Nov 142012

Katra serves as the base camp for the trek to the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi. Located at the height of 2500 feet and approx. 48 kms away from Jammu, this is the last town, where you can reach by any transportation. Details about the accommodation in Katra town and Yatra Parchi (Journey Slip) has been already discussed in the first part of this series. To read that post, please click on this link: Trip to Mata Vaishno Devi Part 1..Jammu To Katra

Some Additional Details About Katra Town:

ATM facilities: Many ATMs are available from the banks e.g. J & K Bank, State Bank of India, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Bank of Punjab etc. Axis Bank ATM is just adjacent to the Yatra Parchi Counter near bus stand and HDFC Bank ATM is just 100 meters away from bus stand at the main road going towards the holy shrine. An ATM of J & K (and perhaps OBC also) is also avaialble at the top of Trikuta Hills near the holy shrine, but it may remain unserviceable or overcrowded. So prefer to withdraw your money in Katra. For the purpose of food, snacks, drinks etc Rs.1500 per person will be more than enough to spend from Katra to Bhawan and back, if you are trekking on the foot.

Railway Reservation Facilities: Katra railway station with railway reservation counter is expected to be operational by the next year. Apart from that, there is also a railway reservation counter available near the bus stand. This railway reservation counter is existed there from many years and becomes overcrowded during the peak season.

Moving Ahead From Katra: After your arrival in Katra, you can do two things: either start your trek immediately or book an accommodation and stay for few hours or for whole night. Both type of accommodation can be arranged easily. If you wish to start immediately, just go to the Yatra Parchi Counter and register your group for the yatra. A single person can register the whole group on a single slip. If you want to stay in Katra, don’t get Yatra Parchi immediately after arrival. You have to cross Ban Ganga check post within 6 hours of issuance of the Yatra Parchi. So, if you prefer to stay in Katra, arrange this Yatra Parchi later on. Parchi Counter opens from 6 AM to 10 PM, but you can start your trek anytime 24×7. So arrange your parchi accordingly.

First view of Darshani Darwaja and Auto-rickshaw Stand

How to Start this journey from Katra:

First and most important thing : Make sure that you have registered for the journey and have a Yatra Parchi (Journey Slip) for your group.

Second: Make sure that you are trekking lite. If you have more luggage, it will create problem while trekking, so get rid of extra luggage on various cloak room facilities available in the form of small shops, hotels, camera studios etc. You can trust all of them for the safety of your luggage and I hope that no body will cheat you at this holy place. Just do not keep any valuables like money, gadgets or jewellery with your luggage. Do not take food, drinks or blankets with you. They are available in plenty on the trek route,of-course on payment basis, but free of cost blankets are also available at major stopovers like Adi Kuwari Temple, Sanjhi Chhat and Bhawan.

Third: You can start this trek any time during day and night. The yatra goes on 24 x 7 without any restrictions. There are plenty of lights on the routes, so no need to worry about the darkness. Sometimes it may be stopped due to snow-fall, heavy crowd etc, but that happens once or twice in a year.

Mode of Transportation:

1. Own Vehicle: From Katra to Darshan Deodhi, Main Entrance of the Trikuta Hills. 2 kms distance. You can drive your vehicle upto Darshan Deodhi and then you have to park your vehicle in a designated parking area. Parking is at owner’s risk.

2. Auto-rickshaw: From Katra to Darshan Deodhi, Main Entrance of the Trikuta Hills. 2 kms distance. Rs.7-10 per person.

3. Helicopter: From Katra to Sanjhichhat, 2.5 kms before the holy shrine, Rs. 900 to Rs. 1200 per person single side journey. You can save some time. But you will not be able to visit Adi Kumari Temple and 2.5 kms easy trek also required to reach the holy shrine, and more trek required, if you wish to visit Bhairon Temple. It can be booked online also upto 60 days in advance and for the maximum group of 5 people by a single person.

4. Ponies: From main entrance Darshan Deodhi to Adi Kumari and further to Bhawan and to Bhairon Temple. You can also book between any two points while trekking on the route. Rates vary from Rs. 300 to Rs. 600 depending on the wait and age of the person.

