Jai Mata Di!
My small vacation finally ended when I returned from Jaipur yesterday. It was a memorable trip, had lots of fun. I went to the Holy Shrine along with my friends. I will put this as a part by part story.
Gurgaon to Jammu: My friends were coming from Jaipur, they had already boarded the train from Jaipur, I was to board in the way from Gurgaon. They train was an hour late from the originating station itself, and kept on getting late and late, and reached my station an hour and thirty minutes late. I finally got in the train and we moved to the Delhi station, where we had our dinner. Then the journey started towards Jammu. The journey was quite OK. Got quite cold once we got into Punjab in the early morning. And finally the train got to the Jammu Tawi station at around 10:45am.
Jammu to Katra: You have to goto Katra to visit the Vaishno Devi Shrine. Katra is like 50-70 kms away from Jammu and takes around 2 hours journey. Various modes of transport were available, we started off with the Pre Paid Taxis, but came out to be quite costly, so we decided to go in the Deluxe buses run by the J&K Govt. Jammu is a great place. Every now and then you could spot a military soldier patrolling the area and some occasional caravans of the Indian Army moving along the roads. The hill section just before Katra was quite scary. Narrow roads and deep pits make you feel scared. Better not to look down. To make it worse the buses didn’t slow down enough to make us feel comfortable and turned on the steep turns at scary pace, with vehicles coming from the opposite direction as well, I know its a daily routine for them…but for goodness sake…pity us! Well I took a deep breath when we finally got out of the hill section to the city area. The bus was stopped before entering the place and all the passengers were requested to get off the bus and get their baggage checked for security. It took 10 minutes for the inspection, and then the journey started again. We finally reached a rain drenched Katra city, got off the bus at around 1:15pm. First got ourselves registered, then went to a hotel, checked in and relaxed for a while. Its compulsory for everyone going to the temple to get registered.
Katra to temple: At around 3:00 we got ready, ate lunch, and started the climb towards the Bhawan, the place where the main temple is. The whole mountain was covered in thick fog over the top area. We got some snacks and liquids for the journey and began climbing. For older people there were the options of horse ride and palkhi. There were lots of shops around the path. We reached Adhkawari diversion, took some 5 minute halt and then moved towards Bhawan. By this time we had climbed around 2300 ft. and 6 kms. It wasn’t so cold here as expected, in fact we were sweating. But once we got to some serious height, the temperatures started dropping. From this diversion there were no shops, and no horses were allowed ahead from this route, they had to take another route from the Adhkawari area. We continued on the Bhawan route. And it kept on getting darker and darker and when we got to Himkoti (8.5 kms, 5120 ft.) it was so foggy we could hardly see anything beyond some meters. But the scene down the pit was lovely. We could see the lights of the Katra town glowing, and the clouds were below us with occasional lightning thunders. And by this time it was getting a lot colder. And once we got to the other side of the mountain a heavy gush of cool wind blew on us. Brrrr…it was chilly! We had a cup of coffee, some rest before we moved on. The best part of this climb is that you get a coffee & snacks counter every now and then, so that you don’t feel the chill. We again started the climb, went through some security checks and finally reached the Bhawan at around 8 pm(13 kms, 5200 ft. means we climbed 2700 ft.). By now it was raining quite heavily, but we didn’t get wet thanks to the shelter. We got our number for darshan, and went to the lockers area, where we kept our bags and shoes, but the moment we put our barefoot on the wet floor, brrr….we were in for a shocker. The floor and water was icy cold, you could barely stand still on the foot. We kept on changing the balance from one foot to the other. And got into the temple, but still the carpets were all wet inside, and still it was icy cold, and after sometime the feet lost sense. We didn’t feel all the cold anymore, and we got through some more security checks and finally got to the main place where the pindis are. They come to your left, and if this is the first time you are here, you are bound to miss it. One of our friends had been here previously and told us to quickly see on to your left. I wondered why he said quickly. Little did I know that I wont be allowed to stand there even for some seconds. Just a quick glance and the security asked us to move. Now I know why he said quickly! Well anyways we got the prasad, and then thought of whether to goto the Bhairon Nath’s temple. It was a further 1.5 kms away, but the altitude for 1419 ft. more. And with the weather going worse we decided not to go there and started our way back. Although according to the legend the goddess herself said that in order to complete the pilgrimage, one should also visit this temple. But we had no choice and had to come back. Next time we will go though.
Bhawan to Katra: We started our way back at around 10. We thought that the return journey will be relatively easy, but little did we know that the downhill was even as difficult. You had to slow down every time the slope went steep. And holding yourselves for 3 years means a lot of work for your leg muscles. We finally got down to Katra at around 1:30am. We didn’t have the strength to even have our dinner and finally went to the hotel, put the legs in some hot water and hit the sack! We woke up the next morning at around 11, still feeling tired, and had the lunch got ready and went back to the Jammu Railway Station.
Katra to Jammu: We thought of using the same bus service like last time. But 2 of our friends thought of otherwise. We chose to go by a taxi, as it wont be high enough to let us see down from that ghat section. We finally got to the Jammu station at 5:30 in the evening and waited for the train which was scheduled to depart at 8:30pm.
Jammu to Delhi: We had our dinner and slept in the train as we all were still tired. Reached New Delhi station in the morning at around 7. Took the Metro train for our friend’s relatives. Had breakfast and then went for some shopping in the day.
Delhi to Gurgaon, Jaipur and back: We then went to my house in Gurgaon, had some snacks and coffee and went to Jaipur for my Holi. Although I don’t play Holi, I haven’t played for 9 years now. But enjoyed my time with friends and came back after 2 days to my home.
The vacation finally got over and back to the same old routine. It was a memorable trip. If anyone who is reading this plans to goto the place. Do visit the official website for more information, suggestions and tips. The official website is http://www.maavaishnodevi.org/
Jai Mata Di!