Vaishno Devi, the temple of Mata Rani a reincarnation of Goddess Kali, Laxmi and Saraswati is Maa Vaishno. Each year lakhs of people trek to reach the Mata Rani Mandir and it is believed that the Goddess listens to all and never let anyone go empty handed. This Hindu shrine is located at a height of 5300 feet. It is near to the town Katra in Reasi district of J&K. The distance from Katra and Vaishno Devi is around 12 km.
This place is one of the most important shakti peeths. Like other pilgrimage, it is really tough to find out the exact time of the establishment but geological studies have presumed that the shrine is more than a million year old. Pandavas were the first to find the shrine and started worshipping the Goddess. It is a myth that Vasudev asked Arjuna the third pandava to worship Devi Vaishno before the Kurukshetra Battle. He did and addressed the Devi as ‘Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye’. That means ‘you who always dwell in the temple on the slope of the mountain in Jamboo’. May be later on the term Jammu came from the word Jomboo.
Maa Vaishno Devi is an incarnation of three supreme powers of the Adi Shakti- Maa Kali, Maa Saraswati and Dhanalaxmi Devi Maa Laxmi.
As per te ancient legends of the Mata Rani, once Adi Shakti was busy in annihilating the Asuras. After a certain time, she merged three of her most important powers Maa Maha Kali, Maa Maha Lakshmi and Maa Maha Saraswati. The three manifestatiosn merged together to form a Tejas which is better understood as the spiritual strength. A bright light was created and from the manifestation of the three Maha Shaktis, a girl was born. When she asked that why she has been created, the Devi told her that she should take birth in the house of Ratnakar and his wife who were then residing in the southern India. The main purpose of her life is to spread righteousness and abolish Paap (misdeeds). She also told the girl that later on she should be consorted with Lord Vishnu and will be one with him. Finally, the girl did the same as asked and the couple named her Vaishnavi. Since childhood the girl deity had shown interest in knowledge.
Mata Rani is said to listen to all her bhakts (followers). Trekking to the temple is pretty hectic but finally when people reach there, all their fatigue is gone after witnessing the Goddess and the beautiful ambience the temple has. The Deity is one of the main goddess in Northern India. The Punjabis also pray to Mata Rani as she is the symbol of shakti (power).
Besides the main temple of Mata Rani Vaishno Devi, there are several other temples, which comprise of some of the major attractions here during the journey.
Charan Paduka Temple, Vaishno
Situated at a distance of 1.5 km from Banganga, the charan Paduka temple is situated. Per mythology, Devi Durga stayed here for some time when Bhairav Nath was chasing her. It is around 3,380 ft above the sea level.
Ardh Kuwari, Vaishno Devi
Ardh Kauri is a religious destination which is nearly 48ooft above the sea level and is situated at a distance of 4.5 km from Charan Paduka. It is a major shrine on the way to the Vaishno Devi Mandir.
Bhairav Nath Temple, Vaishno Devi
The BHairav Temple is 3 km from the main shrine of the Vaishno Devi. This is dedicated to the sage who later on transferred to a monster Bhairav Nath. This temple is the last point of the Vaishno devi pilgrimage.
Jahan Kosha, Vaishno Devi
This is an ancient sightseeing to Vaishno devi mandir. This place is famous for a cannon built by Janardhan Karmakar, a 17th century craftsman from Bnagladesh. This cannon is around 17.5 ft long. There is a mosque on the way called Kadam Sherif.
1. Katra to Ardh Kuari (a 6 km journey)
Either Walk - 3 hours, Pony Ride- INR200 - 1 hour or Pitthu - for luggage or small babies – INR 140 - 3 hours
2. Ardh Kuari to Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan (a distance of 6 km)
By trekking - 3 hours
Pony ride will charge 200 - 1 hour
Or hire a Pitthu - for luggage or small babies -INR140 - 3 hours
Get Electric Vans - Only for elderly people or handicap
3. Katra to Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan directly (it will cover a total distance of 12 km)
Helicopter Ride will charge INR 800+ additional charges=INR 1500. You will be reached in 8 minutes.
Or else hire a Palki - for elderly - approx that will charge INR 3000 for 6 hours.
Trekking will take - 6 hours
Pony Ride will charge INR 85 per hour.
Pitthu can be hired for luggage or small babies that will charge INR 200 for 6 hours.
4. Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan to Bhairo Baba temple (a distance of 2 km)
Trekking- 2 hours
Pony ride: 45 minutes | INR 150 Pitthu: 2 hours
5. The retreat
During coming down you don’t have to take Bhawan. You can come directly from the Bhairo Baba temple to Ardh Kuari.
The nearest railway station is Katra and the nearby domestic airport is Srinagar Airport. It is well connected with New Delhi, Mumbai, Trivandum , Pune and more.
The Best time to visit Vaishno Devi : October-March