This was our holy cum adventure trip when five of us decided to end the year on a good note with a trip. We witnessed a lot of colours, snow, spirituality and serenity during this trip. It was very cold but that in turn added flavours and fun to the journey. We took a train from Delhi to Jammu and then booked a cab from Jammu to Katra. After a day in Katra we went to Patnitop. Since it was a holiday time and we did not make a reservation getting a place in Patnitop was a task but the journey was totally worth it. Jammu is a sacred place as its the abode of Mata Vaishno Devi, the Hindu deity and its said a visit tothe places washes away all your sins. The visit to the temple isn’t easy as it’s located at the top of the mountain. Jammu has historically been the capital of Jammu Province and the winter capital of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir princely state and has a rich history attached.
When you board the train or a Bus from Delhi it leaves you at Jammu. This is just like another city and though would have much to offer we did not stayed here for long as we needed to move to Katra. We did stopped here for the food and the place has a lot of dhabas and local food outlets which will give you the world’s tastiest vegetarian food. The name Jammu has been termed after its ruler who founded it. Raja Jambulochan, founded this city and named it Jambupora which later changed to Jammu. It’s well connected with the Railway station, Bus depot and the airport. You can even drive to Jammu. Since it is also a focal point for the pilgrims going to Vaishno Devi and Kashmir valley as it is second last railway terminal in North India, the tourism flourishes here. If you want to know about the specialities, its sund panjeeri, patisa and its exotic local food — rajma rice. Another specialty of Jammu is kalaadi, which is processed cheese.
- It’s a small town in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and is located on the foothills of Trikuta Mountains, where the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi is located. Katra is located 42 km from Jammu and is the base camp for pilgrimage visiting the shrine. Apart from that Katra has a huge market for a lot of spices and dry fruits. It has a thriving tourism industry that offers plenty of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, dhabas, fast-food joints that fit all kinds of budgets. We did not know that visiting on 25th December we would see the Christmas celebration in the city as well. After we had had lunch we saw a procession which was accompanied with music and dance. This was truly a new thing to encounter. An important point to note is the registration for visiting the shrine is also done in Katra itself.
Vaishno Devi- The sacred temple is situated on a hill which is at a distance of 12 km from Katra, in Udhampur district of Jammu- Kashmir. It’s said that the holy deity herself calls her devotees to visit and only then will your plans to visit the shrine will be accomplished. I probably got the invitation that’s why I was able to visit the temple. There are only two ways to visit the place which is by foot or via helicopter. Since the temple is located on the top of the mountain thus if you decide to walk it takes approximately 12 hours to reach the top and come back. People also go barefoot to seek blessings from the goddess. It is an active shrine of Devi which, in spite of being located in a region difficult to reach, attracts the largest number of devotees and tourists after Tirupati.
It is said that Bhairavnath was killed by the goddess and in his dying moments, when Bhairavnath asked for pardon, the Goddess not only forgave him but also blessed him that the pilgrimage of a devotee coming to worship her will be considered as complete only after he visits the temple of Bhairavnath too. The Bhairavnath temple is again a walk up the mountains which is even steeper and a little more difficult.
A small plateau, beautiful in true sense Patnitop is located 112 kms from Jammu. This famous hill resort is perched on a beautiful plateau, at an altitude of 2024 metres across which the Jammu-Srinagar Highway passes. The river Chenab flows in close proximity to this location. The name 'Patnitop' is a distortion of the original name of the place, "Patan Da Talab" meaning "Pond of the Princess" as our driver told us. If its snow you would find a lot of locals trying to sell you jackets and boots. I would advise you not to take them and be well equipped in advance. You may do trekking and paragliding in Patnitop and the picturesque view is without a doubt magnificent. Do not forget to visit the Shudh Maha Devi ka Pahad that Houses the Holy Trishul (Trident).