5. Palanquins: From main entrance Darshan Deodhi to Adi Kumari and further to Bhawan and to Bhairon Temple. You can also book between any two points while trekking on the route. For a journey to Bhawan and back to Katra, rates vary from Rs.2200 to Rs.4000, depending on the wait of the person.

6. Potter or Pitthoos: From main entrance Darshan Deodhi to Adi Kumari and further to Bhawan and to Bhairon Temple, Potter facilities are also available to carry your child as well as your luggage. These are popularly known as Pitthoos and rates vary from 200 to 500 depending on the luggage and distance.

7. On Foot: Best way, preferred by 90 % of devotees. You will be required at least 30-40 hours to complete the whole trek comfortably  (including total trek, darshan time at the temples and some sleep on the way).

Pony on the way


The trek route from Katra to Adi Kumari passes thourhg following key points:
Katra- Darshan Deodhi- Gulshan Kumar’s Langar- Ban Ganga Check Post- Ban Ganga River-Ban Ganga Water fall- Charan Paduka Temple- Adi Kumari Temple

A Suggestion from My side: After passing the Ban Ganga river on your trek route, you will find the series of stairs going upwards. Few people also climb on those stairs. But, I suggest you to follow the road going upwards. You will be less tired and your legs will be grateful to you.

Darshan Deodhi: The main entrance of Trikuta Hills, also known as Darshani Darwaja, because complete Trikuta Hill is clearly visible from here. As per the legend, First time Mata Vaishno Devi met Pandit Shridhar in the form of a girl child at this place only.

There is a security check post at Darshan Deodhi with the separate queues for ladies and gents. If you are without any luggage, then there is again a separate queue. You have to put your luggage under that X-Ray scanner here and the security personnel will also check you manually. Beyond this point Video Camera, Arms , cigarette etc are not allowed.

Darshan Deodhi

A View of trek route on the Trikuta Hills

If your wish to travel on the back of pony or If you are still having extra luggage or if you want to hire a potter to carry your child, you can arrange these services just after crossing the security post at Darshan Deodhi.

Gulshan Kumar’s Langar: After 500 meters walk from the Darshan Deodhi, you will come across a open courtyard some 12 feet below on the left hand side, where many people would be standing in a queue.This is the famous Langar (a place where free foods are being served) of Late Sh.Gulshan Kumar. He was a great devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi. During his lifetime he started this langar, where anyone can go to take the food for free. Morning Tea and evening tea is also available. Earlier during our college days, we used to get the delicious halwa (a sweet dish) made of pure desi ghee. In fact, it was the biggest attraction for us at the langar. But now, from last 3-4 years, I did not find anybody serving Halwa. The tin-shed in front of the langar where this dish used to be served is now converted in a small shop.

A view of the langar

Ban Ganga Check Post: This is a small check post, where an official will stamp your Yatra Parchi. Yatra Parchi validity to cross Ban Ganga check-post is 6 hours, i.e., you have to cross this post within the six hours of the time, when you get it in Katra.

Ban-Ganga checkpost

Ban Ganga River: After passing Ban Ganga Post, you will reach to a small bridge on a small river. This is Ban Ganga River. There are some stairs after the bridge leading to the river, where you can bath. There is water in river all through the year except the acute shortage of rainfall or snow on the mountains.

Ban Ganga Waterfall: After 10-20 minutes of further walk, you will find a small narrow path on the right hand side that is leading to a small waterfall, known as Ban Ganga. As per the legend, the goddess, accompanied by Langoor-Veer was moving to her destined abode in the Trikuta Hills, when Langoor-veer felt thirsty. The goddess shot an arrow into the ground and a spring gushed out, and thus the name Ban-Ganga (Ban: Arrow, Ganga: Holy River). After the rain, flow of the water is more and the waterfall looks beautiful. This is an ideal place to bath.

Ban-Ganga Waterfall

Charan Paduka Temple: This is the first temple of major concern on the right side. It is believed that the goddess stopped here for a while to look behind, whether Bhairon was still following her. So, there are the footmarks of the goddess and all devotees should come here for the first darshan during the journey to the holy shrine. Earlier it was a small unnoticed temple, but now they have constructed a big beautiful temple.

