Vaishno Devi shrine is located in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. A small town Katra is the way and means for reaching out to the temple. The town is located in a high altitude and in the hilly region of lower Himalayas in the Trikuta range. Similarly, the case with the shrine of Vaishnavdevi, situated about 61 kms from Jammu, in the an altitude of about 5,200 feet over the sea level. The exact location of the site up hill is around 14 kms from the Katra town. On reaching out here, the experience is totally a different. Enchanting view of the different valleys, filled with lush green trees, humming sounds of the bees and chirping sounds of the birds, echoes of the devotees "Jai mata ki"," Jai mata di", Jai Jai maiya and so on, all along the path and water falls with their silvery brightness is not a thing to miss. All that is worth seeing and admiring far away from the madding crowd, unending sounds of the modern machines and vehicles. To reach on to the top of the hill one has to climb up by any of the routes available there. Devotees from all over India and abroad comes here to have a ‘Darshan’ of the Goddess presiding in the hills. Pilgrims in the earlier day’s used to begin their journey during the days of ‘Navaratri’ (a special night in September) and continuing for 3 months consecutively. During these three months at Katra, Vaishnavdevi and other temples hosts many wonderful programs dedicated to the Goddess. The 'Homos' and 'Yagnas' (rituals) celebrated by the devotees and pilgrims. There is an un-disputed belief about the Holy Places or Teerthasthal that they provide the much needed relief, peace and happiness to the visitor who came under the refuge of Mother Goddess from the daily hustles of life. Before going for the Darshan of Goddess one has to bathe in variably. There are various bathing places made for the same purpose. There is also an arrangement at ‘Charanganga’ which comes out of the holy cave. People can use this water for bathing. Then after the pilgrims sit down as per the serial number on the given slip and wait for their turn to have a Darshan of Goddess. It is to be noted that the pilgrims are not allowed to carry any sort of leather items, cigarettes or any other intoxicants while visiting the holy shrine. In the main entrance of the cave, there is a huge stone lying which is called Bhairav’s body. There is a continuous water flow from this cave. One will not be in a position to stand erect anywhere inside the cave. In fact no body can under stand the intricacy of the shape of the cave, shrine and the rest of the things in the Vaishnavdevi. One who is really bestowed with the grace of the Goddess for her Darshan only can understand this metaphysical phenomenon. Here in the cave of the hills Goddess Vaishnavdevi is presiding deity in her earthly abode in the forms of Mahalakshmi, Mashasaraswati and Mahakali. Some people say that out of the three presiding deities, the prominent incarnation is Goddess Vaishnavdevi. Speaking about the cave, the space would be sufficient for 3-4 people. Seated here in the very place Pundit takes the offerings of the devotees to the Goddess and gives out ‘Prasad’ to the devotees. After taking a Darshan people have to come out though the new exit, which is made a few years ago for the convenience of the pilgrims by the Shrine Board. After coming out of the temple people worship young girls and serve them Puri and Halwah( prasad ). After visiting Goddess Vaishnavdevi, people start their return journey towards Katra with Darshan of Bhairavnath where their pilgrimage ends at.

Places of interest around katra:

Batote:125 kms from Jammu Situated at an altitude of 1560 metres on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, this resort straddles the forested slopes of the Patnitop mountain range, overlooking the spectacular lie of the Chenab gorge. This place is a very well developed tourist resort with lots of commercial activity and facilities.

Jhajjar Kotli:35 Kms on the National Highway leading towards Srinagar is the Jhajjar Kotli Tourist Complex, built on the banks of Jhajjar rivulet. The crystal clear, cool water of Jhajjar attracts picnickers in large numbers during the summer. A Tourist Cafetaria and a small Tourist Bungalow are the facilities provided here by JKTDC.

Kud:106 kms from Jammu, this popular resort is situated on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, at an altitude of 1738 metres. An ideal picnic spot this place has a bracing climate. Heavy woolens are required in winters while as light/medium clothing is required in summers. It is a very well developed hill station in Udhampur District.It also experiences heavy rainfall in the rainy season.

Mantalaii:Situated a few kilometers further away from Sudh Mahadev, Mantalaii is surrounded by lush deodar forests, at an altitude of over 2000 metres. It is believed that Lord Shiva had got married to the Goddess Parvati here.

