Jai Mata Di.
It was a sudden plan to visit Maa Vaishno Devi Mandir. Actually it was my wife’s wish, she has a huge devotion in Maa, has visited there 9 times, and we just finished our first year post-marriage, so this time wanted to be there with me. Her brother and a friend with his wife also were to join us. As I said it was made all of sudden, we couldn’t get reservation in train. Then I remembered last time I went there by DTC Volvo bus, so on 6 June, I reached Delhi ISBT for bus ticket booking, but couldn’t get, as the ISBT was under-construction so the advance booking was not possible. But all know if Maa is calling then nobody can stop you, I got tickets booked for 5 people for AC sleeper bus from Red Fort for 17 June.
17 June: We reached Red fort at sharp 7:30 PM, where we got to know that the bus was parked somewhere else where we had to reach by khataara taxi arranged by them. No problem. Finally we were in bus, bought water bottles and relaxed in our sleeper cabins. Bus started around 9, soon we slept. Sleeper bus’s cabins were good but not that much for a 6 feet tall person like me.
18 June: At 5 AM, I opened my eyes and got shocked to see that we were still in Punjab, and estimated about the rest of the route, more 5 hours it was going to take to reach Katra. Closed my eyes again, and opened at 7 or 8 AM around Pathankot for tea break. At 10:30 we reached Jammu. On the way to Katra all buses halt for checking at a check-post. Our bus also did the same, there we had a short break. I was again in hills, admiring the beauty of nature, thanking God for giving me again an opportunity to see the mountains. Coming images were clicked on the way to Katra from Jammu.
Around 12 PM we reached Katra. There was huge crowd over there as it was June, a vocation month. Well we were ready to have the best time there. First of all I decided to get the Bhawan Yatra ticket. Note: Get your Bhawan Yatra ticket, valid for next 3 hours, which you may get from a office located at main Choraha. After that we moved on towards Yatra entrance area, to get a good room in any guest house there. Our room at first floor in Katra Near to Entrance Gate to Bhawan (below image).
It is recommended to have room near the Yatra Entrance, so that you can soon and easily come back after finishing Yatra. We got a double + single bed room in a guest house, very near to Yatra Gate. Room was clean and cost for Rs 500 for a day. We finalized it at Rs 300 for 4 hours for getting fresh.
We left the room to begin our journey towards Bhawan at 4 PM, and stored our luggage at cloak room provided by guest room. Such guest houses provide cloak room or some space to keep your belongings for free and safe. After leaving room at 4 PM, we had light lunch and moved ahead to Vaishno Devi Yatra. Instead of carrying back-pack bag, we had a trolley bag, easy to drag in inclines. We entered in Main entrance, had a quick checking at front check-post, and moved on. Entrance Gate to Vaishno Devi Yatra is shown in pic below..
Weather was pleasant, some road side shops and shopkeeper welcomed us. We bought some JAI MATA DI written ribbons to tie on foreheads. Some pony-walas tried to convince us to hire them, but we preferred to walk.
We moved forward and crossed a temple in our way, Shiva & Hanuman idols were attracting us to visit the temple but we decided to not stop.
The way to Bhawan was fully fenced with small shops, where you can buy snacks, water/soft drinks, fruits, Puja prashad, and others items useful in your journey.
The vaishno Devi shrine is at an altitude of 5200 feet, located on the holy Trikuta Hills of the Shivalik Hill Range, and a distance of approximately 14 kilometers (8.4 miles) from Katra. Being in hills is like living the heaven. There was huge crowd at that time, but views of Trikuta hills made our visit unforgettable. Trikuta hills images are Next.
14 km long way is mounting up to Bhawan. People incapable to walk, heir ponies and palkis. Palki is a big chair carried by 4 persons, charges around Rs 4000 per visit. Pitthu or coolie is available easily for carrying bags and kids. Choppers can also reach to Sanjhi Chat. Way to Bhawan is almost cemented and goes up round like a climber. Devotees from the different parts of the world track upwards with saying “Jai Mata Di”. We also went upstairs in our way, you beware of them as they may be up to 350 in count. On the wall near first step, one can read the total count of staircase.
Around 7:30 PM, we reached at Ardh-kwari, there was long waiting to visit the Ardh-kwari Gufa. We got the coupon for Ardh-Kwari darshan,we had to wait for more than 20 hrs for Ardh kwari Darshan, so instead of waiting there we felt better to move further. One thing I must mention here which I didn’t know before, there is another way from Ardh-kwari to main Bhawan via Himkoti, instead of via Sanjhi Chhat. This way via Himkoti is plane without much incline and decline, and 1.5 KM shorter than the way via Sanjhi Chhat. I didn’t know about this by then so moved towards Sanjhi Chhat. Ardh-Kwari Mandir was under construction, images are below.
As we were going up the temperature was going down. On our way enjoyed coffee and other snacks, and with short breaks we kept moving, and crossed Sanjhi Chhat with longer break there. At Sanjhi Chhat we ate Raajma Rice, which was almost boiled without onion, but still we revelled.
