides clean, well maintained and very economical accommodation.The available accommodation is in the form of rooms of various types, huts , suites and beds (dormitory accommodation). Rooms, both air conditioned and Non air conditioned are available. In all the accommodation units provided by Shrine Board, there is an additional facility of a hygienic, no profit no loss Bhojanalaya besides a Souvenir Shop and a free cloak room. Free parking of private vehicles is also allowed. Apart from these facilities , there are also medical facilities and a Railway Reservation counter in the Complex.

Accommodation for all Shrine Board Guest houses/dormitories can be booked (subject to availability) at the reception of these guest houses or at the Enquiry and Reservation counter at Niharika complex. Online booking is also possible through this website. For maximum chances of obtaining confirmed room reservations at various locations devotees are advised to make the necessary bookings well in advance. In addition, since heavy rush is experienced on weekends and holidays, pilgrims are advised to plan their Yatra on weekdays.

Address for making accommodation reservations:

Officer Incharge (Enquiry and Reservation)
Shakti Bhawan, Niharika Complex (Near Bus Stand)
Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Katra – 182301 (J&K)
Phone: 01991- 234053,
E-Mail: [email protected]

Helicopter Bookings

Pawan Hans and Global Vectra helicopter services from Katra on the foothills and the flight will drop you at Sanjhichatt. This visit to the sacred Shrine, enveloped by the clouds is the beginning of a breathtaking heli-hop. Pawan Hans.  01991-234658, 09205044014 Email [email protected],

Helicopter rates are Rs. 1200 for the return trip.

For terms and conditions and to do ONLINE BOOKINGS for both Accomodation and Helicopter Bookings , please click here.

Niharika Complex : Katra ,Vaishno Devi

Check out the rates at Niharika Complex.

Rates at Niharika Complex : Katra ,Vaishno Devi

Each room contains accessories like a huge table, two chairs, a huge double bed, cupboard , dressing table with mirror, blankets, dustbin and geyser etc. The rooms of this place are very large comparing different hotels nearby. The best quality is hygiene and room service is very quick to respond.

Rooms at Niharika Complex : Katra ,Vaishno Devi

*** Annapoorna Bhojanalaya, Niharika Complex, Katra , Vaishno Devi.

Below given are the facilities provided for pilgrims at various places in Vaishno Devi.

Vaishno Devi Shrine Board : Facilities at various places

I have never  seen any Railway Reservation Centre in any Hotel Complex in any of the destinations I have visited so far. If any body has seen such one please let me know.

Railway Reservation Centre in Niharika Complex – Katra,Vaishno Devi

Apart from this rented accomodation, for the convenience of the pilgirms  a number of halls have been provided at at Adhkuwari, Sanjichhat & Bhawan. Pilgrims can take rest here while waiting for their turn for the Darshans of the Holy Goddess or before proceeding further. These halls are available free of cost but their availability is on a first come first served basis. Pilgrims can also spend the night in these halls. Toilet facilities have been made available here.
For the convenience of the pilgrims, Blanket Stores, Toilet Blocks, Bhojanalayas & Catering Units and a Medical Aid Centre have been opened up in the near vicinity of these accommodations units.

Belief in Mata’s Bulawa or Call

The journey to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji starts with the Call of Mata. It is not only a belief but also a strong experience of one and all that the Divine Mother sends a call to her children. And once a person receives it, wherever he is, is bound to visit the Mother to receive Her unbounded love and blessings.Simultaneously, it is also believed that unless there is a call or Bulawa no one can visit the Shrine or have her blessings, howsoever high or mighty one may be.

Legend of Vaishno Devi 

Amongst the many legends associated with the Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, is that of Lord Rama’s encounter with Vaishnavi during the period of his exile when he (Lord Rama) directed the Goddess towards the holy cave situated in Trikoot Parbat. There are other legends too, like that of the Pandavas, who are said to have visited the holy abode and are also believed to have built a temple here. Prahalad, the legendary son of the atheist king Hirankashayap, is also believed to have undertaken a pilgrimage to the holy shrine. However, the most popular and well known legend is that of Sridhar Brahmin who used to live in village Hansali situated at the foot of Trikoot Parbat, adjacent to modern day Katra Town.

For reading the complete legend of Sridhar Brahmin please click here.

