Located in Trikuta hills, 13 kms from Katra (in Jammu and Kashmir); Vaishno Devi is a town that’s home to the famous Vaishno Devi Mandir. This renowned shrine allures millions of devotees from all over the world. Popularly known as Mata Rani, Vaishnavi and Trikuta, Vaishno Devi is a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Durga. It is believed that during the pooja and aarti, Goddesses arrive at the Holy cave to pay their respect to Mata Rani. Devotees believe goddess herself calls the devotees to reach here.
The Holy shrine board had inception in 1986, and the temple has witnessed an increasing number of devotees ever since. Vaishno Devi is a religious trekking destination where pilgrims walk about 13km uphill to reach the caves which are among one of the 108 Shakti Peetha. It takes about 6-9 hours depending on the weather and pace. Ponies and Palanquins, as well as helicopter services, are available by various vendors to take you up there. The whole way is decently paved with lots of shops selling snacks, food and religious goods. There was 85.87 Lakh of devotees in the year 2018.
For the Convenience of the Yatries, various private Tour Operators and Travel Agents offer their services and organize tours to places in and around Katra, Jammu, Srinagar or even other locations. Some of the common locations are Shiv Khori, Patnitop, Kud, Mansar, Sanasar, Char Devis (Four Devis), and also various destinations outside the state including Himachal Pradesh.
Best Time to visit
The Yatra to the Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is open throughout the year. The summer months of May, June and July and the festival period of Chaitra (spring) and Sharad-Ashwin (Autumn) Navratras and New Year vacations witness peak rush. As a result of this rush, devotees have to often wait for 12-20 hours before having Darshan. It is therefore strongly adviced, that for comfortable, quick and satisfying Darshan, the period of peak rush must be avoided.
Instead the monsoons and winters are good periods to plan a yatra. During the monsoons, Nature is at its scenic best with water falls and lush green surroundings. The winter months of December and January witness snow fall and barring the very young and the physically infirm, it can prove to be a charming season for others to visit the Shrine. The original Holy Cave of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is also open during the winters and Darshans through this cave is a unique mystical experience. A thumb rule to plan one’s journey is to log on to this website and check out the pattern and number of pilgrims visiting the Holy Shrine. If the average number of pilgrims during a period is less than 15,000-18,000 on any given day, one can expect a comfortable trip and a satisfying Darshan of the Holy Pindies.
Ardh Kuwari Cave
Before making the Bhavan her abode, Mata Vaishnodevi was believed to have taken rest in this cave for 9 months. Today, this cave acts as a stopover for the pilgrims on their journey up to the Bhavan.
An adventure for the kids, one has to crawl on his knees to reach the other side. Once on the other side, you can see a large shrine which is built dedicated to the three Goddesses – Kali, Laxmi and Saraswati. The darshan route is semicircular, so that you exit from a different opening at a small distance from the entry route.
Timing of Ardh Kuwari Cave
All days of the week5:00 AM – 12:00 PM
4:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Located 3 km from the holy caves of Vaishno Devi, Bhairavnath Temple is dedicated to Saint turned demon, Baba Bhairavnath. It is believed that the goddess herself proclaimed that no pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi will be complete without visiting Bhairav Temple. The temple is believed to built in the same spot where he took his last breath. The Temple area has been improved by fixing marble tiles and slabs along the pre-ambulation of the temple. Situated in the Bhairav Ghati, the route to the temple is treacherous. The picturesque landscapes surround the temple, and the serenity makes the journey worthwhile.
Historical Context: According to mythology, Kaal Bhairav was killed by Mata Vaishno Devi. In his last breath, Bhairav repented for his sinful acts and the Goddess forgave him. And the goddess proclaimed no pilgrimage of the goddess will be complete without visiting Bhairav Temple.
Nau Devi Temple
The Nau Devi Temple is a popular tourist attraction for the pristine location it is situated in and for the high reverence, it is held at. A flight of about hundred stairs leads to the small holy cave. Here, you will find “pind” of the nine ‘devis’ (goddesses) which are incarnations of Goddess Durga namely Shailaputri Devi, Bharmachirini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda mata, Katyayani, Maha Kali, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri. The surrounding areas of the Nau Devi Temple are very green and clean. There are two caves here, one housing a Shiva Linga and the other the Nau Devis. The darshan shall not take you a long time as this temple does not remain over crowded. A river flows next to the cave. After your darshan, feed the fishes while guarding your prasadam from the play full monkeys. Take in the cool breeze and the freshness of the surroundings. Sit here for a while, you will feel totally calmed.
Situated by the iconic Bahu Fort, the Bagh-e-bahu is a beautiful and popular garden of Jammu. Atop a mountain facing the Tawi river, this garden is a sight to behold, combining the peaceful aura of the garden with sprawling lawns, grand fountains, charming stone sculptures, a beautiful lake and a large aquarium, all coming together in one magnificent place. Tourists and locals come here for the aura of peace, serenity and the romantic vibe it presents to spend a relaxed evening in this garden.
Upon entering, one is greeted with a huge sign saying Bagh-e-bahu, made out of little plants trimmed to these shapes. Inside, one can find a range of trees and flowers decorating the sides of the walkway, giving the whole place a serene vibe. This terraced garden is home to multiple fountains present at various levels. These fountains bring with them add to the ambience of the place, especially at night when they are all lit up.
The garden has its own lake situated at the topmost level. The setting for this lake is picturesque, surrounded by colourful flowers juxtaposed with contrasting stone walkways to provide an amazing contrast to the passerby’s eyes. There are also waterfalls and a central water canal that runs through the garden, displaying a great eye for the aesthetic design. The stone sculptures found here blend in well with the surrounding greenery, making for a serene setting.
Finally, this garden is home to the largest underground aquarium in India, shaped like a fish, with 24 aquarium caves and 13 small caves holding freshwater and marine water fishes. This is a well-maintained aquarium, with state-of-the-art equipment, a public gallery, laboratory, and a fascinating museum, home to over 400 species of freshwater and marine fish. All in all, the entire garden is a designer’s treat, blending the elements of earth, water, and greenery, making it a prime attraction on a trip to Jammu.
“Shiva” means “auspicious” – is one of the Hindu god which makes the supreme Trinity, comprising of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the Preserver and Shiva or Mahesh, the Destroyer and Re-Producer of life. Lord Shiva is the destroyer of the world, which is responsible for the change.
Lord Shiva is worshipped in many forms. He is conceived in his unborn and invisible form as lingum. The “Shiv-Lingum” symbolizes the power behind the creation. It is believed that at the end of all creation, during the great deluge, all of the different aspects of God find a resting place in the Lingam.
Famous cave shrine of Shivkhori situated in District Reasi of J&K state depicts the natural formation of shivlingum. It is one of the most venerated cave shrines of Lord Shiva in the region. The Holy cave is more than 150 mts long & houses 4 feet high Svayambhu Lingum, which constantly baths in a milky lime fluid dripping from the ceiling. The cave is full of natural impression & images of various Hindu Deities & full of divine feelings. That is why Shivkhori is known as “Home of Gods”. The route from Jammu to Shiv Khori is full of beautiful & picturesque mountains, waterfalls & lakes.