Sunday, 25 February 2018

Vaishno devi yatra plan

A complete guide to Vaishno Devi Yatra 

After completing my first Yatra to Maa Vaishno Devi Katra, I would like to share my experience with you which can help you to plan your yatra.

Jai Mata Di……

Pre-Planning & Bookings

Best time to visit here is? I can't give a perfect answer to this, because everyone has his own thinking, I prefer during the low season like oct., Jan, Feb., Etc. if you come here during Festival time of vacation time, you have to face the heavy rush of devotees & all rates are also higher, which creates more inconvenience for you everywhere. so I planned my Journey right after Navratri in Month of October in the year 2017.

Room Booking:

Vaishnodevi Shrine Board Provides Good Facility of stay at Various Locations in Jammu & Katra. If you wish to stay among one of this locations, we recommend you to book your Room in Advance Only. Booking open 60 Days in advance at 10:00 AM. To book your room you need to visit the official website of Board ( & create your ID first, once you got your password on mail now you can log in & use various services of Board i.e. Room Booking, Helicopter Booking, Yatra Parchi, Pooja Booking etc.
Most preferable stay is Niharika Bhavan in Katra (we also stayed here), This place is centrally located in Katra, near Bus Stand & Main Market. Rooms are nice & clean, (rent starts from 850/-) if you wish to stay here for more than one day please do book your room at the time advance booking, you won't find any room at last moment.

Helicopter Booking:

Helicopter booking is done with the same website & ID of Board, currently, two Companies operate this service one is Himalayan & other Global Vectra. Booking open 60 Days in advance at 10:00 AM, at 10:00 am keep your computer ready with ID & Password because in few seconds all seats get booked so be quick.

Yatra Parchi:

This is also the most important process of your yatra, this is kind of reservation of your darshan of Mata.
Do keep all printout of all bookings with you. (also read Instructions given on website carefully to avoid any inconvenience).

Train or Flight booking:

Do your travel booking after completing all the above bookings first. Jammu is the nearest Airport, Karta is now also part of Rail network, we choose to travel by train, From Jammu Tavi Station new route is extended till Katra, this route is very Scenic & full of Tunnels. you can also reach here by road. 

Things to remember:

Carry your Valid ID Proof with you. Once you enter Jammu & Kashmir State your mobile will not work if you are a prepaid subscriber of any network, Only AIRTEL Postpaid & BSNL subscriber will get service here. Or you can buy new temporary Yatra SIM form any outlets in Katra by providing your ID.

watch Day 1 train journey from Mumbai to Katra 

Yatra Starts:

Day 1:

We Started our Journey from Mumbai at 8:30 am from Borivali Station via 12471 Swaraj Express. this train took approx 33 hours to cover 2011 km. at an average speed of 65 km/hr. & reach Katra next day at around 5:30 PM. we enjoyed great family time in here.
Day 1 in train

Day 2 in train

Day 2 :

almost In train and reach Katra by time at 5:30 pm, Katra station was very neat & clean, and it looks like an airport with all modern facilities.
Scenic route from Jammu to Katra

Entering Katra Station

see that clean platform 

we reached before sunset

Karta Railway Station 
As we come to exit point we have seen so many people waiting at Yatra Parchi Counter (Thank God we already did it online). now there are many Yatra Parchi counters in Katra so don't waste your time here. & finally, we took selfie station main entrance. 

Huge Crowd at Katra Station 

Selfie at Katra station
We booked our room at Niharika Bhavan, Near Bus Depot. so we took an auto. Auto in Karta is very costly. we paid Rs.200 for such a short distance. We check-in to the room, the room is nice not that great but its good & well maintained, the bathroom is also very clean & Hygienic, rooms also have balconies in it & our room is having a view of Trikuta hills, the main mountain of Vaishno Devi.
Room Inside view (you also get an extra bed)

clean bathroom

our balcony 

Trikuta hill day view from our balcony

Trikuta hill night view from our balcony

Niharika Complex Katra
after having dinner (you mostly find Vaishno food in here without onion & garlic) we sleep early as next day have to get up early by 3:30 am as we planned to start by 4:30 am.