Patni Top:112 kms from Jammu. This famous hill resort is perched on a beautiful plateau, at an altitude of 2024 metres across which the Jammu-Srinagar Highway passes. Enveloped by thickly wooded forests, Patnitop offers beautiful picnic spots, peaceful walks and breathtaking views of the mountainscape of the Chenab basin. In winter, the resort is generally covered with a thick mantle of snow thus providing opportunities for various snow games including skiing. It is the best developed tourist spot of Jammu and is second to none in its natural charm, climate, pine forests and lush green cover. The occupancy of the huts and Dak Banglow is full in summer months. There is ambitious plan of Patnitop Development Authority to develop Patnitop, Kud, Sud-Mahadev, Mantalai circuit. The costruction work of Mall Road at Kud is also proposed to be taken up. Trekking route from Kud to Patnitop-Sanasar has already been completed. The complete tourist circuit covers Jammu-Katra-VaishnoDeviji, Kud-Sanasar, Patnitop-Gourikund, Sudmahadev, Mantali, extending upto Latti-Dhuna.

Sanasar:119 kms. from Jammu and only 17 kms. from Patnitop, Sanasar is cup shaped meadow surrounded by gigantic conifers. A place for a quite holiday, the meadow has now been developed as a golf course. It also provides opportunities for para-gliding.

Shiv Khori:There are many places of tourist and religious importance around Katra also. The devotees coming for the darshans of the deity can club their pilgrimage with a visit to these places. Specially during the rush time when there is a lot of rush at Katra and Yatries have to wait for some time before being allowed to proceed to Bhawan, they can utilize their time by a visit to these places. The Holy Cave abode of Lord Shiva is situated at a distance of 70 Kms from Katra. The cave is a real wonder to be seen and measures nearly half a kilometer in length with a 4 feet high naturally formed Shiv-lingam at the heart of the Sanctum Sanctorum. The cave is in the shape of Lord Shiva's Damroo i.e. wide at the two ends while very congested at the center. The width of the cave is so less at certain place that a person can barely crawl through whereas at places it over a hundred feet wide and quite high too. There are a lots of features which can be observed in the cave, however the best of them is the natural milky water dripping from the top to the Shiv-Ling symbolizing the eternity of the holy river Ganga. The place hosts a major fair on Shivratri. The Shiv-Khori Shrine is well connected to Katra / Jammu by road. The devotees can visit the place by taxi/car. Few bus services from Katra are also available.

Baba Dhansar:This Temple of Lord Shiva is located at a distance of about 15 Kms. from Katra on way to Salal Dam. Here, a huge spring emerges from the rocks in a thick grove of trees and forms a number of small cascading waterfalls before ultimately flowing into the Holy rivulet that merges with the Chenab River. There is a naturally formed Shivling on which droplets of water fall at a constant pace all the year round. A big fair is held here during Shivratri. For the facility of the yatris visiting the place, the Shrine Board has carried out some developments including the construction of a Dharamshalla.


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Caves of Ellora are twenty eight kilometers (18 miles) from Aurangabad. The road passes by the base of the Daultabad fort. The Cave Temples of Ellora are the product of three religious systems-Buddhism, Brahmanism, and Jainism containing elaborate carvings of gods and goddesses and remarkable memorials of the three great faiths they represent.

Each system had its individual style of architecture and Ellora presents the varied styles side by side. The sculptural work, too, reveals the points of contrast. The excavations on a sloping hill-side are spread over an area, from north to south, of about two kilometers. There are 34 caves in all: 12 Buddhist caves (500-750 AD), 17 Hindu caves (600-870 AD) and 5 Jain caves (800-1000 AD). The caves are numbered roughly chronologically, starting with the oldest Buddhist caves at the south end.

The Buddhist Caves:
The Buddhist caves are the earliest of the Ellora Caves, dating from 500 to 750 AD. All except Cave 10 are viharas, which were used for study, meditation, communal rituals, eating and sleeping.
The caves become steadily larger and more elaborately decorated as they progress to the north, which scholars have explained by the growing need to compete with Hinduism for patronage. The earliest Hindu caves at Ellora date from 600 AD, right in the middle of the Buddhist period.
Cave 1 is a plain vihara with eight small monastic cells are very little sculpture. It may have served as a granary for the larger halls.

Cave 2 is much more impressive. A large central chamber supported by 12 great square pillars is lined with sculptures of seated Buddhas. The doorway into the sanctuary is flanked by a muscular Padmapani, holding a lotus, and a bejeweled Maitreya, the Future Buddha. Both are accompanied by their consorts. Inside the shrine is a stately seated Buddha on a lion throne.

Caves 3 and 4 have a similar design as Cave 2, but are in poor condition.

Cave 5 the largest in this series, is viahra, 35.66 meter by 17 meters (117 ft. by 56 ft.), and has in addition two side recesses. Twenty four pillars hold roof. The interior seems to indicate that it was used either as a, room for guests or as a classroom for novitiates. There is the usual Buddha image in a chapel.