Charan Paduka Temple

Various facilities on the way: There are various shops for snacks, lunch, dinner are available on the way. Medicine shops, gift shops, music shops, camera shops, children play areas are available on the way. There are various tea, coffee and soft drinks stalls on the way. Expect few, many charge five to ten extra bucks on M.R.P. due to the cost associated with the transportation of these goods on the hill. Also some small, but decent food joints like Sameer and Indraprashtha are available from the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, which offer the food and snacks on genuine prices..

A shop on the way

Adi Kuwari Temple: The word Adi kuwari (also Adhkuwari) means “The Eternal Virgin”. It is believed that Mata Vaishno Devi resided here in a cave for 9 months to worship the Lord Shiva. When Bhairo approached towards her, she broke the other sides of cave with her trident and moved towards the cave of present day holy shrine at bhawan. Since the goddess lived in this cave for 9 months, as a child lives in the womb of her mother for 9 months, this cave is popularly known as Garbha Joon (Garbha: Womb).

Entrance to the Garbha Joon is broad, but as you approached further it became very narrow. The exact spot where she is believed to have meditated is located at the right hand side inside the cave and is shaped like a womb. You could have wonder whether it would be possible to pass through this cave or not. But remember the name of Mata by heart and start crawling in the cave and you will be out from the cave after crawl by crawl with a new spirit. It is generally believed that by merely passing through this cave, a devotee’s sins are cleansed and his soul becomes pious again.

Adi Kuwari also marks the midpoint of the Yatra and most pilgrims like to rest here for a while and refresh themselves.

Adi Kuwari Temple Complex

Points to Remember:

Before visiting Garbha-Joon, Get your sequence number:  To visit the Garbha-Joon, you have to get a sequence number from the sequence counter. The sequence number  is issued after showing your original Yatra Parchi at the counter and a person can get a single sequence number for all the members of his group. Generally they keep 100 people in a single group and this group number count goes upto 700 and then again starts the group number 1. Sometimes you have to wait for the hours to visit the cave. In our recent visit, our sequence did not turned up, even in 24 hours!

Group Sequence and Blanket Issuing Counter

You can visit the Adi Kuwari Temple without sequence: Since the cave is very narrow,  only one person can crawl at a time. Because of this, there is always a huge gathering at Adi Kuwari Temple. But, If you only want to visit the temple, not the cave (garbha-joon), you can do it without any sequence number.

People waiting for their sequence

Things not allowed: Any leather items including purse, bag, belt, watch etc, pen, shoes etc. You can take your credit cards, hard cash and jewellery.

How to arrange the blankets: Despite of the huge crowd, if you still interested in a visit to the cave and want to wait there in the night, you should arrange some blankets. Blankets can be obtained from the blanket counter at Adi Kuwari by depositing Rs.100 per blanket as the security. Whenever you will return the blanket, you will get all your money back. Blanket counter open from 8 PM onwards till the morning.

After getting blankets, if you wish to sleep there, try to find the shelter under a tree, in a verandah or under the tin shed. Avoid sleeping in the open, as it will be too cold in the midnight. After covering yourself with 4 blankets also, you can not avoid the freezing temperature. So its always better to rest under a shed.

Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner: There are excellent facilities for breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at the temple complex. They offer everything from Idli-Sambhar to Rajma-Rice, from Tea-Coffee to Sweet Milk and from Poori-Kachauri to Jalebi-Pakauri.

Apart from this, Adi Kuwari Temple complex also offers some amazing views of the surrounding hills, valley and excellent views of night lights in Katra.

Amazing night at Katra

I hope enjoy your journey till the Adi Kuwari Temple. The third and last post of this series will take you to the Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi and Bhawan and then a steep trek to Bhairon Temple.

Have Queries regarding your trip planning to Mata Vaishno Devi or wish to share your experiences, visit our Religious Destinations Forum .

  18 Responses to “Trip to Mata Vaishno Devi Part 2: Katra to Adi Kuwari Devi Temple”

  1. Sir,
    I am going to Maa Vashno Devi for the first time.

    I have planed my trip as :

    1. I will reach jammu around 9:30 pm (night). I stay for one night.
    2. In the morning i start to Katra.
    3. and then to Bhawan.
    4. I stay there for one night.
    5. Start to Katra in the morning.

