The journey from Katra to Vaishno Devi is a pilgrimage millions of devotees undertake each year. Located in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in northern India, Vaishno Devi Mandir is one of the most revered Hindu shrines in the country. Legend has it that Mata Vaishno Devi met Pandit Shridhar disguised as a girl child at the spot which is today known as the Darshani Darwaza.
This is a popular spot because Darshani Darwaza is where one gets a complete view of Trikuta Mountain. Located at a height of almost 2800 feet above sea level, This is one of the two gates that lead to the divine doors of Mata Vaishno Devi. You can reach the second gate after climbing a flight of stairs till you encounter the grandeur of the porch developed by the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.
In this article, we will delve into the details of the distance between Katra and Vaishno Devi, the various modes of transportation available, and the significance of this spiritual journey.
Katra to Vaishno Devi Distance
The distance between Katra and Vaishno Devi is approximately 14 kilometers. Katra serves as the base camp for pilgrims who wish to visit the holy shrine. It is located at the foothills of the Trikuta Mountains, where the Vaishno Devi shrine is situated. To reach the shrine, pilgrims must undertake a trek uphill, covering a distance of 14 kilometers and a height of approximately 5200 feet.
The Old and New Tracks
The old track comprises an unpaved pathway with a few flights of stairs that lead to Bhawan and has been in use for hundreds of years.
However, this track was fraught with loose stones and sharp gradients which is why there is now a New or Alternate track that has been re-laid by the Board. This is widened and tiled and is far gentler in its slopes with necessary parapets, railings, and rain shelters, and is well-illuminated. There are adequate restrooms along the way, has over more than 1200 High-Pressure Sodium Vapor Lamps, medical facilities, and emergency services, and enough potable water along the way for travelers and devotees.
There are also a number of tea/coffee and soft drinks sale outlets apart from a Dosa Point at Himkoti Viewpoint. There is a zero-emission battery vehicle that is also run on this track to Manokmana Bhawan for the infirm, sick, and handicapped devotees although booking of the facility is subject to availability.
Katra and Vaishno Devi: Various Methods of Traveling
There are multiple ways to cover the distance between Katra and Vaishno Devi.
The most popular and traditional mode of transportation is by foot. Pilgrims can start their trek from the base camp in Katra and follow the well-marked path that leads to the shrine.
Pony rides and palanquins
Alternative options are available for those who may find it challenging to undertake the entire trek on foot. Pony rides and palanquins (palkis) are available for hire, allowing pilgrims to be carried uphill. These options provide convenience, especially for the elderly, disabled, or those with physical limitations. However, it is important to note that the availability of ponies and palanquins may be subject to weather conditions and demand.
In recent years, to cater to the growing number of pilgrims, the Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has introduced a modern mode of transportation called the Vaishno Devi Helicopter Service. This service allows devotees to travel by helicopter from Katra to Sanjichhat, which is close to the shrine. The helicopter ride offers a time-saving and convenient option for those who prefer a quicker journey.
The Vaishno Devi Helicopter Service operates from Katra and offers regular flights throughout the year, subject to weather conditions. It is advisable to make bookings for helicopter tickets, especially during peak pilgrimage seasons, as the demand for these services is quite high.
The helicopter service reduces the travel time significantly, with the flight taking approximately 5-8 minutes. However, it is important to note that the helicopter service is subject to availability and can be affected by weather conditions, especially during the winter season when snowfall may disrupt operations.
Important points when covering the distance between Katra and Vaishno Devi
You will arrive at a small bridge over the Ban Ganga, the famous river that has many tales of the miracles of the Goddess associated with it, once you cross the Police Check Post and Yatra Parchi Check Post. Many pilgrims go to the Ghats built here to take a dip in the waters of this holy river before proceeding further.
The name of this river is derived from the two words, Ban and Ganga which mean Arrow and the sacred river Ganges respectively. According to folklore, Mata Vaishno Devi created this water body with an arrow from her quiver on her way to the Holy Cave and then had taken a dip in it to wash her hair.
Located about 1.5 km from Banganga at an altitude of 3380 feet is Charan Paduka, the place which houses the imprints of the Goddess’ feet on a rock slab. Once you complete the Darshan here and seek Her blessings, you proceed further.