Coming back to my travelogue,  I landed  in Katra at 4.30 PM booked my accomodation and started to roam and enquire about other places nearby. I came to know that Shivkhori is another wonderful cave of Lord Shiva with huge Swayanbhu Shivalinga situated in Himalayan mountains and around 90 kms from Katra and also has lot of other places in between. But It requires one full day , so even though I was heavily tempted that was out of question. Also it was raining very heavily in Katra , So possibility of climbing Vaisno Devi at night was again out of question. So only .activity possible was to relax in our comfortable and spacious Hotel. In evening we went out to have dinner at Shrine Board Bhojanalaya and had famous Rajma Chawal. At around ten oclock we slept as we were exhausted.

 3rd August 2012, Friday.

Next day early morning we woke up and  headed towards the Banganga the Entrance to start the Vaishno Devi climb or Trek or foothills of Vaishno Devi Mountain. Before moving towards Banganga to start the Trek , one has to take a darshan receipt (parchi). For that the Shrine Board has made a separate counter. Unless you take the receipt ( parchi) you are not allowed to enter the trekking path or at Cave entrance. Sometimes in festive seasons even to get the receipt ( parchi )requires 2 – 3 hours. Yatra Registration Counter is located in a Town’s main circle called Main Chowk. From here itself one can go to Banganga which is around 1.5 to 2 kms. Here there are lot of Auto rickshaws available to go near Banganga at the rate of Rs. 50 .

After taking receipt we headed towards Banganga to start our final yatra. Initially we wanted to go via helicopter, but due to bad weather Helicopter services were stopped. So we thought of climbing 14 kms on our feet itself.Trek to Vaishno Devi is very steep but smooth till Ardhkuwari ( 5 kms ) . One becomes really tired climbing till here . After Ardhkuwari the road is less steep and can be covered by walking at a constant pace easily. There are two ways of reaching the main Shrine 1) Himkoti Marg, New one 2) Hathi Matha Marg, Old one . In both the paths again there were two bifurcations a) via plain slanting road b) via steps. We chose Himkoti slanting road for climbing and Hathi Matha marg via steps for climbing down.

Yatra Parchi ( Receipt):  Katra ,Vaishno Devi

We reached Banganga and decided to have some snacks. One thing in Katra I would like to inform my viewers that you won’t get non veg any where in Katra. Forget non veg you won’t even get onion and garlic anywhere in Katra. We had Parathas and Chole without onions. Then we started our 14 km Trek towards the shrine.

Banganga – Vaishno Devi

At the main entrance there is heavy security and checking.

Main Entrance at Banganga :- Vaishno Devi

We proceeded further. At around every  300 – 500  meters , we get one sweeper continuously cleaning the path of the Trek. When the allotted area get finished , they again start sweeping from initial area. Thus continuously the path is hygienic free from all papers, plastics,dust and animal waste.The whole scrap is then accumulated at one place and from there it is routed towards dumping zone.

Every 200 – 300 meters we find one sweeper : Vaishno Devi

Then we reach Yatra Parchi Check Post where our parchis are checked.

Yatra Parchi Check Post : Vaishno Devi

We had already decided that this time Aarya was going on Pithu. Pithus are readily available anywhere on the trekking path, The rate of Pithu is Rs. 500 till Bhairo Temple and back ( Load upto 20 kgs ) officially by Shrine board , but we didn’t knew this and our rate was fixed at Rs. 600. In between he also had tea and lunches on our expenses.

Aarya on Pithu and Group : Vaishno Devi

My Whole journey to Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine was happening under the layer of thick fog. So in this post I won’t be able to show you much hilly terrain and views. But the best thing happened to us was the climate was soothing pleasant because of this.

Heavy Fog at Banganga :- Katra, Vaishno Devi

After around 2 kms we come across towards two  beautiful temples. First one is Shree Geeta Bhawan and Second one after 50 – 100 meters comes Pratham Charan Mandir. Geeta Mandir is extremely beautiful and worth watching.

Geeta Mandir : Vaishno Devi

Pratham Charan Temple, as the name suggests is a place where Maa first came on this mountain. The original foot print of Devi Maa is still preserved here and besides it a Golden Idol of Mata is present . This view is mesmerizing to watch.

