Vaishno Devi Mandir is one of the holy Hindu temples dedicated to Shakti, located in the hills of Vaishno Devi, Jammu. The Yatra begins at Katra and pilgrims have to cover 13 km. of terrain on foot to reach the Darbar. One kilometer away from Katra, you would find Banganga, place where Mata quenched her thirst and at 6 km., the holy cave at Adhkawari. Ardhkuwari is also known Garbh Joon. It comes in the mid way to Vaishno Devi.
Every hour, every day, every year a mass of humanity surges up steep pathways that cut across the hillside for mile after mile. Popular belief holds that anybody who walks the Himalayan trail to her abode to ask for a boon rarely goes back disappointed. There are many who journey here year after year to pay obeisance regardless of their faith or belief, creed or class, caste or religion, for Mata Vaishno Devi transcends all such barriers. a yatra slip is available only from the Yatra Registration Counter at the Tourism Reception Centre, Katra Bus Stand and nowhere els.e. Without an authentic yatra slip, crossing of Banganga check post will not be allowed. The Yatra Slip is absolutely free but is necessary to commence the Yatra.
As the legend goes, more than 700 years ago Vaishno Devi a devotee of Lord Vishnu, used to pray to Lord Rama and had taken vow of celibacy. Bhairon Nath, a tantric (demon-God) tried to behold Her. Making use of his tantric powers, Bhairon Nath was able to see Her going towards the Trikuta mountains and gave chase. The Goddess felt thirsty at Banganga and shot an arrow into the earth from where water gushed out. Charan Paduka, marked by the imprints of Her feet, is the place where she rested. The Goddess then meditated in the cave at Adhkawari. It took Bhairon Nath nine months to locate Her, the reason why the cave is known as Garbh Joon. Mata Vaishno Devi blasted an opening at the other end of the cave with Her Trident when the demon-God located Her.
On arriving at the Holy Cave at Darbar, she assumed the form of Maha Kali and cut off Bhairon Nath's head which was flung up the mountain by the force of the blow and fell at the place where the Bhairon Temple is now located. The boulder at the mouth of the Holy Cave according to the legend is the petrified torso of Bhairon Nath who was granted divine forgiveness by the benevolent Mata in his dying moments.
You can obtain caps, canvas shoes, sticks etc. on hire for the Yatra. people who carry weight on their backs) can be hired for carrying your luggage. Those who have problems in climbing on the mountains, can hire the services of a pony. The entire 13 km route is quite wide and tiled. Besides, the whole path is lit up every night by powerful sodium vapour lamps. Shelter cum sheds and shelter cum cafeterias are setup throughout the route. Pure vegetarian food is available at these outlets. Price charts are exhibited at all these outlets prominently. Drinking water has been made available all along the route, with water coolers and storage facilities.
The shrine is visited all through the year, but the path is difficult during the winters due to snowfall.
Nearest airport - Jammu (48 km from Katra). Daily Flights are available from Delhi, Srinagar, Mumbai and Other Major cities.
Nearest Railway Station - Jammu. Jammu is directly connected to cities like Mumbai, Delhi Kolkata and Chennai. Besides, it is connected with other major cities of the country.
Jammu is the terminus of a large number of Inter State Bus Services. Buses leave for Katra every 10 minutes from the main bus stand at Jammu between 5.30 am to 8.30 pm.
Private Taxis are also available for hire between Jammu and Katra. These can be hired from Jammu Airport, Jammu Railway Station and the Tourist Reception Centre at Jammu.
Where to stay :
Yatri Niwas managed by the Shrine Board offer free accommodations at Adhkawari, Sanjichhat and Darbar. Rest Houses maintained by the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department, private hotels, the room rent ranging from Rs.300/- per day to Rs.3000/- per day. Tourists are however advised to keep themselves away from touts promising free Dharamshala accommodations.