Before you start your yatra first prepare your checklist while leaving for yatra you need to check out your room & keep your luggage in clock room at Niharika Bhavan (this service is free). Just carry minimum things with you i.e. Water bottle, some energy bars or chocolates & candies, you can also keep some glucose candy with you. Normally you find everything on your route but this is for emergency situations. Food available on the route is bit costly, but now there are many restaurants operated by Shrine Board on yatra route which provides you healthy food at a reasonable price. 

Let me explain Step by step guide of yatra route, Your Start point is Ban Ganga Check post (Aka Darshani Darwaza), to reach here you can take an auto or if you wish you can walk also, but I this you should save your energy for a further journey, Parking Lot is also available here. Once you reach Ban Ganga you need to pass first security check & Validate your Yatra Parchi. (keep your Yatra Parchi with you until you take Darshan).

Watch full yatra video on youtube

Day 3:

I have seen many people start their yatra during evening or night, but we planned to start our Yatra at 4:30 AM in Early Morning, we took an auto from Niharka Bhavan (Rs.100) we started our yatra by around 5:00 AM. 

Auto towards Banganga
Darshani Darwaza (Banganga)

Entry gate

first Check post
As you start walking ahead the first thing you notice is a strong smell of Horse Dung, by walking ahead you have many options of yatra like Pony, Pitthu, Palki etc. their charges are fixed by shrine board & rate card is also visible on walls.

Rate list of Pony, Pithoo etc.

Pony Pickup point at the entry

horse dunk spread on the pathway

entrance is very congested due to Ponys

stalls on yatra route

decorated photo studio on a way 

We planned to go by walk only (because we booked Helicopter ride for our return journey) after few minutes of walk we reach at a small bridge under which flows Banganga, the legendary river associated with the miracles and legends of Mata. many pilgrims prefer to skip the traditional bath, but those having the time or those who are traditionally inclined and wish to follow the legends and traditions would like to have a dip before proceeding further. There are a couple of Ghats built too, for this purpose. The first one is normally very crowded and the other is comparatively more spacious.

Geeta Temple at Banganga

first glimpse of Adhkuwari from Banganga

Proper Medical & Sanitation facility provided on entire route 
We Skip this as we have already freshened up at our Room while walking we had some tea & BF, this route is always busy with devotees & Donkeys too, who carry supply to the top, so be careful with them they might hit you if you don’t walk carefully.

Donkeys carrying a heavy load
After walking for around 1:30 hrs. (1.5 km) we reach next point, which is Charan Paduka the place where the imprints of Mata's pious feet are believed to be imprinted on a rock slab. The Darshans at Charan Paduka do not take more than a few minutes on a normal day.  A medical unit of the Shrine Board is also located here.

Charan Paduka Mandir
During your journey, you can see many devotees chanting Jai Mata Di…. And even you can also find local people playing Dhool to motivate you in your Yatra, you can donate them some money if you wish. 

local men playing Dhool 

Selfie time on Yatra "Jai Mata Di"


CCD for coffee lovers

water coolers available at a very frequent distance

way to Adhkuwari

Sometimes we choose stairs to save time

but after stairs, we need some rest

Aerial view of Katra

Katra viewpoint 

Zoom view of Katra Railway Station

Aerial View of  Main entrance gate form viewpoint

we can find devotees in full energy

Sunlight is giving warm feeling in cold climate

different modes of the yatra

we continued to take stairs
 after walking further we spot the first view of Adhkuwari complex.


Entering Adhkuwari

After having all this experience finally, we reach Adhkuwari, Adkuwari is the halfway mark on the track as it is situated at a distance of nearly 6 km. We reach here by around 10:00 am. Adkuwari is one of the most important Darshans on the visit, second only to the main Darshans at the Holy Cave. The term Adkuwari is believed to have come from Adi kumari, which means "The Eternal Virgin". According to the legend, when Vaishnavi, in the form of a small girl, disappeared from the Bhandara organized by Pandit Shridhar, she halted at Banganga and Charan Paduka. From there she reached Adkuwari, where, in a small womb shaped cave she meditated and observed spiritual discipline (Tapasya) for nine long months. this cave has become popular by the name of Garbh Joon, which has come from the term Garbh Yoni meaning the Womb. Since the cave is very narrow, only one person can pass through it at a time. While the entrance is comfortably broad, as one enters further one starts wondering whether it would be possible for him to pass through it or not.