This is also an important spot on the route as it features a medical unit of the Shrine Board equipped with all necessary medical facilities and trained medical staff.
Located at an altitude of 4800 feet, you can witness the sight of the fluttering flag and temple spires from this point. It is also the halfway mark on the track as it is located at a distance of nearly 6 km from Katra.
The term Ardhkuwari is derived from Adi Kumari, meaning “The Eternal Virgin”. As per legend, during her girlhood, Vaishnavi had disappeared from the Bhandaara organized by Pandit Shridhar and halted at Adkuwari, where, in a small womb-shaped cave she meditated for nine months.
At a distance of 2.75 km from Adkuwari, you can catch a glimpse of the breathtaking sights of the entire valley from here. There is a viewpoint, a restaurant, and a dosa counter here. You can take some time to rest and relax by an artificial pond, in a garden, or at the meditation center here.
This tiny plateau is just 2.5 km from the Holy Shrine of Vaishno Devi which offers a scenic view and serves as a pleasant halt for pilgrims. There is a shopping complex and several toilet blocks as well as a drinking water supply here. There is also a hospital and a Helipad that has in turn facilitated the introduction of Helicopter Service between Katra and Sanjhichhat.
The Bhairon Temple is yet another popular resting point here with restrooms, potable water, and shops selling reasonably priced beverages and packed food items such as biscuits and snacks. The Temple area has been enhanced and beautified with marble tiles and slabs making it a convenient and memorable spot for visitors.
The Holy Bhawan is where the Sanctum Sanctorum or the Holy Cave is ensconced which is the ultimate destination of pilgrims. Inside the Holy Cave, the Goddess has revealed herself in her three forms Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi, and Mata Saraswati.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. How Long Does It Take To Complete The Trek From Katra To Vaishno Devi?
Ans. The duration of the trek depends on individual fitness levels and the pace of the trek. On average, it takes around 4-6 hours to complete the uphill trek from Katra to Vaishno Devi. The duration may vary based on factors such as weather conditions and the number of breaks taken along the way.
Q2. How Can I Book Helicopter Tickets For The Vaishno Devi Helicopter Service?
Ans. Helicopter tickets for the Vaishno Devi Helicopter Service can be booked online through the official website of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. It is advisable to make bookings, especially during peak pilgrimage seasons, as the demand for helicopter tickets can be high.
Q3. Is The Trek From Katra To Vaishno Devi Difficult?
Ans. The trek from Katra to Vaishno Devi involves an uphill climb and can be physically challenging, especially for those who are not accustomed to long walks or rigorous physical activity. However, the path is well-paved, and rest stops are available along the way. It is important to pace oneself, stay hydrated, and wear comfortable clothing and footwear.
Q4. What Is The Significance Of The Pilgrimage To Vaishno Devi?
Ans. The pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi holds immense significance for devotees. It is believed that by undertaking this journey with faith and devotion, one can seek blessings, fulfillment of wishes, and spiritual enlightenment. Devotees visit the shrine to pay homage to Mata Vaishno Devi, who is considered a manifestation of the Hindu goddess Durga.
Q5. What Should I Keep In Mind While Undertaking The Pilgrimage To Vaishno Devi?
Ans. The trek from Katra to Vaishno Devi is not just a physical challenge but also a test of one’s determination and perseverance. The steep ascent and uneven terrain can be demanding, especially for those who are not accustomed to long walks or rigorous physical activity. It is recommended to wear comfortable clothing and footwear suitable for trekking, carry sufficient water, and any necessary medication, and pace oneself during the journey. It is also recommended to check weather conditions and plan the journey accordingly. Following the instructions and guidelines of the shrine authorities is essential for a safe and fulfilling pilgrimage experience.
The distance between Katra and Vaishno Devi may be only 14 kilometers, but the significance of this pilgrimage transcends physical boundaries. It is a journey of faith, devotion, and self-discovery. Whether undertaken on foot, by pony, palanquin, or helicopter, the pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi is an experience that leaves a lasting impression on the hearts and minds of the devotees.