Friday, June 22, 2012

Trip to Vaishno Devi

जय माता दी!

How to reach Vaishnodevi?

  • You should get to Jammu first by Train/Bus/Plane.
  •  We arrived at Jammu by train in the afternoon (2pm) by Sarvoday Express. Taxi stand is located right outside Jammu Railway Station. Private Taxis and Buses are available. (Update: As of 2015 direct train to Katra is in service from New Delhi)
  • Katra is about 50 Km away from Jammu. Because of slightly mountainous terrain, it takes about 1:30-2:00 hour to get to Katra from Jammu.
  • Jammu - Katra road is single track like most other roads in Himalays. Upto Domel road is being widen currently part of Jammu - Shrinagar highway project. Be prepared for frequent stops.
Jammu Katra Road

Where to Stay in Katra?

  • There are quite a few good hotels on Jammu-Katra Rd. Rooms were resonably comfortable by foreign standard. One we stayed was hotel Bhawani's Paradise. ( 
Hotel Room

Before You Being your Yatra..

Way to Banganga
  •  First thing first, you need have 'Yatri Parchi'. Center is open from 6:00am-11:00pm. There is no cost for parchi but you have to stand in line for average 30-60mins in month of May. Parchi is only valid for 6 hours to start  your journey. Center is located close to Katra Bus Stand. I highly recommend to obtain Yatra Parchi from official Vaishnodevi board website. They charge Rs. 50 but it is worth savings some time and go straight to Yatra start point.
  • Yatra's start point is BanGanga Checkpost. You can get auto rickshaw from hotel to BanGanga. Depending upon time of the day it can cost you anywhere from Rs. 30 to Rs. 100.

What are my options of Trekking from Banganga Checkpost?

  • If you are fit and healthy, you should walk. Both myself and my wife decided to walk all the way upto Bhawan (temple).
  • There is always need for some type of assistance for elderly parents or young kids. Options are -
    • Helicopter - If you are lucky enough and can get ticket from Vaishnodevi Board Website, Helicopter is good option. It cost about Rs. 1400 Return Journey. Booking is only available 30 days in advance, unfortunately website is slow and doesn't accept foreign credit cards. After 12 hour of failed attempt I was only able to book one ticket. So I decided to use option 2 - by the way, Helicopter ride is upto Sanji Chat. You will have to do Doli or Tattu for onwards Journey (about 2km). Also, Helipad is another couple of km away. So dont be at Banganga if  you have Hlicopter ticket. Ask local for a help.
    • Doli - One way journey can cost upto Rs. 4000 per person upto Bhawan, but this is your best bet. It is much more comfortable for your parents and guys truly deserve money being charged. My recommendation, go for two-way journey so your return trip is secured.
    • Tattu/Ghoda/Poni - It is more of a fun ride for young people. I wouldn't pick Tattu ride as primary option for elderly parents. That doesn't mean you can completely rule out but it is not as comfortable as Doli.
    • Rickshaw - Battery operated rickshaw is available from Aradhakuvari (mid point). Few things one should consider, it is first come first serve and capacity is limited. It may or may not operate if they have power issues to recharge battery. You can get Tattu to/from Aradhkuwari but you will not get Doli. Ideally, it is designed for physically challenged & elderly but rule is not being followed. again, for elderly parents end to end Doli is much better option.
    • Pittu - For small kids, if you dont want to carry by yourself, Pittus are available at reasonable cost. One way it will cost about Rs. 600. They will walk with you at your speed. Get their i-cards before you start journey.

..On your way to Bhawan!

  •  I decided to trek with my wife. We started around 7am in the morning. It was very pleasant experience.
  • Things you want to carry with you - small backpack to hold Camera and water bottle/medicines.
  • do not carry any food items or even dont carry more than one bottle of water for group of people. There are plenty of shops available all the way upto Bhawan to take small break and refresh yourself.
  • As always, Drink lot of water. Dont drink Pepsi & other soft drinks, it will not do any good. 
  • As you move up, it gets little cooler but our call was in month of May :) Temperature stays in about upper 90s. also, it is vacation time in India so do expect good amount of devotees.
  • some people, prefer to start journey in night. It is completely safe and good amount of folks travel in night to be at Bhawan by early morning. You will be never alone.
  • If  you are hiking all the way, you can use new track to Bhawan used by Rickshaws. Tattus are not allowed on this road. 
  • First 6 km upto Aradhakuwari is difficult track with steep gradient. go slow, drink water, take breaks.
  • with all frequent breaks, you should reach Bhawan in about 6 hours.

..  at Bhawan

  •  Now you have reached Bhawan. Refresh yourself and get ready for holly experience.
  • Take puja saman from near by shops and stand in line. Depending upon how busy it is wait time can be 1-2 hour. 
  • Dont forget to put your valuables including Camera in locker room.
  • Legacy Cave path is only open in Jan-Feb.
  • Take Matta's blessings and Prasadi from outside counter.
  • If you wish, you can stay over night or find a bed to crash. You can book in advance.
  • food court is available. 
Maa Vaishnodevi Temple

 ... On Way Back to Banganga.

  • So we couldnt find Doli for parents and autorickshaw was not available after 5pm. Tickets are very limited. They decided to walk down hill. On return journey you burn less energy as you are going down-hill. 
  • Parents picked up Tattu from Aradhakuwari, and we decided to walk all the way to base. 
  • I suggest again, get round trip Doli, don't depend upon Rickshaw if you want to secure comfort.
  • We started around 6pm and were back at hotel by 1:00 AM. 
  • Pickup Prasadi from Bhawan and any other type of shopping can be done from local market between Aradhakuwari and Banganga.
  • Auto Rickshaw in the night will cost about 100-150 Rs. to get back to hotel. Return road is different.
  • Needless to say, were tired but very happy to accomplish long standing dream of getting Maa's blessings.
  • Finally, information provided here is solely my experience. Things could have been done differently or for better. I hope this blog allows Devotees (specially NRIs) to plan their trip better! Good Luck.. and..

जय माता दी!