Pratham Charan Mandir – Vaishno Devi

*** Footprints of Maa Vaishno Devi, Pratham Charan Mandir : Vaishno Devi

One of the Sadhus is doing tough procedures in bhakti to please Mata. He used to lay down with his body stretched and then the other sadhu would mark where his fingers are stretched in the front. After marking the laid sadhu used to get up and then start to lay down from that marked point again in that forward direction.Thus whole 14 kms he was going to cover with entire length his body touching the trekking path. AN EXAMPLE OF SHEER FAITH AND DEVOTION. I am nothing in front of them. But wait for one more post , because in the next one I am going to show one more staunch devotee who is delivers even bigger than this one.

A Sadhu having ultimate faith : Vaishno Devi

Entire path whether it is Himkoti Marg or Hathi Matha Marg is covered by signboards either indicating good manners , important headlines , distances or any other information related to Shrine. I will be  showing you some of them.

Good Manners : Vaishno Devi

Helpline : Vaishno Devi

One of the strange way of controlling horse moments. I have never seen or heard anywhere in the world that horses are directed and guided by catching and pulling their tails . If  the horse is to move left than the horseman used to pull his tail left side and if right , then he used to pull his tail on the right side. If horse is to be stopped than the horseman pulls his tail straight. Strange . IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA.

The rates of horses varies. It becomes more when helicopter services don’t function. Normally the rates start fro Rs. 1500 till  Bhawan , Bhairo and back. Again it totally depends upon the individual how he negotiates.

How to control your horses via tail , learn from here : Vaishno Devi

The Shrine Board has constructed Shelter sheds at various places along the track. At certain stretches on the alternate track and on the old track from Sanjhichhat to Bhawan, these shelter sheds cover almost the entire track. However, in other portions of the track, the sheds have been provided at a distance of about 500 meters from one another.

These shelter sheds are instrumental in saving the visiting devotees from Shooting stones, rain, sun, snow and adverse weather conditions. The decent seating facilities provided underneath the sheds, prompt the devotees to have a little rest. Hence they are also called Vishram Sthals. Toilet blocks and refreshment units have been provided adjacent to most of the shelter sheds, for the facility of the pilgrims.

So far about 70 shelter sheds with a total length of over 4 km have been constructed.

Our Group : Vaishno Devi

Then after we reached at a Junction where one path  goes to Ardhkuwari and other one goes to main Shrine. About Ardhkuwari , It is to the belief of people that Goddess Vaishno hid herself here for a period of nine months after which she showed herself to a saint. The opening of the cave also has a story behind it as it is believes that when Bhairon entered into the cave to look for Mata she used here trident to cut a path and run away. The opening of the cave is actually the way made by Mata to escape from Bhairon. This temple is situated at a height of 4,800 feet above from sea level and Ardhakuwari darshan forms a vital part of Vaishno Devi Yatra.

The Ardhakuwari cave is 15 foot in length and is very narrow. One needs to creep through the tiny entrance made at the door of the cave to penetrate through it. People say that although the opening of the cave is very narrow any individual who has will can move through it by the grace of the goddess.It has great religious significance, as it is believed that penetrating through this cave is just as moving to lap of the goddess and seeking her blessings.

At Ardhkuwari, it takes lot of time for darshan so and also one has to take a parchi ( receipt ) and he is allotted a number . The Individual has to wait till his number comes. Then only one is allowed to enter the cave. So we told our Pithu to bring the parchi for us and we moved forward towards main shrine . We will try our number to visit the cave while returning.

There is one more facility which starts from Ardhkuwari which is mentioned below in the signboard . i.e. battery operated car at the rate of Rs. 300. Although they have mentioned it for old ones and sick people, these are used by everyone and are quite useful.

Signboard for Battery Operated Cars :- Vaishno Devi

Signboards indicating distances : Vaishno Devi

Battery Operated Cars : Vaishno Devi

Sign Showing Danger : Vaishno Devi

There comes Himkoti where one can have refreshments and breath taking views. As of now I can’t show you because the entire mountain was covered with Fog.

Refreshments like biscuits, cold-drinks tea, coffee, milk, mineral water, etc. are available along the way at refreshment units of the Shrine Board. Nearly all of these units are located at carefully selected locations from where one can have a panoramic view of the valley. Therefore, they are also known as View Points. There are a total of 12 such view points.

Bhojanalaya (Hotel) at Himkoti :- Dosa Point

Jai Mata Di : Vaishno Devi

The Pithu was very tired in between . My daughter Aarya looks OK , but taking her continously for 14kms on shoulder is not a joke.  She also wanted some change. So for around 1 -2 kms she also walked with us.