Guest House at Adhkuwari

Blanket & Parchi Counter

another Guest House at Adhkuwari

Main Darshan area & way to Cave

from here you can get your group no.
But to take this Darshan you have to take your group number from the counter, normally waiting time is approx. 24 to 36 hours, so if you wish to take darshan here you need to pre-plan this. (The plan is while going up you take your group no. while returning also come by the same route and wait until your group no. comes, in the single group they are sending 50 persons at once, and normally it took 2 hrs. to finish it. You can also get accommodation here in a dormitory or if you want the room you can book in advance). During our visit, the waiting is for more than 36 hrs. & we have to return by same day, so sadly we skip this.

From this place onward you can find two options for your further yatra, one is old route & second one is Newly opened Route through Himkoti. If you don’t wish to walk further Battery vehicle facility is also available at Inderprasth (Adhkuwari) and Manokmana Bhawan till Bhavan, normally this facility is for Senior Citizens & sick or Disable persons but during low rush, they carry anyone who wishes to go. (@Rs.350 PP).

a new way to Bhavan

need to cross the small tunnel

this new route is very clean

Bhaint (SouvenirShop

here you find monkeys mostly they are harmless

but sometimes you may see some supply chain 

We took the new route via Himkoti, from Adhkuwari you can see some tunnel kinda gate which will lead you to this new route is 500 meters shorter than the old track. This track is much wider as compared to the existing track and is also easier to negotiate because of uniformity of climb and lower gradient. 

Satya Bhojnalaya 

Ambulance facility is also available
Battery Vehicle 
while crossing this new route two viewpoints, three sales outlet, refreshment units, drinking water cooler have been installed on the Track. A number of Tea/Coffee, Soft Drinks sales outlets have been installed. An adequate number of Toilet blocks have been constructed. A sufficient number of Shelter Sheds are also available. This entire route is around 5 Kms. Long.

After covering about 2.75 km. We reached Himkoti, Himkoti is one of the most beautiful spots on this track with breathtaking scenic views of the entire valley. Although there is no traditional or religious significance associated with this point, Shrine Board has developed a viewpoint, restaurant and a Dosa counter here. Packed and cooked food including meals, hot and cold beverages and other important items including Medicare and oxygen cylinders are also available here. There is an adequate place to rest and relax and also enjoy the beauty of nature.

entering Himkoti 

Restaurant & viewpoint at Himkoti

Police check post at Himkoti

Saket Restaurant 

from little further from Himkoti, you can able to get the first glimpse of Bhavan.

first glimpse of Bhavan

On this new route, you can able to walk faster. We reach Bhavan by 1:00 PM Bhavan is the main Complex where the Main cave is located there is not any Temple type structure over here. 

Almost reaching to Bhavan

Yatra Parchi Registration Counter

Before entering to Bhavan area you need re-validate your Yatra Parachi again & final security check. The battery car will also drop you here. 

Getting more closer to Bhavan

we spot old route 

Last stop of Battery vehicle

Photo time 

last security checkpoint

entering to Bhavan ( ropeway work is also in progress)
The Holy Bhawan is the main center of reverence for the devotees. It is also the key location in the entire Yatra circuit. Therefore, adequate arrangements and facilities have been created by the Shrine Board for the convenience of the devotees. These include free & rented accommodation, Toilet Blocks, Bhojanalayas, Post Office, Banks, Communication (STD/PCO), Announcement Centers, Blanket Stores, Cloak Rooms, Medical Dispensary (with an ICU), General Stores, Bhaint Shops, Police Station, etc.

Pillars for Ropeway

Battery car Ticket counter for return journey

Bhojanlaya at Bhavan

coupon counter

self-service Dining area

TV's installed in this way where you can get first Darshan of Pindies 

We visited just after Dussera so got chance to see this decoration

Reaching to last Locker Room
Entire view of Bhavan
At Clock room you have to keep all your bags & shoes etc. mobiles & cameras are also not allowed after last Locker counter. 

