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Jammu & Kashmir - Vaishno Devi And Katra
Katra is the gateway to to the famous Jai Matadi Shrine of Vaishno Devi, where thousands of visitors throng everyday. It takes around 2 hours to reach Katra from Jammu, and buses, luxury buses, vehicles in share and full hire vehicles are available from Jammu to Katra. From Katra, one can go by foot, by horse (Rs.1250 approx), or by Dandi(Rs.2500, carried by 4 persons) to the shrine. One can also take the helicopter service charged which can take in 6 persons at a time and charges Rs. 2500 per person. For the aged and disabled, there is also the battery operated autos, and runs at only Rs.100 per head. You can also hire porters for your luggage at Rs.250. But rates may differ according to crowd, season or weight of person or luggage.
The ideal time to take the journey is at night, when the roads are safe and journey is pleasant. There is no dearth of eateries, toilets, lights or security throughout the way at nights. The total journey is about 13 kms, and the entire way comprises ups and downs.
The first 2 kms are flat, thereafter you have to climb for the next 9 kms, then again 2 kms of flat terrain, and the last 1 km is a downhill.
To stay, there are many dharamshalas and tourist centers. But few stay there. Some stay at Katra. Most leave the same day after Devi darshan. Jai Mata Di!
About 700 years ago, Bramin Sridhar Ji got instruction from Devi ma, to go 62 kms away and to discover Vaishno Devi in a cave. That has now become the must see of millions of pious Hindus.
En route, visitors can also visit the adh Kabri mandir and the trikut chura mandir. The latter will require some desperate steps climbing.
There are quite a few temples in Katra as well, the notable among them are Hanumanji temple, Mahalaxmi temple and hare ram hare Krishna temple.
There is also the Bhumika temple, where Vaishno Devi mata was first seen in human form. Another 5 kms off is Jitto mandir, and two kms from there is the picturesque Deva Mai mandir.
Other places that can be accessed from Katra are:
Saral hydel project at Riyasi, about 21 kms from Katra.
Akhnur Fort, which is about 78 kms from Katra, and 32 kms from Jammu.