Cave 6 was carved in the 600s and is home to two of the finest sculptures at Ellora. On the left is the goddess Tara, with an intense but kind expression. Opposite her on the right is Mahamayuri, the Buddhist goddess of learning, shown with her attribute, the peacock. A diligent student sits at his desk below. Significantly, Mahamayuri has a very similar Hindu counterpart, Saraswati.

Caves No.7, 8, 9 are not worth seeing.

The magnificent Cave 10 dates from the early 700s and is known as the Carpenter’s Cave because of its imitation in stone of wooden beams on the ceiling. At the far end, a seated Buddha is enthroned in front of a large stone stupa.

The Hindu Caves:
Created during a time of prosperity and revival of Hinduism, the Hindu caves represent an entirely different style of creative vision and skill than the Buddhist caves. The Hindu temples were carved from top to bottom and required several generations of planning and coordination to take shape.

There are 17 Hindu caves in all (numbered 13 to 29), which were carved between 600 and 870 AD. They occupy the center of the cave complex, grouped around either side of the famous Kailasa Temple.

In contrast to the serene and solemn Buddhas of the earlier caves, the walls of the Hindu caves are covered in lively bas-reliefs depicting events from the Hindu scriptures. All of the caves are dedicated to the god Shiva, but there are also some images of Vishnu and his various incarnations.

Cave 14 dates from the early 600s and was converted from a Buddhist vihara. Its long walls are adorned with magnificently carved friezes and the entrance to the sanctuary is guarded by the river goddess Ganga and Yamuna. Inside, an alcove shelters seven large-breasted fertility goddesses holding chubby babies on their laps. Appearing to their right is the female aspect of Ganesh and the cadaverous goddesses of death, Kala and Kali.

Cave 15 is also a former Buddhist cave adopted by the Hindus. The ground floor is mostly uninteresting, but the top floor has some of the best sculpture at Ellora. Along the right wall are sequences of panels showing five of Vishnu's ten incarnations or avatars, which give the cave its name, Das Avatara.

A panel to the right of the antechamber depicts the superiority of Shaivism in the region at the time - Shiva emerges from a linga while his rivals Brahma and Vishnu stand in humility and supplication. The cave's most elegant sculpture is in the left wall of the chamber: it shows Shiva as Nataraja, the Cosmic Dancer.

The most notable Hindu cave (Cave 16) is not a cave at all, but a magnificent temple carved from the solid rock, patterned closely on the freestanding temples of the time. It represents Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva, and is called the Kailashnath, Kailash, or Kailasa Temple. It originally had a thick coat of white plaster to make it look like a snowy mountain.

The Kailash Temple is a stupendous piece of architecture, with interesting spatial effects and varied sculpture. It is believed to have been started by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I (756-773). The construction was a feat of human genius – it entailed removal of 250,000 tons of rock, took 100 years to complete and covers an area double the size of Parthenon in Athens.Many more Hindu caves stretch down the hillside north of Kailash, but only three are must-sees: 21, 25 and 29.

Cave 21, the Ramesvara, dates from the late 500s and is thought to be the oldest Hindu cave at Ellora. It houses some fine sculpture, including a pair of river goddesses, two door guardians and some loving couples around the walls of the balcony.

Cave 25 features a sculpture of the sun god Surya driving his chariot towards the dawn.

North of this, the trail soon drops steeply down to a gorge, under a seasonal waterfall, and back up to Cave 29, the Dhumar Lena. Dating from the late 500s, it has an unusual cross-shaped plan. Pairs of lions guard its three staircases. Inside, the walls are covered in large friezes. To the left of the entrance, Shiva slays the Andhaka demon, and then defeats the many-armed Ravana's attempt to shake him and Parvati off the top of Mount Kailash. Don't miss the dwarf baring his bottom to taunt the demon! On the south side, Shiva teases Parvati by holding her arm back as she prepares to throw dice in a game.

The Jain Caves:
The Jain caves, dating from the late 800s and 900s, are 2 km north down an asphalt road. They reflect the distinctiveness of Jain philosophy and tradition, including a strict sense of asceticism combined with elaborate decoration. They are not large compared to others, but contain exceptionally detailed artworks. Many of the Jain caves had rich paintings in the ceilings, fragments of which are still visible. The most notable of the group is Cave 32, the Indra Sabha, a miniature of the Kailash Temple. The bottom level is plain but the upper floor has elaborate carvings, including a fine lotus flower on the ceiling. Two tirthankaras guard the entrance to the central shrine. On the right is the naked Gomatesvara, who is meditating deeply in the forest - so much so that vines have grown up his legs and animals, snakes and scorpions crawl around his feet.




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