    I have question.

    I have yatra parchi for one day. Can i have darshan two times i.e. i stay there for one night & i wants darshan in the morning also & start to katra.

    Can you give me some advice.

    Rajeev Sharma

    • A single yatra parchi is valid for one time darshan only. If you want to go for the darshan twice, get two parchis from Katra Yatra Parchi Counter (it’s unofficial way). It will enable you to go for the darshan twice, one at a time.

  2. Is there any special entry for those who booked for atka harthi

    • Hi, Its a kind of special entry as your seat for the Attka Aarti is reserve. But you have to report by 05.30 PM at Room No. 8 of Kalika Bhawan at Bhawan for evening Attka Aarti, that starts at 06.20 PM.

  3. Hi Avinash,

    Nice and detailed posts with valuable information. I am planning to Visit Vaishno Devi with my wife and 2 kids (10 & 7 years). Just want to validate if my plan is fine or need to be tweaked since I am going with my Kids.

    1.) Reach Jammu 6:30 AM by train.
    2.) Catch a bus to Katra
    3.) Take a hotel for quick nap (2 hours)
    4.) Start Trek from Katra to Bhavan (via new route)
    5.) Nightstay @Bhawan complex overnight
    6.) Start Trek next morning – Visit Bhairav Temple and then continue to Adhkuwari
    7.) Darshan @Adhkuwari *
    8.) Proceed to Katra

    * One query here – I am going in Mid may and it will be peak season. Can I take the slip for Adhkuwari Darshan while going up and do darshan while coming back. I am also taking a night halt @Bhawan. Is their any expiry time on the slip ?

    • Hi Anil,
      Your plan is feasible, but since you are travelling with two kids, isn’t it hectic for them to reach Bhawan from Katra on the same day and return back on the next day. You can add one more day in your itinerary or at least 12 more hours for comfortable journey. Else, I advise you to use Battery operated Auto from Adi Kuwari to Bhawan to reduce time and trek for the kids. There is no expiry time for the slip issued at Adi Kuwari, but once your group number gets over, slip also gets expired. However, if there is a gap of 2-3 group number, you can ask security personnel to let you enter, otherwise there is no chance. You can take a slip from Adi Kuwari and go to Bhawan and come back to Adi Kuwari for darshan. I did the same once, but its a matter of chance. However, if you take an auto, this chance will be high. Jai Mata Di.

  4. HI sir ,
    I planned for darshan with my family(5 members) on 11th April. We have to stay at bhawan on 11th April 2014 night ,but we don’t have booked domentary beds in manokamna bhawan .Please suggest where to stay.

    Also is it possible to darshan two times,once in 11th night and another in 12thmorning. if possible please suggest how can we do that.

    • Hi, you can go for Darshan twice (Expect Heavy Rush as you are visiting around Navratri time). Just take two separate slips(two members should go and and ask for their respective slips for 5 members, don’t tell that you both are from same family) from Yatra Parchi Counter at Katra. You can take as many blankets as you wish from the blfanket counters after paying Rs 100 for each blanket. All money is refundable. So, after taking blankets, search any suitable place under the sheds to sleep in the night. Just aviod to sleep in open. It will be freezing cold in the night.

      • HI Avinash

        Thanks for the information Actually we have two kids with us (5years and 7 years ) and i think It’s not comfortable for them to sleep under the sheds as its too cold in the night.

        Also one of my friend told me that there is one building which is just opposite to manokamna Bhawan but it has some specific time to open in the night Around 7Pm or 8 pm don’t know exactly,He also told if you reach on that time its possible for u to taken the wooden beds easily .

        I will be very grateful if you can tell me the timings for the same so that I can plan the Trek from Katra to Bhavan (via new route) accordingly.

  5. sir i want to plan yatra how many days i can spend there?

  6. Hi
    Well written. We would be reaching with family on 1st March 2014 by 8AM and plan to take helicopter after that. Please suggest if we can get a hotel for about 1 to 2 hours for shower and change. Also we would want to leave our luggage their. Since its return booking by helicopter, we do not have to stay for night in hotel. Please suggest some reliable and trustworthy decent place.

