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- 14 Nights
- 15 Days
The young, the old, the poor, the rich – everyone has heard this chant. It’s a call that has been reverberating for centuries, a call to undertake a physical as well as spiritual journey to the holiest of holy shrines – Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. The popular belief states that only when you hear the call of Mata Vaishno Devi (as in an epiphany) only then will you be able to make the arduous trek to the holy shrine.
The yatra to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine is one of the holiest and the most arduous pilgrimages for Hindus all over the world. The shrine is at an altitude of 5,300 feet and is about 14 kilometres from Katra. The trek is not an easy one as the hills are steep and requires a lot of stamina and fitness. Instilled with a belief that Mata Vaishno Devi grants wishes to those who seek her blessings, from newlyweds to old couples, everyone undertakes this yatra.
Over the years, the facilities along the route to the holy shrine have made the journey comfortable. For the elderly and those of ill health, mule and pony rides are available to negotiate the steep incline. Furthermore, pilgrims can also avail helicopter services from Katra and Jammu to Sanjichat. Sanjichat is the highest point on the trekking route of Vaishno Devi. The Bhawan is a downhill trek of about 2.5 km from Sanjichat. Pure vegetarian food stalls and hygienic outlets are available at regular intervals so the pilgrims do not face any hassle during their journey.
The yatra and the route remain open for the pilgrims throughout the year. The most popular time to undertake the darshan is during the festive and auspicious time of the Navratras.
There are two routes you can take from Katra to get to the Bhawan – the old route and the new route. The old route is longer and considerably steeper. It goes through Ardha Kuwari, reaches the summit at Bhairav Ghati and from there climbs down to Bhawan. You can hire horses and ponies to reach Bhawan through the old route.
The new route is shorter and much easier to tackle. Although it does not go through Ardha Kuwari, many pilgrims first go to Ardha Kuwari, then get back to the base camp and then take the new route to the Bhawan. The new route does not go through Bhairav Ghati and horses and ponies are not allowed on this route. There are bhojanalyas and coffee shops at regular intervals of one kilometer on the new route.