My Experience of Vaishno Devi, Ardhkumari Gufa and Shivkhori

It’s well said “Maa aap bulandi”

Mata darshan was planned several time but not working out due to busy college schedule of my both sons who currently study in IIT Kanpur and IIT delhi. Finally, we were all set to go for vaishno devi with well-planned itinerary.

Due to our sons’ schedule, we planned it for Dec 3rd week. The credit goes to my wife who put her sincere effort and time to obtain the information and plan all this. As per our research on internet and having a view on statistical data on https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/ website, it was observed that there will be huge rush at this time. Having no other alternative we go ahead with that and booked our train ticket accordingly. The train we booked was “Uttar Sampark Kranti Express” which takes approx. 12 hours from New Delhi to Karta (SVDK).

The planning started with booking online yatra slip on https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/. Here you will need to register yourself and then you can start booking rooms, yatra slip, helicopter etc etc. Online Yatra slip is free of cost and benefits a lot. Alternatively, offline Yatra slip can be obtained from various places like Katra bus strand, Niharika guest house etc. Many hotel agents also help to obtain this.

As per train schedule, we reached Katra station @9:00 am. Katra railway stration is really awesome.

We at Katra station

It took us approx. 15 minutes to get out of station to auto stand due to heavy rush at station. On station there are number of traveler/hotel agents who follow you and ask to get a room. You can get a good bargain if you had not already booked one. We didn’t entertain any of the agents as we have already booked our room in Ardhkumari – Shailputri bhawan and Katra – Niharika.

So our yatra starts from banganga @10:00 AM.

Jai kara e shere wali da, bol saanche darbar ki jai.
From here trekking starts which is approx. 13 km to bhawan.

Me with my Pitthoo

Upto to Ardhkumari, it was wonderful and we reached there in 2 hours. My wife was keenly interested to have a darshan for Ardhkumari gufa irrespective of how much time it was going to take. So as soon as we reached Ardhkumari, we took the sequence number. Would like to remind, here you will need your Yatra slip for obtaining the Ardhkumari sequence number.

Just before Ardhkumari, there are 2 ways to bhawan. 1st one is traditional way and via Hathi maththa and distance is approx. 6.5 km to bhawan. On this way there are a lot of ponies (Ghoda) but you will find many shops along the way. 2nd one is new way and via HimKoti and distance is approx. 5.5 Km to bhawan. This way is new and is cleaner and ponies are not allowed here and you hardly get any shop on this way.From Ardhkumari, there is a tunnel which carries you to himkoti way to start your trekking via that way @2:00 PM.

On the way to Bhawan (before Ardhkumari)

Anyway, we took the himkoti way and started our journey. We were at bhawan @5 PM. There again your yatra slip is checked and verified. At the same time, you will get group number as well. I asked the person at counter for group number again “bhai group number to de do”. He stared at me and said “samajh mai nahin aata kya, khali pada hai, group number ki jaroorat nahin hai, jao aur darshan kar lo” ☺

I was elated and whispered “Jai Mata Di”.

Shalimar Park – Katra

Now the next task was to submit our luggage, belt and shoes to locker. Before that we took our Prasad from the “Bhaint Shop” which you will get at your left side when you enter the complex. Prasad is at fixed price and no bargain or negotiation is required here.

Just opposite to “Bhaint Shop”, there is cloak room 1. This is less crowded but a little far from bhawan. Due to less crowd, we preferred that and deposited all our luggage, belt and shoes in that cloak room. Would like to remind, you will need to show your yatra slip over here to obtain cloak room. Another 2 cloak rooms (2 and 3) are near bhawan but are overcrowded. There is not much distance between cloak room 1 and 2 & 3.

We started for main bhawan having only Prasad with us. Your coconut will be exchanged with token on the way. Keep this token with you.

On exit, holy water coming from the mata’s feet can be collected which is coming out of stone elephants’ mouth. On the way, we were provided Nariyal back exchanged with token. After that, you will be given Prasad (mishri) and Mata’s khazana in paper pouches. So, we had done Mata darshan very peacefully and were very happy. It was approx. @05:45 PM at that time.

