Our mesmerizing journey to Maa Vaishno Devi started from holy Maa Ganga city Haridwar Uttarakhand India. We boarded the train named Hemkunt Express from Haridwar to Katra via Jammu. Its better to reach station before 30 mins of departure to search your platform number. The joy of the journey will start as soon as you enter the train. As the final destination of the train is katra, so many people you will come across are going to Maa Vaishno Devi Shirne, The atmosphere of the train itself is religious. People recite bhajans and aarti. Not only people from neighbor places visit the shrine but from far-most places come to visit the shrine. If you board train around 18:15 you will reach Katra around morning 07:00.
Once you arrived at katra railway station you can go nearby hotel or lodge to keep your luggage and take rest a bit for a journey to Maa Vaishnio Devi.You need to hire auto for the basecamp after which no vehicles are allowed. On the way to basecamp you have to register your journey in Yatra registration office. For registration you must have one Id proof which can be either Aadhar card, Passport, Voter ID or Driving license. There are many shops for prasad around but my recommendation is please buy prasad at basecamp where you start your journey or best option is to buy prasad at fair shop at the top near the Maata Rani Bhawan.
Special notice : Please keep your Yatra registration receipt with your in whole journey, there are 2-3 checkpoints where you need to show tour registration receipt. Please have breakfast before you start your journey. There are many restaurants around basecamp including Gulshan kumar langar.
For healthy people I recommend to do entire journey on foot around 15 -1 8 Kms and off-course me and my mom are one of them, But for other people there are other option too.
1- You can take horse ride which cost you 600 to 800 INR for one way and 1700 – 2000 INR for round trip.
2- You can take palanquin( Paalki ) which cost you 2500-3000 INR for one way and 5000-6000 INR for round trip.
3- I have seen electronic auto running around Maa Ardhkumari temple ( 1/2 way of journey ) but I don’t know how to book those auto and where to book. You can ask some person or search on net if you interested in this option.
4- Helicopter is other option you have with1300 INR for one way and 2500 INR for round trip
Special Note => You need to book helicopter tickets 2- 3 months prior to journey.
After having breakfast on the bank of Banganga we started our journey.The whole environment around you is so cheerful.It boost your enthusiasm to track and walk along with the crowd. There is no need to stuff the eatable in your bag because of many shops around the way.
There are two ways to go on barefoot, one is the staircase which is only for healthy people you can see number of stairs before heading up. Second way is road which take a bit more time then staircase but good for all people. While riding the roads I have noticed that horse riders will create inconvenience for the pedestrians as there is no separate route for horse riders. You can have rest on every point when you feel tired as there are chairs available at every point for taking rest also washroom facility even water coolers are available. We tried both via road and staircase . What my experience is while you are taking staircase its shorter than road but climbing several staircase can cause some knee pain so better option is sometime take staircase and when you feel tired take the longer route of road. We had coffee, juice and water on time-intervals to keep our body energetic as well as hydrated. We traveled in September 20th so that time it was neither hot nor cold.
Once you reach near Ardhkumari temple you will find two separate route to get Mata Rani Bhawan temple
1- Bhawan via Himkoti (5.5 KM)
2- Bhawan via adhkumari (6.5 KM)
Before proceeding any route here you have to note that first register your self for Adhkumari Darsan. There is a cave called garbh grah in temple which you must see. Once you register yourself with garbh grah darsan, depends on crowd you will get your number on same night or after 1 or 2 days.. Go ahead to Bhawan via Himkoti (5.5 KM) and return having darsan from Bhairon Mandir to adhkumari (6.5 KM).
Once you reach Bhawan after 5.5 KM scenic root , keep your belonging in locker and take bath you want. You can not get entry for darsan with your belonging specially leather made goods so keep those too in lockers. Now proceed to darsan stay in queue and wait for your turn. Once you reach inside cave you will hardly get 20-30 seconds for darsan so keep concentration to see pind ( There are three pinds in cave covered with ornament ) and avoid looking here and there like panditji and policman etc. Go to the shiv mandir after having darsan. Now you can relax with some snacks and get ready to climb another 2 KM for Bhairon mandir. It is saying that without bhairon mandir darsan, Vaishno devi Yatra is not successful.
So proceed for Bhairon manidir at the top and you will find that its worth to be there. You will find yourself in clouds like heaven surrounded by mountains. If you have time you can stay in Adh kwari to get your turn to see Garbh grah. There are many lodges where you can easily find dormatory with 200INR. It might be evening 20:00 or 21:00 when you are in Adh kwari you can see city panaromic night view which is really Wonderfull.In case you are hungry , take dinner near Banganga market where you can find many shops running full night and restaurants too.
Finally take auto and come back to your hotel room. Next day we had a small tour around jammu market having fast foods and then back to Haridwar via overnight train.The whole 3 days trip was hectic but worth as per our tight schedule with companions.
- Try to visit shrine out of Navratra days and summer holiday to avoid rush.
- If you want to travel from Dehradun you have one more option Dehradun => Katra volvo and vice versa.
- From Delhi, Chandigarh its easier as there are many direct bus and trains to Katra and vice versa.
Please feel free to ask any question or tips if somebody is planning to go for yatra. Jai Mata Di…..!!!