Vaishno Devi Trek is a popular pilgrimage route located from Katra to Bhawan in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The trek begins at the town of Katra and ends at the Vaishno Devi shrine, which is located in the Trikuta Mountains.
Katra to Vaishno Devi Distance
Katra to Vaishno devi covers a distance of approximately 14 kilometers and involves a climb of about 3,500 feet.
This route stretches from Katra to Bhawan and is well-maintained. It has facilities such as rest areas, refreshment stalls, and medical facilities.
It is a steep uphill climb, and many pilgrims prefer to undertake the journey on foot. However, pony and palanquin services are also available for those who may find it difficult to climb on foot.
Pilgrims can undertake the trek on foot or by hiring a pony or palanquin. The journey can take between 4 to 6 hours depending on the pace of the trekker.
The trek is considered to be a spiritual and physical challenge, with many pilgrims undertaking the journey as a form of penance or devotion. It is important for pilgrims to prepare adequately for the trek by wearing comfortable clothing, carrying enough water and snacks, and consulting a doctor if they have any pre-existing medical conditions.
Overall, the Vaishno Devi Trek is a unique and memorable experience for those who undertake it, combining physical exertion with spiritual devotion.
The Vaishno Devi trek is a popular pilgrimage route in India that leads to the Vaishno Devi temple, a holy shrine dedicated to the Hindu goddess Mata Vaishno Devi. The temple is located in the Trikuta Mountains of Jammu and Kashmir, at an altitude of approximately 5,200 feet.
The trek to Vaishno Devi temple is considered to be a challenging but rewarding journey, with devotees often undertaking it to seek the blessings of the goddess. The trek starts from the base camp at Katra, which is approximately 35 km from the city of Jammu and covers a distance of around 14 km to reach the temple.
The trek is generally divided into two parts – the first part is a 6 km climb from Katra to the town of Adhkuwari, and the second part is an 8 km climb from Adhkuwari to the Vaishno Devi temple. The trek passes through rugged terrain, steep slopes, and narrow paths, and can take anywhere between 5 to 8 hours to complete, depending on one’s fitness level and pace.
To make the journey easier, the Shrine Board has provided various facilities along the trek, such as resting places, medical aid centers, and refreshment stalls. Helicopter services are also available for those who cannot undertake the trek due to age or health-related issues.
Overall, the Vaishno Devi trek is a popular and spiritually uplifting experience for devotees who undertake it, with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and a sense of accomplishment upon reaching the temple.
How to Reach Vaishno Devi?
The distance between Katra to Vaishno Devi is approximately 14 kilometers. Katra to Bhawan (Vaishno Devi) is the route that devotees take to visit the holy shrine. Here are the different ways to reach Bhawan from Katra:
Katra to Vaishno Devi on Foot:
The most popular way to reach Bhawan is by trekking on foot from Katra. The trek is around 13.5 km long, and it takes around 4-6 hours to reach Bhawan, depending on your fitness level. The trek is well-marked and well-lit, and there are several facilities such as restrooms, eateries, and medical aid centers along the way.
Katra to Vaishno Devi by Ponies or Horses:
You can also hire a pony or a horse to reach Bhawan from Katra. The cost of hiring a pony or a horse depends on the season and the demand. The journey takes around 4-5 hours, and it is a popular option for those who are unable to trek on foot.
Katra to Vaishno Devi by Helicopter:
You can also take a helicopter from Katra to Sanjichhat, which is located near Bhawan. The helicopter service is operated by the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, and it takes around 8 minutes to reach Sanjichhat. From Sanjichhat, you can trek to Bhawan or take a pony or a horse.
Note that due to weather conditions and demand, the availability of the helicopter service may vary, and it is recommended to book your tickets in advance.
Places in the Route of Katra to Vaishno Devi (14 km)
- Darshani Darwaaza (Starting Point)
- Holy Track 1: Old Track
- Holy Track 2: New or Alternate Track
- Ban Ganga
- Charan Paduka
- Bhairon Ghati
- Reaching Bhawan
Also Read: History of Vaishno Devi
1. Darshani Darwaaza (Starting Point)
The point known as Darshani Deodhi or Darshani Darwaza, around 1 km away from the bus stand, serves as the entrance to the track. According to legend, it was at this spot where Mata Vaishno Devi appeared as a young girl and met Pandit Shridhar.
This location is also called Darshani Darwaza as it offers a complete view of the Trikuta mountain. The term “Darshan” means view, and therefore, symbolically, this marks the first view of the Yatra. The elevation of this spot is 2800 feet above sea level.
2. (i) Holy Track: Old Track (Main)
The track leading up to the Shrine was in poor condition prior to August 30th, 1986, when the management was taken over by the Board. It was filled with potholes, and loosely-laid stones, and had an uneven surface. However, after the Board took over, the entire track was reconstructed.