It is believed that the Yatra is not considered complete without having a darshan of Bhairon after Mata’s darshan. Bhairon mandir is 2.5 km. from Bhavan and is quite steep. We collected all our luggage from cloak room. Before proceeding to Bhairon, we went to Shrine’s bhojnalya and had good eatables like Chips, tea, Biscuits and Rajma Chawal. Now we were full and ready to proceed for Bhairon baba darshan.

There you will get ponies to bhairon. Due to steep trekking, many people prefer these. The rates are almost fixed. Just do not forget to obtain Icard and Registration number after booking the pony. We hired one for my wife. Me and my 2 sons started on foot only. We were there at bhairon mandir @6:00 PM. No rush was there so it hardly took us 10 minutes for darshan. Thanks GOD, we reached before 07:00 PM as Mandir is closed during 07:00 PM to 09:00 PM for Aarti/cleaning etc.

After bhairon darshan, we took some rest and had some eatables and refreshed ourselves. We were free by 06:30 PM. Now, our next target was to go to Ardhkumari and have darshan over there. We again proceeded to Ardhkumari @07:00 PM. It was very cold by that time and we had put on some more clothes.

On the way to bhawan via Himkoti

We had complete dinner and decided to wait for our turn. We enquired from authorities, when can we expect our turn. They told that 142 sequence number can be expected @2:00 in night. Having no other alternative, we waited in front of mandir for our turn. It was not more than 10 minutes, we found that authorities were calling all group whose sequence has been passed and sequence number is less than 100. Our old sequence was 63 and we were still having the old parchi as well.

So it was like “ Bol saanche darbar ki,………… jai” ☺ ☺ ☺ ☺
By 06:00 AM, we were ready for our downward journey to banganga. This time we took stairs through-out our way and reached Banganga by 08:00 AM. From there we collected our luggage from cloak room and proceeded to Katra bus stand. It was 08:30 AM by that time.

We proceeded to ShivKhori from there. Shiv Khori is surrounded by green luscious mountains and is at a tracking distance of 3.5 kms. We took ponies for the up-way and had darshan of Shiv Lingam over there. We started our back journey on foot and were back by 04:30 PM. We reached at our hotel at Katra –Niharika by 08:00 PM.

Next morning, we were all refreshed and went to see local market. Before starting, once again we had our breakfast at Manoranjan dhaba. In katra main market, there is shop called “Baniya’s shop”. The shop is very big and having many items which the pilgrims want to buy. The price was fixed and quality was good.

Key points to Note:

1. Book online yatra parchi in advance.
2. Get stamped your yatra parchi for sure (if Offline)
3. If want to book rooms at bhawan, you need to be very quick and a good internet connection is required. Booking start exactly 2 months in advance @12:00 sharp
4. Do not take stairs while going up if you are not regular walker and very fit physically. It puts a lot of pressure on your knees.
5. Have plenty of water during the way.
6. Keep as less luggage as possible during the way
7. During winter weather have complete arrangements of garments.
8. No need to carry eatables on the way, there a plenty of options
9. Beware of monkeys. If you are having white polythene with you or any other eatable, they will surely snatch it.
10. Shops on the way charges almost double. At Shrine board’s bhojnalya, you will get quality items and at MRP.
11. Keep your body language, language and thoughts clean
12. Only thing which is allowed at bhawan is Prasad and cash, no leather items.

4 Comments

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Welcome aboard Mr. Gupta.

    Your first post is on Ma Vaishno Devi, a shrine which is so well managed and attracts lakhs of people every year. I just looked at the Shrine’s website at https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/yatra_statistics.aspx and can see in excess of 75 Lakhs pilgrims.

    I had the fortune of visiting the shrine only once, in 1998. At that time, there was no Katra railway station and one has to take a bus/taxi from Jammu.

    Your narration and suggestions are certainly going to help a lot of pilgrims. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Naveen Gupta says:

      Dear Nandan, thanks for reading and appreciating.

      I have been to vaishno devi many times since my childhood. Everytime it’s different but very satisfying experience. :)

  • Pooja Kataria says:

    Welcome aboard Mr. Gupta!
    Very nice post and you have very rightly said ‘Maa App Bulandi’. I have been to Vaishno Devi Twice and every trip has been very refreshing and blissful. You have refreshed those memories. Keep writing.
    Jai Mata DI!

    • Naveen Gupta says:

      Thanks Pooja for reading and appreciating.

      I have been to vaishno devi many times since my childhood. Everytime it’s different but very satisfying experience. :)

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