As soon as we crossed the Sanjhi-chhat, it started raining, but not heavily. We didn’t stop till the small coffee break, which became a long one as my wife phoned her home and gave a long description of our journey to her dear Dad. :) Post break we moved on to Bhawan, on our way we joined a dhol wala, danced on his beats.
It was around 12:30 AM then, and we were about to reach Bhawan. Katra town was looking like a galaxy of stars from that distance.
Around 2 AM, we finally reached Bhawan. Huge crowd was there. And by then, we had been very tired, wanted eagerly to take some rest, and also we found better to have darshan after 4 AM in brham muhurat. So we had enough time. First we took bath in cold freeze water, it was too good that our pain and tiredness had disappeared for some time. After changing new clothes, we packed our bags to store them in cloak room. Space in cloak room can be easily available after some wait. Then we bought prashad for Bhawan darshan. Because of huge crowd, there was a big queue of devotees, we joined them. Each and every one was full of devotion. Loud jaikara could be heard from everywhere……BOL KARA SHERAWALI DA..BOL SACHE DARBAAR KI JAI.
We had a short but great darshan, though we wanted to stay some more time in main gufa. After coming out, we got our bags back, had light food (don’t know what it was, dinner or breakfast). My wife wanted to take some rest, so I wished, but we had to move on towards Bhairo Temple. It is said that if someone doesn’t visit bhairo mandir after Vaishno Devi Mandir, his/her yatra goes wasted. So we had to move on, and if we took rest there, it would be worst for us, as the way to Bhairo from main Bhawan is a steep climb, it should be covered in one go. I convinced my wife to walk, and we were on our way. We reached there within one and half hour, and had bhairo baba darshan. Then this was the time to take some rest as we had covered up-going part of our jouney, now we had to come back down, we all were feeling like winners. We slept for two good hours there, and after waking up, we had a great breakfast with Tea & Pakodi. At Bhaira mandir, you must eat Pakodis.
On our way back to down, we enjoyed a lot, as it was taking less effort to coming down on slopes, we just had to maintain the balance of our body, and rest of the work was being done by the gravity. We had some monkeys, langoors, goat and some beautiful birds on our way.
This is airbase at Sanjhi-Chhat. Devotees come in choppers till here, rest of the journey they cover on ponies or on-foot. We took some short breaks for tea and water, and kept moving.
Above photo is of Sanjhi Chaat. We had a very short break here before moving further. I found Vaishno Devi a very organized place, almost clean with helpful staff and polite police. We really have a big responsibility to keep our religious places clean.
About 10:30 AM (I think), we reached back at Ardh kwari, we already had coupons for Ardh kwari darshan, so first of all we checked the current going number, and estimated that we had to wait for a whole day to get in there. It was my wife’s wish to visit Ardh-kwari gufa, so it was final that we were going to wait, so we tried to get a room in nearby building, and succeed. We got a room, and had a good sleep for three hours. After walking up, my travel-mates went for lunch but I preferred to sleep. At 4PM, I wake up and had Dosa with tea, and informed others to get ready as our turn was about to come. We got ready and stored our bags to cloak room available there. This time we didn’t have to wait as they were giving space on turn-wise. It took 4 hours to have Ardh-kwari Darshan. Ardh-kwari is a place where Goddess Durga in her Vaishno Devi avatar, did penance for 9 months. The gufa was very narrow, it was real fun to come out from that. We shouted, ‘Jai Mata Di’, and crossed from there. I couldn’t take photographs there, as the camera was packed in the bags, also the photography was prohibited.
Pony is used to transport goods on these hills. About 10 PM, we left Ardh-kwari behind after having blessings of Goddess Durga. This time we decided to cover rest of the journey by stairs, which was going to be more painful, but it saved lots of time. We already had informed the hotel manager about the time of our coming back, which was estimated 3 AM. And it was almost well-estimated, as we reached main entrance gate by 3 AM. The one thing here, which surprised us, was the money demanded by auto-drivers to take us to the hotel, they were charging Rs 200, which was too much as our hotel was not that far. Well, we preferred to walk. Now walking in plains was not a big deal for us. And soon we reached our hotel, had a good bath, and went to sleep for few hours.
Next to sleep, this was the time to explore the market, we started our day from bhandara, which was going there in a ground, had amazing puri-sabzi-halwa. We spent 3 to 4 hours in the market, bought some artificial jewelry, some warm clothes like chingu, blankets, shawls, and prashad. It was fun, we were tired but still enjoying the market. I didn’t carry the camera, so no photographs from market. After checking out from hotel, by 6 PM we were in the bus on our way to back.
I am ready for my next trip now, which will be here soon in words & photos, till then Happy Ghummakari!
Thank you very much for making us have darshan of Mataji in very morning. Like your previous posts, it was also a superb and fantastically written post supported with beautiful pictures. Though I felt little lack of captions on pics. otherwise the overall post was impressive.
Thanks for your really kind words Mukeshji. I was really expecting the first comment from you.
Vaishno Devi temple is a heaven as it is a religious place located at hills, so it attracts both the hills-lovers and relgious persons like me.
I didn’t use the captions, but I discussed the images in my narration.
Thanks for taking us to Vaishno Devi. Very well written & supported with beautiful pictures.