It was widened, paved with tiles, and made much smoother. In addition, the steep inclines were made more gentle in several places. For safety, many parapets were built, and railings were installed along the track. Furthermore, over 5 kilometers of the track have been covered with rain shelters to protect the pilgrims from unpredictable weather conditions.
Previously, there was a lack of illumination along the track leading to the Shrine. However, with the installation of more than 1200 High-Pressure Sodium Vapor Lamps, the entire path now glitters with light.
Additionally, to ensure that visiting devotees have access to potable water, 120 water points and about 20 water coolers have been installed along the route from Banganga to Bhawan. Before the management takeover, there were inadequate sanitary arrangements along the track.
However, now, approximately 600 modern flushing latrine seats have been provided along the track and at Bhawan.
2 (ii) Holy Track: New Track (Alternate)
To address the growing number of pilgrims and the inconvenience caused by the movement of ponies, a new track was constructed in the early 1990s. The sharp gradient at Hathimatha and the congested width of the old track necessitated this construction.
The new track, known as the alternate track, has a much more gradual gradient and was opened to the public in 1999. Unlike the old track, no ponies are permitted on the new track. This shorter and gentler track has received widespread appreciation from pilgrims.
The alternate track, which is 500 meters shorter than the old track, begins just below Adhkuwari near the Inderprastha viewpoint and ends just short of the Bhawan Complex.
The track is wider than the old one and easier to navigate due to its uniform climb and lower gradient. Along the way, there are two viewpoints, three refreshment units, drinking water points, and water coolers for the convenience of the pilgrims.
Additionally, several outlets serving tea, coffee, and soft drinks have been established, as well as a Dosa point at Himkoti Viewpoint. Toilet blocks have also been constructed to provide clean public utilities, and adequate shelter sheds are available.
To reduce pollution, a zero-emission battery vehicle runs along this track.
The Shrine provides a battery vehicle facility for infirm, sick, and handicapped devotees at Inderprasth (Adhkuwari) and Manokmana Bhawan. However, booking of the facility is subject to availability.
3. Ban Ganga
Beyond the Police Check Post and Yatra Parchi Check Post, pilgrims arrive at a small bridge that spans Banganga, a legendary river associated with the miracles and legends of Mata.
The river flows throughout the year, except during periods of acute rainfall or snowfall shortages in the monsoon and winter seasons, respectively.
It is considered sacred, and in keeping with Hindu tradition, many devotees like to take a bath in it before continuing on their journey. However, in modern times, many pilgrims choose to skip this traditional bath.
Nonetheless, those who have the time or are inclined to follow the legends and traditions may choose to take a dip in the river. There are a couple of Ghats constructed for this purpose, with the first one being typically very crowded and the other being comparatively more spacious.
The river flowing under the small bridge, which is considered sacred by the pilgrims, is known as Banganga. The name is derived from two words, “Ban” which means arrow, and “Ganga” which refers to the sacred river Ganges.
According to legends, while on her way to the Holy Cave, Mata Vaishno Devi created this water body with an arrow from her quiver, giving it the name Banganga. It is also believed that she had taken a dip in it and washed her hair. Hence, some people refer to it as Bal Ganga, where “Bal” refers to hair in Hindi.
4. Charan Paduka
Charan Paduka is located at an altitude of 3380 feet, approximately 1.5 kilometers from Banganga. It is believed that the holy footprints of Mata are imprinted on a rock slab at this site.
Darshans at Charan Paduka are quick, taking only a few minutes on a normal day. Pilgrims pay their respects to the footprints of Mata engraved on the rock slab and continue their journey, symbolically touching Mata’s feet and seeking her blessings at the start of their pilgrimage.
A medical unit operated by the Shrine Board is also situated here. Equipped with all necessary medical facilities and attended by trained medical staff, it provides pilgrims with access to essential medical care.
Adkuwari is located at an altitude of 4800 feet and about 500 meters from Inderprastha. The fluttering flag and temple spires can be seen and announcements can be heard from the announcement booth much before reaching there.
Adkuwari is situated halfway on the track, approximately 6 km from Katra, and is an important Darshan on the visit, second only to the main Darshans at the Holy Cave.
The term Adkuwari is believed to have originated from Adi kumari, meaning “The Eternal Virgin”. According to legend, Vaishnavi, in the form of a small girl, disappeared from the Bhandaara organized by Pandit Shridhar and halted at Banganga and Charan Paduka.
She then reached Adkuwari, where she meditated and observed spiritual discipline (Tapasya) in a small womb-shaped cave for nine months. The exact spot where she meditated is located on the right-hand side of the cave and is also shaped like a womb.
This cave has become popular by the name of Garbh Joon, meaning the Womb, since Vaishnavi had observed spiritual discipline in a womb-shaped cave for nine months. It is believed that passing through this cave cleanses a devotee’s sins and purifies their soul.
During her meditation, when Vaishnavi realized that Bhairon Nath had approached the cave in search of her, she created an exit at the other end with her trident and proceeded toward the Holy Cave.
As the cave is very narrow, only one person can pass through it at a time. While the entrance is broad, as one enters further, it becomes a challenge to pass through.