    • Hi, I don’t have any recommendations. There are plenty of hotels and guest houses in Katra, that can easily accommodate you for 1-2 hours, subject to availability. You can leave the luggage in the hotels. They don’t provide you the lockers, but they do give a receipt for the luggage and this service is free of cost.

  7. Hi Avi,

    Me and my friends(all aged 30 ) have planned and booked to tickets on air to jammu, we will be reaching at jammu airport 4.00 pm on next Thursday 14 November and planning to have matha devi darshan on friday any time , could you please suggest us like when to start trekking by visiting all places along the way . And above reply u have mentioned shiv cave , but u have not described where it comes on the way or do we have to take some separate path?

    please guide us so that we cover all places on the way and make main temple darshan on Friday by trekking (like where to halt if required like that…..)

    please give us some suggestion by spending your precious time for auspicious darshan to us.

    Sudharshan (sid)

    • Hi Sid,

      Trekking for Mata Vaishno Devi’s Cave starts from Katra. So from Jammu, you have to reach Katra, that is about 45 kms away. After reaching, Jammu Airport, go straight to Katra by hiring a cab or you can go to Jammu Railway Station for the shared buses. I hope, you will be able to reach Katra by 10 PM on Thursday. If you do not feel tired, you can go for the trekking in the night, else take a guest house for the night rest. Start trekking early morning, so that you will be able to reach Bhawan by evening. You may or may not be delayed at Adi Kuwari, depending on the crowd. I hope crowd is less this time.
      Shiva Cave is just near the bathing ghat. While returning from the holy cave after darshan, look for the sign board of Shiva cave, shortly after the counter, from where you get a small packet of prasad and coconut.
      All the places like Charan Paduka, Adi Kuwari Temple, Bhairon Temple are clearly directed by the sign-boards. There shouldn’t be any problem in that. Interestingly, I was also suppose to reach there on 16th, but cancelled the plan because of Dev Deepawali Festival in Varanasi on 17th.
      Have a great trip !
      Jai Mata Di.

  8. Dear Avanish,

    I am a retired Naval Officer, well past my ‘trekking age’! I am now planning a pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi in the last week on November, looking for all ‘relevant info’, on the net; whence I came across your excellent blog. I was so impressed that I couldn’t resist the temptation of having a look at the entire site! No wonder it has faired so well on the net; you deserve kudos for all the hard work! Well done… & may God give you the energy to keep it up!!!

    There are very few people who pay attention to details… For instance, I was looking for the sort of info whether I should ‘start’ from Jammu; or Udhampur! You are the only one to have considered it important to ‘cover’ it up in your blog! The other important piece of info, about what to do with mobile phones, has also been covered in one of your ‘answers’ to questions from others! I am sure you must be aware about the ‘special passes’ available for Defense personnel. May I request you to kindly cover the related info in a short paragraph too, for people like me please!

    I notice that with all your experience, you still think that the entire trek will take 30 to 40 hours! This worries me!!! Could you possibly provide a list of various ‘mile stones’ starting from the Base camp, right up to Bhawan & back, via Bhairon Temple; along with the estimated time that you think a normal, (not very old!!!) person will take on foot, from one mile stone to the next? This will help me in working out the ‘halting stations’ during my journey.

    Thanking you & with very best wishes,

    Cdr. Varma

    • Thanks Sir for the appreciation and kind words..Its really encouraging..I am sorry, that I am not aware about the special passes for Defense Personnel..I think, there is no such type of passes, at least I never saw them. But I have noticed that Defense Personnel gets entry without standing in a queue, through a separate entry gate. This entry gate is just before the bathing ghats, in front of the Bhojanalaya. I think, you don’t require a separate pass to enter through that gate. Just inform the security personnel near the gate, that you are from defense and they should allow you. This is my observation about that entry gate. Getting entry from that gate will save you the waiting time as you can directly proceed towards the cave shrine. Near the cave entrance, there is no separate queue for anybody, so from there you have to proceed in the normal queue only, but still all this process will save a lot of the time.
      At Katra, there is no need to get a separate or special Defense Parchi (if it is there), as everybody walks on the same trek route at their own speed. At Adi Kuwari Temple, I also didn’t notice any special entry gate or queue for the Defense personnel.