Thanks, I am so glad to read your kind words.
Excellent post. Pictures are Great. ………………
why so much time is required for ardh kwari darshan
When I was there, there was a huge crowd. Devotees wish to visit Ardhkwari, as here Durga Maa did penance for 9 months, it has great importance. Waiting list sometimes get so long that we have to wait for even 2 days.
So its better to take your coupon and move further, and visit Ardhkwari while coming back.
good narration,good photographs
we are planning to visit mata very soon,and i want to take some nice snaps on the way as well.but one thing bothers me.the temple administration does not allow camera inside,so where to keep it ,is there any safe and secure place to keep it as it is a bit expensive.
Thanks for your kind words.
There is nothing to be bothered. There are cloak rooms available at Main bhavan as well as Ardhkwari, where use can store your belongings, including camera and clothes. They keep your stuffs in locker and give the keys to you. Keep the camera in a bag first, before storing in the locker.
Camera is allowed at Bhairo Mandir.
Wish you a great journey and wonderful & blessing Darshan.
Jai Mata Di….
Very Nice & Detailed Post. Good Pictures……..
i am glad you like my attempt.
jai mata di..
i am also going to vaishno devi darshan today(2 sep2011)…..your post is looking very useful ……and rest i will update u whem i will be back………
Jai Mata Di, Vinay. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. One thing about the chilling water, it stings for a few seconds but after that it is the most comforting thing in the world.
Jai Mata di.
You are right. After taking bath We all felt painless, our whole tiredness had flew away for sometime.
hey..i m back from journey..
your tips and tricks rocks..
I left delhi in AC volvo from kashmiri gate(since no rail reservation was done).Rs1050
take a hotel room near katra bas stand.Rs500
A huge rush at Ardhkwari….even after returning from main bhawan i was unable to get into the cave.
Mata darsan was very motivational..no rush…main gufa was closed….thanks to my father since i saw main gufa when i was on trip with my father….i was in 9th standard that time..
i took the same volvo for retuning to delhi..
today i m in office..very tired and sleepy..
Even I was in the office on the same day I returned.
Ardhkwari darshan needs time because of long waiting.
Upload the photos on Ghumakkar
Jai Mata Di.
You were right about June. There are indeed a LOT of people :-)
Hope father-in-law is happy after hearing a good account en-route and more later.
How long did it take to get back to normal-walking-state. I still remember the painful time I had , especially while climbing down a staircase :-)
Hope to see the next story very soon.
I had to be in office on the same day I returned.
While climbing downstaires?……… I don’t want to recall.
Well This time I was ok, but last time (2009) was my first visit, that time I got so tired that I decided to not visit again.
But now I feel that a religious Ghumakkar can go anywhere, anytime.
Indeed no one can visit Vashno Devi without getting call from their itself. But with this post we are lucky to have ‘darshan’ of maa vaishno devi without getting there. As usual your post was complete and left no room for any question. Great details and equally beautiful pictures.
Thanks a lot for sharing . Recently i heard abt Mata’s temple and hoping to visit soon with her belssings.
This is very good presentation with excellent pictures and briefing.
Hi…I am Vinay Singh an MBA (Information Technology) by qualification & working as Network Administrator.
It has been really a nice & detailed description of a trip to Mata Vaishnav Devi temple.
I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart!
I had been there in 2006, in my opinion it is the most beautiful place on the earth I have ever had that attracts a large number of pilgrims and worshipers throughout the year.
I would like to share the following information regarding it as
The three Pindis in Jaimatadi is forms of Lakshmi, Sarswati and Kali. The Pindi for Kali give blessings to their devotees to fight against the forces of darkness. The Pindi representing Saraswati blesses her devotees for pure thoughts and help you to achieve the correct path in life. The Pindi representing Ma Lakshmi blesses her devotees for wealth and prosperity. Jai Mata Di is the combination of these three powers in one.
Saanchi Jyotaan Waali Mata, Teri Jai-Jai Kaar….
Jai Mata Di….
i like your photos, i desided to go to ma vaishno devi yatra in oct 2012
Thanks for making plan.
May Maa Vaishno Devi bless you with great darshan
Excellent Collection. I just visited Maa Vaishnodevi but our journey was started in night and ended in night. I could not take photographs like U. Thanks.
Rayane, Khamgaon (MS)
Very useful information. Thank you for it. I am also going to visit Vaishnodevi on 12th May. If you have any guidance regarding the darshan and time to go and return back ?
On going through your journey on Maa Vaishno Devi, I am feeling a vision of Maa Vaishno Devi too. In fact your way of writing besides collection of photographs is amazing and touches the hearts of viewers. Your post is inspiring so I have planned for Maa Vaishno Devi Darshan in June-14. Thanks for inspiring.
very nicely written… great help man! keep it up.
GOOD NEWS ABOUT VAISHNO DEVI YATRA
I’m Rajesh from vellore, TamilNadu. On 20-May-14 (Tuesday), I felt blessed. Yes I went with my family to take Maata ji dharshan and we had the Dharshan without any issues and delay. As you have narrated, definitely this place should be a natures gift.