Everything you would want to know about Vaishnodevi !!

Posted on May 6, 2019 by

Maa Vaishno Devi temple is one of the most important of several manifestations of Adi Shakti. Its temple in Katra at the Trikuta Mountains in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is of great spiritual importance to Hindus. In December last year, we Ghoomophiro sisters decided to go on a pilgrimage and have Darshana (that is enjoying the privileged sight of), Vaishno Devi. Here we bring you an account of our journey along with all the details you will need to smoothen up your travel plans if you, too, intend to visit this glorious temple.

The location of the temple

Mata Vaishno Devi temple is located at a height of 1,560 m above sea level in Himalaya’s Trikuta hills in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. The nearest town to the temple is Katra which is in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir State.

What is the best time to visit Maa Vaishno Devi temple?

The Maa Vaishno Devi temple is opened throughout the year and meteorologically speaking the best time to visit is Summer (when the region offers a cool break from the heat of summers) and, in case you wish to enjoy the snow, around the new year. However, the temple is immensely popular among the North Indians and these are also times when the temple is too crowded and you might be asked to wait and this wait has been know to go up to 20 hours. This is because the capacity permitted for yatra is 30 to 35000 yatries and this capacity is easily reached during the peak seasons and no new registrations are made during the waiting period. The experience itself might feel rushed.

Thus, in our opinion, avoiding the crowds, in this case, should be a bigger consideration that choosing times of a good climate. The crowds peek during times it is likely to be school holidays – summer breaks, winter breaks (Christmas to the first week of the new year), end of the school year breaks, as well as the weekends of the peak summer season. Thus those are the times you should avoid if you wish for a smooth and comfortable journey. The best time to visit the temple is to check the shrine’s site (https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/) and check the yatries (pilgrims) visiting that day. If the number falls below 18000, you can expect a smooth journey.

We visited the temple within the first week of December. One of the major advantages of visiting the temple in the winter is that original Ma Vaishno Devi Cave is also opened in the winter and this cave offers a unique mystical experience.

Where to stay?

Katra has a number of accommodation options for pockets of all sizes. You can also get a rented accommodation at Enquiry and Reservation Counter at Niharika Complex near bus stand for staying at Katra, Adkuwari, Sanjichhat or Bhawan – and it is this option we took.

What to wear?

Wear the clothes according to the climate – bring raincoats and umbrellas in winters and warm woolen clothes in winters. An important point here is that you bring along good hiking shoes and, if need be, walking stick to assist you through the hike to the temple. These accessories (umbrellas, raincoats, walking sticks, etc) are also readily available in Katra and along the hiking route.

We made our trip in the first week of December

How to reach Maa Vaishno Devi temple?

By road

There is a 13.5-kilometer hike from Katra. If you are physically fit enough, we highly recommend making this hike on foot because that is how you lose yourself to the spirituality of the place. Anyway, this is what we did.

Katra is well connected to  Jammu, New Delhi, etc (as well as many other parts of India) by bus service and Jammu, in its turn, is connected to major cities of India

By Rail

The nearest railhead is at Jammu but Katra’s railway station is well connected too.

By air

The nearest airport to Maa Vaishno Devi Temple is the Jammu Tawi airport. The airport is 46.7 km away via NH 144. Taxis on hire and Public Bus services are available from Jammu Tawi to the temple.

Commuting within the proximity

Please note that if you are traveling by air or rail, you will have to change the mode of transport from Jammu but in case you are traveling on road whether by public, owned or hired vehicle, the journey is shorter there is an option of taking a by-pass from Kunjwani which is nearly 10 km. off Jammu and head straight to the base camp in Katra. But that said, you might be interested in landmarks within the temple.

The Myth Behind the Holy Cave Temple

According to legend, a priest named Pandit Sridhar of Hansali village had organized a Bhandara as a religious offering to the goddess. The goddess Maa Vaishnavi was pleased with his devotion and gave her a Darshana before disappearing again.  Pandit Sridhar was saddened by her disappearance and so he vowed to fast until death hoping for another Darshana. The goddess appeared again in his dreams and gave him instructions on how to reach her abode in the cave at the Trikuta Hills. Pandit Sridhar found the Holy Cave and was there met by Goddess Vaishnavi who appeared in her true form and blessed him with four sons. She also made him the official custodian of the Holy Cave and,  it is his successors who continue to hold custody of temple.