Aarya Trekking :  Vaishno Devi

There are some very strict rules here while climbing the shrine. One of them is shown in the signboard. SMOKERS BEWARE. For at least 10 hours on this trek you can’t smoke .

No Smoking : Vaishno Devi

Apart from all the facilities like plain road, Helicopters Horses Pithus even dolis are available. Dolis used in Vaishno Devi ar most comfortable dolis I have ever seen. The approximate rates here are Rs. 3500 for till Bhawan ( main Shrine ) and back via Bhaironath Temple for a person weighing upto 75 kgs.

Palki at Vaishno Devi : Vaishno Devi

Now at around 12.00 PM, we reached a place where Bhawan was just 250 meters from us.

Near Bhawan : Vaishno Devi

Dear Readers ,

At the moment I am stopping here . In the next and final post of this huge series , We will have darshan of Maa Vaishno Devi , Her Cave , Bhaironath and return Trek via Ardhkuwari. Till then

Jai Bhole 

( *** sign  :-   denotes that pictures are taken from free download section of Maa Vaishno Devi’s official website https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/)

 

Dear Readers if you want to read my other Yatras with more pictures PLEASE CLICK BELOW

AMARNATH YATRA

JAMMU AND KASHMIR: PAHALGAM , VAISHNO DEVI

PUNJAB : AMRITSAR

GUJARAT : SOMNATH AND DWARKA  ( 2010 & 2012 )

MAHARSHTTRA : BHIMASHANKAR , TRIMBAKESHWAR , GRISHNESHWAR , DAULATABAD FORT

MADHYA PRADESH : UJJAIN , OMKARESHWAR AND DEWAS

KASHI YATRA : VARANASI , PRAYAG AND CHITRAKOOT

KARNATAKA : GOKARNA , UDUPI , MURUDESHWAR , SIRSI

LORD SHIVA JYOTIRLINGS

28 Comments

  • JATDEVTA says:

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  • Ritesh Gupta says:

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  • A well narrated post providing complete information about Vaisno devi trek and pictures were too good. It was very interesting and funny to know about the steering/Navigator of horses, probably it is the first vehicle in the world with steering on rear side LOL.

    The little trekker Aarya with stick in her hand is looking so cute…………..

    Thanks.

  • Prakash Yadav says:

    Hi Vishal,
    Every Third Post written here is all about Mataa Vaishno Devi…
    But This Travelogue is Best of all…
    Complete Information about the Mataa Vaishno Devi…
    All Arrangement made there are Best Except One which I’ve Faced during My Visit. I’m Looking for your Next Post, whether you’ll faced or Not…
    Jai Mataa Di…

    • Prakash Jee

      Thanks a lot for this huge appreciation. Each one writes according to his own feelings so every post on Mata is equally good .

      Now I am also in a guess whether I have written that or not . Lets see Prakash jee .

      Jai Matadi.

  • rastogi says:

    ?? ??? ?? ?? ????? ?? ????? ?? ????? ??? – ??? ?? ??? ?? ????? ?? ????? ???? ?????? ?? ????? ??? ????? ?????? ?? ???? ????? ??? ???? ??? ??? ??. ???? ?????? ?? ????? ???? ??. ????? ??? ?????? ?????? ?? ???? ????? ?? ????? ?? ??? ??. ?? ?? ?????? ?? ?? ??? ???? ???????? ?? ????? ????? ??? ?? ?? ???? ?? ?????? ???? ?? ???? ????? ?? ???????? ?? ?? ?? ????? ??? ?? ?? ????? ??? ??? ?? ??????? ???? ???? ?? ????. ?? ?? ?? ?? ??????? ?? ??? ?? ?? ???? ?? ?? ??? ?? ??? ?? ??? ????? ????? ?? ????? ??. ?? ???? ?? ?? ???? ???? ?????? ?? ??? ……..???? ??.

  • Very informative post and very good pictures. What I am tempted to comment is that somebody has to clean the papers and trash left by pilgrims constantly, why can’t we put the trash in bin? And there should be a fine for littering on the road. I was there more than 10 year ago and climbed during night.. Hopefully mata will call me again… thanks.

    • There are trash bins everywhere on the road. But it depends upon person to person . Secondly apart from trash , waste from horses also is cleaned.

      Thanks for going through and commenting.

  • abhishek kashyap trainman says:

    nyc.

