It was the end of June that we were planning to visit some place for a peaceful spiritual feeling..it took no time for us to decide for Vaishno devi in Jammu...The weather in the plains was already hot and humid and the mountain would definitely be of some comfort.
We were a group of around 8 people and booked the tatkal tickets for Katra,packed our bags and went for the trip in the first week of July.The trip like any other was an exciting one as it was one of those experiences of travelling to a religious place with friends this time as it was always with family before.We boarded the train and our journey began..Fun part was that this time we were travelling in the sleeper coach of the train to enjoy the winds gushing when the train took speed..The coach was neat and not much crowded so it was bit of comfortable for everyone..We played games on our way..had those local snacks munching all along...it was not a far journey from our place of departure,the train halted at Udhampur station for 20mins..we got down..it was peace and green all around and took snaps of the place,till the train received the green signal.
We boarded and in few hours reached Katra railway station.By this time it was sunset,the lights were on all around and the station looked beautiful..to my surprise..really the station looked beautiful..It was quite maintained for the tourists,,Inspite of huge crowd that comes to visit Vaishno devi,the management was good.
We could see the temple all lit up high on the mountains and it seemed so good to reach there as quick as we can..one needs to have yatra parchi for going up and it is checked on the first post..I stood in queue that was for yatra parchi..
we were told it could be booked online also..we did same but needed a print of the same so we hired an auto and asked him to drop till the main entrance after visiting cybercafe for printout..he took some 60bucks for entire auto..we got 2.
after taking the printout of the same we headed for our climb to the shrine..The roads were all lit up with shops on the streets selling dryfruits,daily needs,souvenir..My shopping dopamine was on rise.
The auto dropped us to the gate from where other formalties begin..By this time it was around 8 and We were again in queue for the security check..Women had different queues..our bags were checked and really appreciated the high level security check and came inside the campus from where the trek begins..there were many ponie standing below the bridge kind of thing for people who want to ride on it and go to temple..There was also pitthus who take people on their shoulders in a small sofa type of seat..
There are shops all along the route or trek to the temple..The shops are of food,drinks,souvenir,restaurants,rest places and many other.I was very impressed by the availability of free water after every few metres..The water was really cold that you need to quinch your thirst in this long tiring journey else purchasing water bottle will pinch holes in your pockets..so this was commendable..Just carry your empty bottle with you and refill it everytime you need it.
So after our yatra parchis were checked we headed upwards..it was just that our trek started that I was really hungry..There were several food joints on the way offering all varities of food from burgers to thalis ( all veg) without doubt at reasonable rates.
The best part was goti soda that was available on every other shop at around Rs 10 for a glass and trust me it gave you wings ;) Now here we did something that caused us trouble for days after we returned and this was taking stairs while going upwards ...NEVER EVER DO THIS WHILE CLIMBING.
In order to save time we took stairs because we had to return the very next day..While climbing though we enjoyed a lot taking these shortcuts instead of ramp..it was though tough climbing them..
so enjoying the trek..halting at various food stalls we took our first long halt in ardhakumari..this cave acts as a stopover for the pilgrims on their journey up to the Bhavan. An adventure for the kids, one has to crawl on his knees to reach the other side. Once on the other side, you can see a large shrine which is built dedicated to the three Goddesses. The darshan route is semicircular, so that you exit from a different opening at a small distance from the entry route.
We stayed there for around 2 hours,there were several pilgrims around some with their bag and baggage resting all around..It was nice sight to enjoy and relax after a long trek.We took dinner at a nearby restaurant..There were several camps who were offering food and services for free..We enjoyed sweet drinks from there also and began our trek further.
It was around midnight passing through the shades..watching the sleeping monkeys,the mountains in dark,the far away city lights we reached at a common place from where queue for baggage counters and token for darshan started..there was a separate bath also for pilgrims to bathe before darshan..there are several shops for purchasing prasad for offering..we purchased prasad from one of the shops and submitted our baggage,mobiles,cameras,belts,wallets,no leather allowed..took tokens and some of the fellow people also bathed before entering temple..the bathrooms were not clean enough if you are a hygiene person...so instead of taking bath prefer washing hands and face to freshen up.
So completing all formalities we headed further and then also there was still way to go..everytime..I felt we reached..it was a road ahead again..slowly..somewhat sleepy but still full of energy we reached to the top around 4am in the morning..It was very beautiful to see the city lights from the top, to hear the early morning chirping of birds,the cold,everything was so peaceful..We sat infront of some offices of the shrine on the stairs and were discussing about the trek..It was cold infact very cold..I took out my shawl and wrapped myself in the cozy wool..the warmth made me bit of sleepy and in no time We were all sleeping on shoulders of each other or on self's knees head down..
The walking steps of the crowd woke up suddenly and it was just when the sun was rising up...It was a much needed sleep..after this long trek it is preferable always to take some rest in order to avoid getting ill..The short nap was very refreshing but cold and the fog around was still high..The views of the valley were mesmerising.
We saw the people heading towards the temple and it took no time for us to realise that we were just few minutes or a boundary away from the temple.We crossed the walls and reached the staircase where there was a huge crowd in the queue waiting for entry..hundreds of people..all on the top of voices "Jai mata di" and soon the stage fear got over many from the group and everyone began the chorus.
Climbing the stairs we reached an open space that was heading towards the temple..there were three queues(very very long) and joined one of them and waited for our turn..the scenery was majestic around..the security was tight and people were lost in the aura of the divine..I was enjoying witnessing the birds,the tress,the mountains around..something only eyes could capture and hold..Since we were not allowed to take mobile phones we had no picture of that place...Lost in the beauty of the place and the cleanliness on the ground I entered a man made cave..it was cool there..and it lead to the the godesses shrine..One is not allowed to stay there for more than a few seconds..your luck if you can stay there for 1 minute.
From the row we came back to the exit and sat for few moments there to enjoy the beauty..the calmness and feel mother nature..and started our journey to bhairavanath temple high above on the mountain.
The journey to the bhaironath temple was even tougher as it was steep climb and rare food stalls on the way..although pitthus and ponies offer their services if one needs..We were bound to take stairs there as the temple seemed far and our legs started giving up..We stopped for few minutes after every ramp under shades provided,refilled our water bottles and kept walking..the trek seemed never ending but it was fun to see people sitting on ponies getting scared when pony showed tantrums..little children enjoying candies and watching monkeys snatching food from people..We had long sticks in our hand that we took at the start of the climb and this was therefore the reason monkeys did not came near us.
it took us quite few hours to reach bhairobaba temple..we were very very tired but the scenery around and the clouds passing infront of your eyes were majestic enough to ignore the pain.We went inside the temple and after darshan came to that open terrace..thats huge and has amazingly beautiful view points..There were several monkeys around..chairs and benches to sit and relax..the place was very clean except for some people who do not have basic civic sense.
Soon after the descend started..The descend is from bhairobaba temple itself and the monkeys follow you everywhere..helicopters taking pilgrims up and down can be seen..Enjoying the nature,the divine and praising the arrangements,we reached at the base again..did some shopping of dry fruits from the main market and came back home with HAPPY MEMORIES..
(our legs pained for a few days very severely because of the shortcuts we took..it was very painful so not at all recommended.take time for the trip in a hurry..pain is inevitable.)