      This 30-40 hours total trek time is including of all the trek, normal waiting time in the queue for Darshan and a normal 5-6 hours sleep time en-route. Last week of November is not a peak time there, so you can expect less crowd there, and hence, the less waiting time at every place. Generally the whole trek is like this…
      Katra (Base Camp ) to Adi Kuwari temple.…8 kms trek and take about 3 hours normally, if you walk directly with some 5-10 minutes rests en-route…But, if you want to enjoy other milestones then it should be like this:
      Katra-Darshan Deodhi: 2 kms, 25 minutes on a plain paved road, Darshan Deodhi is a grand entry gate. If you want to click some nice pictures of Trikuta Hills from here add about 20 minutes.
      Darshan Deodhi- Gulshan Kumar’s Langar: 500 meters, 10 minutes, If you want to enjoy food here, add at least 1 hour. (upto 2 hours in peak season)
      Gulshan Kumar’s Langar-Ban Ganga Waterfall: 1 km , 15-20 minutes (progressively upward walk)..If you stop at Ban Ganga for the bath (provided water is there) add 30-45 more mintues.
      Ban Ganga Water Fall- Charan Paduka Temple: 300 meters, 10 minutes (progressively upward walk)..10 minutes at the temples
      Charan Paduka Temple- Adi Kuwari Temple: approx. 4 kms (progressively upward walk), 2 hours with some 5-10 minutes rest en-route
      Depending on the crowd, you may require to wait at Adi Kuwari Temple for 2-4 hours or may be even longer. But in the month of November, expect to wait for maximum two hours. Night Halt facility is available at Adi Kuwari Temple.
      Adi Kuwari Temple to Bhawan :
      Via Hathi Mattha and Sanjhi Chhat (Old Route) : 6 kms, relatively steep climb, 4 hours with rests en-route.
      Via Himkoti (New Route): 5 kms, parallel route, upward walk at certain places only, 3 hours with rests en-route.
      At Bhawan, It may take 2 hours to take bath, deposit luggage at the lockers and offering prayers at the holy shrine, provided that you enter through the defense entry gate. Add 30 minutes more if you also go to visit Shiva Cave. If you go through the normal entry gate, add 1-2 hours more depending on the crowd. Night Halt facilities are available at Bhawan, where you can spend a whole night or some hours.
      Bhawan-Bhairo Temple: 2 kms, steeper climb, 60-90 minutes normally with rests en-route. Need only 10 minutes for Darshan, if there is no queue. Night Halt facility is available, but not very popular.
      Bhairo Temple-Sanjhichhat: Downward walk, approx. 4.5 kms, 2 hours with rests en-route. Night Halt facility available. It is also a popular photography spot.
      Sanjhi Chhat- Adi Kuwari Temple: 3.5 kms, 60-90 minutes with rests en-route. Night Halt facility is available at Adi Kuwari Temple.
      Adi-Kuwari Temple to Darshan Deodhi: 6 kms, 2-3 hours, no night halt facility en-route, you can again go to Ban Ganga Waterfall.
      Darshan Deodhi to Katra: 2 kms , either walk or hire a vehicle.
      In this way, this 30-40 hours timing is calculated. Someone may require a longer sleep at Bhawan, or may be he has to wait for more hours in the queue. Once, we started our journey from Jammu Station at 6.00 AM, reached Katra, Trekked to Bhawan via old route (skipped Adi Kuwari Temple), then trekked to Bhairo Baba Temple and then again returned to Katra and reached Jammu Railway Station to catch a night train to Delhi at 11.30 PM. But when I went there with my mother, it took around 36 hours to complete the trek. So it all depends on our own comfort and walking speed and required sleep.
      I hope, that I am able to answer all your queries. If you have any doubt, please write me again.

      • Thanks. I am sure other readers will also be benefited from such a detailed information that you have given, obviously based on your extensive experience. There are still a few tit-bits about which I would like to have more details. Can I count on your experience please? If you send me a mail, I will write down my queries, as they may not be of interest to others!

        Thanks again for your time, & best wishes.

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