  • Abheeruchi says:

    Hello Vishal ji,

    Great post , full of information. I remember I went to Vaishno devi almost 8 years back and there were no services and facilities available like what you have mentioned now. That time I was constantly remembering Tirupati where GOD money is actually well utilized. I think now in Vaishno devi also money is utilizing in proper way. I remember this incident at Vaishno devi , we started climbing at 2200 hrs in night and around 0200 Hrs we realized a small kid of our group was lost so without doing darshan we came back and luckily found him at the lowest point. we again started walking , so we actually climbed two times and got down two times that too without horse or Palki. That time I just thanked MAA for giving darshan and I just told myself I will not come here again. Thank God Helicopter services has started I can now use them for darshan…

    • Abheeruchi jee

      One thing for sure is that if Maa calls, you will reach there even if there are services or not, you will reach by walk or helicopter or by horses or by palki by any means . It only depends on Vaishno Devi really. Everything else is false. So even if you book helicopter services before a month and if weather is not good when you reach there , you cannot utilise the services. Then by any means you have to go by foot or by horses after coming to Katra rather than going back .

      So let Mata decide what to do.

      Thanks once gain to Mata for finding the lost child.

      Jai Matadi .

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    A very comprehensive and informative guide to the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage, Vishal. Thank you very much. I think that any post on Vaishno Devi should make special mention of Shri Jagmohan, the former governor of Jammu and Kashmir, who transformed the area to make it pilgrim friendly and today, it probably surpasses Tirupati when it comes to pilgrim facilities. It shows that if there is political will, nothing is impossible and there is no reason why other other pilgrimage centres should not offer comparable facilities.

    I will take a print-out of your blog if and when the bulawa of the Maata comes. Jai Mata Di.

    • DL ,

      If there is political will with concern whole India becomes Super Power, not only shrine. The problem is that everywhere there is only individual selfish will.

      Thanks for reading and appreciating the post.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Great Yatra Vishal.

    The photo where a devotee is doing the Yatra with full Shashtang Pranam is called ‘Dand’ back home. It is not a uncommon sight during ‘Sawan Shiv’ yatras.

    Horses are one of the most intelligent (around directions) and extremely loyal animals.

    All the information is going to greatly benefit travelers, special thanks for hotel pics and other info-pics. Look fwd to last log of this ‘Vishal Yatra’.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Vishal,

    The journey is as interesting, informative and fulfilling as the previous ones in this series. I am very sure that the info provided by you will help everyone who plans this visit (including me, I am yet to cover that sector).

    Thanks for that info on smoking (will have to device some way) :-)

    Once again, thanks for so much of info and accompanying pics. Awaiting the darshan….

    Auro.

  • ???? ?? ??? ???? ??? ?? ??? ??? ???? ?? ?? ?????????? ???? ???? ??? ?? ???? ????? ?? ?? ?????? ??? ?????? ?? ???? ? ??? ??? ?? ???? ?? ??? ????? ??? ?

  • Deepak says:

    JMD Vishal Ji,

    I want to online book of hotel in manokamana hotel at bhawan for march month (13th – 16th mar 2014) but at time of online registeration its shows error that Your Email ID or mobile no is already registered so kindly help me how to online book for hotel.

    Waiting for Reply.

  • Pankaj Tripathi says:

    Sir can i book hotel n helicopter(bhavan to katra) at ma vashno bhavan without any advance information/booking.means can i get ticket/booking direct on counter or hotel.

  • Deepak Chhabra says:

    Hey vishal
    Its great piece of work here!! actually me, my brother and mom will be going for darshan on 14th sept. Mom cannot walk due to her knees. so initially we had planned to go by helicopter. but we two wanted to treck all the way up so we are planning to hire a “Palki” for mom, but we have some querries:
    1. Palki rates are different on different websites do u have any idea about current rates?
    2. Is it mandatory to book a palki for to-and-fro cant we book it one way and book another to get back on next day??
    3. do palki bearers wait and go along with family members on foot?? and how much time do they wait at the bhawan??

    plz tell me if you have any idea bout the same, or guide wat else can be done!!

    waiting for your reply

    Regards
    Deepak

  • Pamela says:

    Dear Vishal,

    Very Impressive post. I stunned to see the clean railway station. I am planning to visit Matarani with family on next year. Your post helped me a lot to prepare an itinerary :)

  • SUBRATA says:

    Dear Vishalji,

    Very very thanks for this wonderful post. It helps me a lot to plan my coming visit to Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi. Awaiting eagerly for your next post. Jai Mata di.

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