History of Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra
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.
About the places to visit in Vaishno Devi Yatra:-
Vaishno Devi is a sacred pilgrimage destination for the Hindus and is frequented by numerous tourists from all parts of India. Vaishno Devi is also recognized as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi, and is one of the manifestations of the revered Mother Goddess. The Vaishno Devi Temple is indisputably one of the main tourist attractions in Vaishno Devi and is believed to have been built by the Pandavas. You will get a glimpse of the various symbols of a number of gods and goddesses inside the holy cave that leads to the main shrine. A tour to Vaishno Devi is bathed in spirituality and you can see the devout pilgrims lined up in the serpentine queues filling the ambiance with religious fervor and enthusiasm.
That extends to a length of 98 feet and inside this cave you can watch the various symbols of Vakra Tunda Ganesha, Surya Dev and Chandra Dev. While crawling into the cave through the tunnel, you will come across the Dhadh (torso) of Bhairon Nath. There are numerous heads of Shesh Nag and below that one can see the symbols of Shankh, Chakra, Gada and Padam. On the top, almost touching the ceiling of the cave, you will find the symbols of the five Pandavas, the Sapt Rishi, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Parvati. The ambiance inside the cave is very mystical and hypnotic as well.
Apart from the tourist attractions in Vaishno Devi, the weekend excursions would further make for exciting journey to the major attractions. Located at a distance of 70 kilometers from Katra is the holy cave of Shiv Khori which is called the abode of Lord Shiva. The cave is an amazing natural wonder. There is also a naturally formed Shiv-lingam that is quite attention grabbing. When you travel to Vaishno Devi, you will also come across the temple of Baba Dhansar which is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is situated on the way to the Salal Dam. This place is characterized by a huge spring emerging from the rocks in a dense grove of trees and forms various rapids prior to flowing into the sacred rivulet that merges with the Chenab River.
Patnitop is idyllic spot for recharging your batteries and relaxing with nature, which only gives and never asks for anything in return. Just sitting under the Patni Top sun in the meadow can be the highlight of your holiday as you relax and watch a different world go by-the horses satiating their appetite with the grass; a few tourists busy taking pictures; villages walking to and from the main bazaar. The gentle music of the wind provides the lilt to your carefree holiday spirit. The lush wooded forests around the hotel offer ample opportunity for trekking and a rich selection of scenic spots for picnics. For security reasons, camping is discouraged. Walking on kutcha (unpaved) paths between rows and rows of tall trees leads to quiet retreats which are totally relaxing with the assorted menu of excellent views of the pine-covered mountains. The only sound one hears is the tinkling of bells on goats and cows and the rustling of leaves and twigs as you walk in a dream world of your own.
During the festival of Navaratri, thousands of diehard followers from all over the country and even abroad line up the long mountain roads to worship the deity. Navaratri is the biggest festival in honor of the Goddess and people have to stand in lines for hours to have the darshan.
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 their homes.
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.
Travel Information :
By Air :
The nearest airport is in Jammu, which is 48 km from Katra. Thereis a helicopter service that departs from the airport at Sanjhi Chatin Jammu in the morning. The ride costs about Rs. 2,000 one way(baggage 2 kg, 15 minute)
By Rail :
The nearest train station is in Jammu.
By Road :
There are regular buses leaving for the 52 km trip from the centralbus stand in Jammu to where the road ends at Katra (2 hr).