However, with a prompt or a nudge from the person waiting behind, remembrance of Mata in the heart and on the lips, and crawl by crawl, one emerges from the cave, fully recharged with energy that belongs to another world.
Additionally, a medical unit of the Shrine Board is located at Adkuwari and is equipped with all necessary medical facilities attended by trained medical staff.
Located about 2.75 kilometers from Adkuwari on the new track, Himkoti is a scenic spot offering breathtaking views of the entire valley. While there is no traditional or religious significance attached to this point, its natural splendor and serene charm captivate pilgrims and visitors alike.
The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has developed a viewpoint, restaurant, and dosa counter at this location. Visitors can find packed and cooked food, hot and cold beverages, and essential items such as medicare and oxygen cylinders, and cassettes.
There is ample space to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature. Himkoti is being developed into something more than a viewpoint, with plans to add an artificial pond, a garden, and a meditation center.
Sanji Chhat, located two and a half kilometers away from the Holy Shrine of Vaishno Devi Ji, is a charming little plateau. This place serves as a welcome break for pilgrims, as the upward climb ends at this point and it also offers a picturesque view. Prior to the Shrine Board’s takeover in 1986, the conditions at Sanji Chhat were vastly different.
The area was cluttered with small, unsanitary kiosks and shopkeepers would discard their waste on the hillside, creating an unpleasant sight and odor. There were no proper arrangements for drinking water, except for Chhabils.
The Dharmarth Trust had constructed a Dharamshalla, but the accommodation was extremely inadequate, with almost non-existent toilet facilities.
Sanjhichhat underwent a significant transformation after the Shrine Board took over its management. The first step was a massive sanitation drive to clean up the hillside. The small, unsanitary kiosks were removed and relocated, while the main platform was reconstructed with white marble and Kota Stone, adorned with a fountain and floodlights.
New shopping complexes and toilet blocks were also erected, and the water supply was improved. To enhance medical facilities for pilgrims, a 24-bed hospital was established. Additionally, a new helipad was constructed to allow for the recent introduction of helicopter services between Katra and Sanjhichhat.
8. Bhairon Ghati
Prior to the takeover of the holy Shrine by the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board in the year 1986, the Bhairon Temple was ignored and the track leading to the temple was in a dilapidated condition, making the climb a grueling task.
However, after the takeover, significant emphasis was placed on developments in this area, particularly the widening and beautification of the track, remodeling of steps, and the construction of rain shelters and toilets.
Additionally, the entire track has been illuminated with High-Pressure Sodium Vapour Lamps and the water supply has been augmented. For the convenience of the pilgrims, toilet blocks have also been constructed and a refreshment unit named OM has been started to provide adequate and reasonably priced beverages and packed food items such as biscuits and snacks.
The Temple area has been beautified by fixing marble tiles and slabs along the pre-ambulation of the temple. As a result of these efforts, the visit of the pilgrims to the Bhairon temple is now much more convenient and memorable.
9. Vaishno Devi Darshan at Bhawan
The ultimate destination of the pilgrims, the Holy Bhawan houses the Sanctum Sanctorum – the Holy cave, where the Goddess has revealed herself in the form of Holy Pindies, manifesting Mata in her three forms Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi, and Mata Saraswati.
Around 1.5 kilometers before reaching the Holy Bhawan, a pilgrim catches the first glimpse of it, which brings an upsurge of energy, and all the tiredness from the strenuous climb evaporates instantly, as if by some magic wand.
The relief of the last 1.5 kilometers being either level or gently sloping downwards eases the tired muscles. Filled with extra fervor and devotion, the yatra covers the last 1.5 kilometers on wings and reaches Bhawan in no time.
Legend has it that Vaishnavi, after leaving the Garbh Joon cave at Adhkawari where Bhairon Nath had located her, began climbing uphill until she reached the Holy Cave. Bhairon Nath, who was following her, found her again inside the cave and started to challenge her.
The Goddess then assumed her divine form and severed Bhairon Nath’s head with her sword. The blow was so powerful that Bhairon Nath’s head flew and landed on another spur of the mountain, about 1.5 kilometers away, which is now the site of the Bhairon Temple.
His torso remained at the mouth of the Holy Cave. The Goddess then immersed herself in deep meditation inside the Sanctum Sanctorum, where she is manifested in the petrified form, also known as the Holy Pindies, representing Mata in her three forms – Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi, and Mata Saraswati.
The Holy Bhawan is the focal point of the pilgrimage and the most important location in the entire Yatra circuit. The Shrine Board has made extensive arrangements and facilities available for the convenience of the devotees.
These include both free and rented accommodation options, toilet blocks, Bhojanalayas, post offices, banks, communication centers offering STD/PCO services, announcement centers, blanket stores, cloakrooms, medical dispensaries (with an ICU), general stores, Bhaint shops, and a police station, among others.
Vaishno Devi Temple’s Distance from Major Cities of India.