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When the Mata calls...on a weekend!
Duration: 2 Days
Expenditure 6000

It is said, that the pilgrimage to the famous Vaishnodevi shrine in the Trikuta mountains, in Jammu and Kashmir, just cannot happen unless the Mata gets you there. It is revered beyond recognition. It has been quite some time that we had tried to go on that pilgrimage but never succeeded. That was until recently. Finally the goddess beckoned.


It was at the beginning of the year that we decided to finally do it. And somehow, everything fell into place. We booked our flights from Mumbai up to Jammu. Finding accommodation at Katra, the base of the mountain and then further travel up in the helicopter till Sanjhichhat were another set of bookings that were needed to be done.

Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine board is impeccable in its organisation – be it arranging rooms or helicopter services. Having made it online, it has made the process even easier. We booked the room at Kalika Bhavan, the Shrine board’s own accommodation, quite in advance. The booking for the trip up the mountain, on the helicopter happened earlier, similarly.

Pro tip: When you’re booking the helicopter, make two separate bookings for you onward and return journey. Return bookings afford you only 3 hours within which one has to walk up to the Bhawan, have the darshan and return. That being said, it is almost impossible to walk up to the Bhairav Nath temple which is further up the mountain, within the allocated 3 hours.

We started early on Saturday. But it was evening by the time we reached Jammu airport (thanks to the long stopover at Delhi). We had tried to organise cabs from Jammu to Katra but I found it quite expensive at that. The best prices, (and very convenient) I found were the cabs arranged at the Airport itself. Charged us Rs. 1450 till our hotel at Katra, which was about the same when I researched about cab services online.

Photos of Jammu 1/1 by Abhijit

We stayed at the Kalika Bhavan which is right next to the Yatra Registration Counter (you have to get a registration slip/parchi before you start you journey) in the main market place. The main market place has autos, buses (for trip back to Jammu) and govt. authorised taxi stand. As we reached there quite late in the evening, we decided to walk around Katra market, which wasn’t much.

Pro tip: Book your parchi online. This will save you the headache of getting it at Katra.


The next morning, we took an auto early morning, to reach the helipad at Katra. We haggled quite a bit and fixed a price of Rs. 300 for a return trip (for the autorickshaw).

Photos of Katra 1/1 by Abhijit

Although our slot for the helicopter ride up to Sanjhichat was scheduled for 8:00, we were allowed to occupy an empty slot of passengers who hadn’t made it on time. It was barely a 4 minute journey, but travelling in a helicopter just feels amazing.

Photos of  1/4 by Abhijit
Photos of  2/4 by Abhijit
Photos of  3/4 by Abhijit
Photos of  4/4 by Abhijit

The walk from Sanjhichhat to Bhavan was short. There are several places where one can just stop for a quick chai or some snacks. At the Bhavan, one is supposed to keep their valuables, bags, footwear, etc. in lockers allocated for the same. One is only allowed to carry cash or offerings/bhet beyond this point.

Pro tip: If you book both journeys via helicopter, they provide you with a express parchi which grants you access to special lockers and a shorter queues via express entry (through Gate No. 5).

The queues move at a fairly quick pace and you move through a manmade tunnel/gufa at the end of which you get a hurried darshan of the Mata. One can then collect their belongings and can then proceed to the Bhairav nath temple from here on. The legend says that the pilgrimage to the Vaishno Devi temple is incomplete without the darshan of the Bhairavnath.

Photos of Vaishno Devi Temple, Bagh, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India 1/3 by Abhijit
Photos of Vaishno Devi Temple, Bagh, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India 2/3 by Abhijit
Photos of Vaishno Devi Temple, Bagh, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India 3/3 by Abhijit

The climb to the Bhairav nath temple is of a steeper grade and can be done by climbing up innumerable steps, walking up or horses. The darshan at the Bhairav temple takes barely 15 minutes. The climb down is not that difficult but it will pain your knees after a while.

Photos of  1/2 by Abhijit
Photos of  2/2 by Abhijit

We had lunch at their bhojanalay and arrived at the helipad much before our scheduled ride back. Once again, we were allowed to board an empty slot.

Once, back in Katra, we picked our bags from the room and immediately left for for the airport (at Jammu). This cost us a lesser amount (Rs. 900) as it was an empty cab going back to pick up a ride from the airport. After quick (relatively) boarding formalities, we were on you way back home for dinner in the city of dreams.

Although a weekend trip, it was planned much before, without much room for delays. I would recommend having an additional day as buffer, just to be sure.

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