Travelling to Vaisno devi shrine is one of the holiest pilgrimage in Hinduism. Situated at an altitude of about 35,000 feet and about 14 km from Katra with no motorablel road, this is one of the most arduous journey, still done by lakhs of devotees every day. We had done our reservation months before foreseeing the upcoming long weekends and huge rush at holy places in India. The preparations that we had done beforehand to ensure a smooth travel were.
• To and fro Train reservation done by Shri Shakti Express, which departs from New Delhi railway station at 5:30 pm
• Hotel booked on recommendation of a friend, “Hotel Chintpurni” at Katra
• Morning aarti booked online trough www.maavaishnodevi.org
• Dormitory booked at Ardhkuwari for Halt
• Yatra Parchi booked online through www.maavaishnodevi.org
So our 4 day journey for the holy shrine started on 22 June. We left from Dwarka at 4:15 pm, to catch our train at 5:30, we caught 4:40 airport metro which takes 20 minutes from ‘Dwarka sector 21’ to ‘New Delhi Railway Station’. As expected, there was huge rush at the railway station considering the long weekend. Other members of our group were already at the station. The overnight train journey was quite comfortable, we reached Katra railway station on time at 5:10 pm. The track to the holy shrine is clearly visible from the railway station. Katra railway station is a newly constructed railway station and is very neat and clean and well maintained.
One should know that all pre paid connection stop working as soon as you arrive at Jammu. Thankfully we had some members with post paid connection, so we were able to make a call at our hotel to call for a cab to pick us from the railway station. Out hotel was located at the end of Katra market. We were very disappointed with the condition of the hotel, it was not well maintained. Rooms were small and dingy, with leakages in the washrooms, sheets were not clean. We regretted not taking proper feedback about the hotel on internet. Some members of the group wanted to change the hotel as there were two toddlers travelling with us, but it would have been a tedious job searching a hotel at this time so the consensus was against it.
It was decided to start the trek in the evening after taking some rest, when it gets a little cold. I was not in mood of staying in the hotel for the rest of the day , so I decided to visit the local spots in Katra. I had to besiege my husband to come with me as he was not in mood of straining himself before the overnight trek that too when we were to climb with our two year old toddler. But I convinced him somehow.
We walked till the bus station to get an auto or taxi for local sightseeing. From the autowalas and prepaid taxi stand we came to know that there are three spots for local sightseeing which include “Baba Dhansar Cave”, “Nav Durga temple” and temple of “Jitto Ji”. An autowala agreed to take us for local sightseeing for 700 bucks, prepaid taxi cost was INR 1135.
These three spots fall on the same route, the autowala took us to the farthest spot first, he told us to visit the other two while returning. So our fist spot was Baba Dhansar cave which he told was 17km away. The route was quite scenic surrounded with mountains and greenery.
Baba Dhansar temple is dedicated to lord Shiva and Nag Devta, there is a natural water fall which makes a pond, bathing in the pond is not allowed but one can take bath in the following stream. The temple comes after climbing down some 200 stairs. One has to be ware of monkeys which can snatch you eatables. There is a natural cave and temple. Situated amidst nature, this temple is worth paying a visit to.
Our next destination was “Nav Durga Temple”. This temple will give you a feel of Mata Vaisno Devi. The temple is situated inside a beautiful natural cave. Photography is prohibited inside the cave. There are ponds at some distance where you can take bath, water was not that clean so we decided to skip it.
We next stopped at temple of “Jitto Ji”. Out driver told us that Jitto Ji was a farmer who used to visit Mata Vaisno Devi shrine every day in order to get water for his village as there was drought. Finally his prayers were heard by the Goddess who brought rain in the village and his village flourished. There is a statue of Jitto Ji at temple premises facing towards the shrine.
We often skip local visit to Katra as our focus is trekking Vaishno Devi shrine, but these temples are situated at beautiful locations and should not be missed. The local visit can be done in about 3-4 hours. By the time we reached hotel other members were up and ready for the trek. We took some refreshment and decided to set for the holy trek which is described in the successive blog.