As you enter here you feel a great energy & forget all your tiredness of Yatra. In a normal season, it took around 30 to 45 mins. to compete Darshan & come back. In Main Holy Cave there is not any Idol like other temples, There is in the form of a five and a half feet tall rock with three heads or the Pindies on the top is the ultimate destination of a devotee. These Pindies constitute the Sanctum Sanctorum of the holy cave known as the shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, which is revered by one and all. 

(to know more about Mata Vaishno Devi visit this official page of Shrine Board ) 

Without wasting more time we rapidly finish Darshan and came back to Clock room & collect our Bags & Don’t forget to collect your Prasad & small Silver coin given by Shrine Board to each and every devotee.

Jai Mata Di

Now our next stop is Bhairon Temple, its belief that whereby every devotee, in order to ensure completion of the pilgrimage of Vaishno Devi, shall also have to visit Bhairon Nath's temple, this temple is more 2 km top from Bhavan, from here you can also get pony or pithu.

Way to Bhairon Temple

Pony Pithoo Rate card

More uphill walk

while walking you can get a top view of Bhavan

we started walking uphill, this route is also covered with shed, in between you can take stairs for short-cut but this is not for senior citizens or people with heart or lung problem.

Steps make you more tired

more steps

finally, we reached 

at Bhairon temple

We reach on top by around 2:30 PM all types of basic facilities are available every ware a refreshment unit named Vandana has been started. The Temple area has been beautified by fixing marble tiles and slabs along the pre-ambulation of the temple. All these efforts have made the visit of the pilgrims to Bhairon temple much more convenient and memorable. In front of Main Temple area, there is huge terrace was built where Devotees can rest or enjoy a spectacular view of surrounded mountains & valley, you can get an aerial view of Bhavan complex from here.

Bhairon Temple

Open area in front of Temple

View of Bhavan from Bhairon Ghati

Sit relax & enjoy view

Selfie time with Bhavan

The story of Bhairon Nath

There is not much queue over here we finished our Darshan in mere 15 mines. and at around 3:00 pm we start descending towards Sanjichhat Helipad. 

Monkeys on the way back

we start descending 

while going back there is one nice viewpoint is created called OM viewpoint from where you can enjoy beautiful Mountain range of Pir-Panjal, you can also spot some monkeys here too.

great ViewPoint 

OM View Point


We booked last service of Himalayan Helicopter (@Rs.1077) which is scheduled at 4:45 pm., so we have to reach there at least 30 mines. prior. After walking for around 30 mines. We can easily spot helipad from the top but still, it’s very far from us.

we can easily spot helicopter but still its very far from us

Helicopter in Air

Helicopter Lending

Sanji Chhat Helipad

our heartbeats are getting faster as we thought that we are not able to reach there by the time, so we increase our speed and again in another 30 mines. We reached Sanjichhat, but this is not that helipad where Helicopters are operating, this is an old one.

View of New Helipad from Sanji Chhat

New Helipad is much further so again we started walking ahead and after more 20 mines. Finally, we reached near Helipad.

Almost there

we literally start running

Pony, Pithoo rate card 

As you reach here you need to weigh yourself at the ticket counter and get a Boarding pass, on the pass they give you some sort of number, in one service 6 passengers are allowed, you need to seat as per your weight.

After security check, you have to wait in lounge until they called for your number. They don’t allow photography here but at the lounge, you can take some pics.
View from Lounge

Waiting for a turn at Helipad
as they called our number we are very excited as its our first Helicopter ride, before boarding in they give us some instructions & explain our sitting position, as our Helicopter arrive my son & wife sit in front with pilot & I was sitting backside with other fellow passengers, fortunately, I also got Window seat, a helicopter took off from helipad it was amazing moment for all of us.

Helicopter Landed

Helicopter Taking off

the view outside the window was amazing I don’t have words to explain it, while coming down our pilot took a long cut through Railway station and Katra town its totally out of the world experience. Within 6-7 mines. We landed at Katra Helipad. 

From Helipad to Entry Gate a Private car will drop you. At the entry gate, we took an auto for Niharika Bhavan (@Rs.200). we reached there in 15 mins. and collect our luggage from the clock room & check-in to our room and took some rest. (you can also find Malishwalas outside Niharika Bhavan gate if you want to have some Leg & calf massage).

Overall it’s an amazing experience for all of us. hope this article will help you to plan your trip as well.

Jai Mata Di…..