Jai Maa Vaishno Devi,Jammu,India

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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