The Hike

We reached Katra bus stop at 3 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon. We registered ourselves at Registration Counter near the Katra bus stop. The registration is done by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board which is the only authority legally permitted to register yatris. Upon registration, we are given Yatra Access Card/yatra slip/yatra parchi which is the written permission to start the yatra. Please note that you can not do the yatra without this permission.

The permission also includes a travel insurance against accidental death (a rare possibility) – for amounts up to 3 lakhs for grownups and 1 lakh for children. As you can see, Shrine is really thoughtful about pilgrims. It has also established information booths throughout the trek to assist pilgrims.

The time allotted was two hours later which was just enough time for us to check in at the accommodation we had rented and freshen up a little. Checking in now will save us from losing for a place of accommodation later when we come back from yatra tired after hours of hiking. It also helped to rid of extra luggage so we could hike lightly. You could also deposit your unnecessary luggage in a room kept specifically for the purpose and recollect them on way back.

Within allocated time, we were at Yatra camp and the atmosphere that is a common characteristic of all Hindu Devi pilgrim places greeted us. The Temple or Bhawan is 13.5 km from Katra. This hike is done by many of pilgrims on foot often wearing a head clip saying ‘Jai Mata Di’ – we wore those too, and singing devotional songs and sometimes even dancing a little. We hiked by foot and highly recommend you do the same – to have the full experience of the yatra.

However, if you still wish otherwise, there are a number of alternatives available –  ponies, electric vehicles, ropeway, palki, etc. You can hire a Helicopter service which will cover 9.5 kilometers of the distance up to Sanjichhat.

At Ardkunvari, which is the midway point of the trek, you can take one of two paths. The first is a normal like like before or you can take a detour which will take you through Garbhjoom, a tiny cave which is said to symbolize the journey of a fetus in the womb of the mother.


The hike lasted 5 hours for us (the time is variable depending on the speed with which you walk). Because of moving in the company of so many pilgrims, it doesn’t seem so long. The Maa Vaishno Devi temple that greeted us at the end was a sort of cave – which is rather narrow and thus it is not possible to visit it in groups – rather you take Darshana in a sort of perpetually moving queue.

The goddess appears in the form of three Pindies which stand for goddesses Mahakali. Mahasaraswati and Mahalakshmi. They are always adorned with fresh flowers and gold crowns. I offered my prayers and exited the cave, collecting Prasad on my way out.

The Darshana last only a short time but to a devoted mind that is enough.

Nearby sights – Bhairon temple

The Bhairon temple, dedicated to Lord Bhairava, a form of Lord Shiva, is further 1.5 km away from the Vaishnavi Devi shrine. It too is built inside a cave and some pilgrims consider their yatra incomplete without a visit here. After visiting Bhairon temple, we made our way – hiking down is quicker but it still needed us three hours.

Traveling tips

  1. Confirm the rates of the Porters, Ponies, Palanquins, etc before hiring them and make sure that they carry a valid registration card – note down their registration number if you are entrusting them with your valuables.
  2. Video cameras and other electronic equipment are not allowed on the track.
  3. Respect the sanctity of the pilgrimage and respect the sentiment of fellow pilgrims. Avoid loud dresses, vulgar language or offensive talk or gestures.
  4. Respect the sentiments of co-pilgrims.
  5. Cooperate with the security agencies.
  6. Avoid resting near landslide-prone areas.
  7. Avoid smoking, chewing tobacco or betel leaves, spitting, spreading litter, playing cards, etc.
  8. Consumption of liquor, intoxicants and non-vegetarian food is strictly prohibited.
  9. Do not litter
  10. Beware of thieves and pickpockets. Don’t carry too much cash, jewelry or valuables.
  11. Report unclaimed objects to security personnel.
  12. Don’t encourage begging.
  13. Obtain cash receipt for any cash paid at the Shrine Board outlets.
  14. If you have high blood pressure or heart or asthmatic problems, you must first get clearance from your doctor before starting the journey. In that case, you should also avoid stairs
  15. Proceed for Darshans only when the Group number is announced.
  16. Don’t use soaps, shampoos, oils, etc while bathing at Ghats.
  17. Wear clean clothes before leaving for the Darshans.
  18. Maintain silence within the cave.
  19. Make donations in boxes kept for the purpose only and not in front of idols or some person.
  20. Do not offer or pay any tip or Dakshina to any employee of the shrine.

So when are you packing bags to the holy shrine?

3 thoughts on “Everything you would want to know about Vaishnodevi !!

  • Thanks for letting us know about the time to visit the temple. This would be really helpful for many people who are struck about when to start.

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