Katra or Katra Vaishno Devi, as it is popularly known, is a small town in Reasi district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir situated in the foothills of the Trikuta Mountains, where the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi is located. It is located 42 km from the city of Jammu.
Katra is located at 32.98°N 74.95°E. It has an average elevation of 875 metres (2,474 feet). There have also been reports of possible oil reserves in the area
Katra serves as the base camp for pilgrims who visit Vaishno Devi. It has a thriving tourism industry that offers plenty of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, dhabas, fast-food joints that fit all kinds of budgets. Free accommodation is provided by some registered trusts in the form of Sarais for the poor. The number of pilgrims that visit the shrine every year has increased from 1.4 million in 1986 to 8.2 million in 2009. Over the years, a lot has changed, but one should not miss the opportunity to walk through the main bazaar (market) for buying (do not forget/hesitate to negotiate a bit) souvenirs, dryfruits, woolen garments, hosiery, leather jackets, etc.To reach Vaishno Devi Mandir(temple) the pilgrims have to register at the Katra before starting the trek. By registering, the pilgrims get accident insurance while on the trek for 1 lakh INR. It is a trek of 14 km.There is another trek (2.5 km) from Vaishno Devi temple for Baba Bhaironnath. It is said that the pilgrimage is not complete until you visit this temple at last. The scenery throughout the trek is picturesque.Environment-friendly auto rickshaws and helicopter services are available, to make the journey a pleasant one.
Places of Interest
-Vaishno Devi Temple
In the hovering ranges of Himalaya lies the temple cave, Vaishnodevi. Dedicated to Mother goddess Vaishnodevi, this famous shrine allures millions of devotees from all over the world. Popularly known as Mata Rani, Vaishno Goddess is a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Mahalakshmi. It is a Hindu temple situated in the Trikuta Mountains within the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is assumed that during the pooja and Aarti, Goddesses arrive at the Holy cave to pay their respect to Mata Rani. Devotees believe goddess herself calls the devotees to reach here.
Situated at the foothills of trikuta mountain range, this temple is an example of serene divinity. The train journey from Jammu onwards to Katra is not just scenic but an exciting adventure that takes one through magnificent bridges and tunnels. The trek of 13 km can be finished in about 6 to 9 hours depending on the fitness, age and weather conditions.
The experience one gets in the darshan is so enthralling that the 13km climb is considered insignificant. Another attribute of visiting this sacred place is the trudging like experience it provides throughout the mounting path. Located in the snow clad mountain ranges, this sacred shrine commands the pictorial beauty of the majestic Himalayas. A pleasant climate and the enchanting darshan of the goddess make the toilsome and tiring journey a worthy one. Natural splendors at its acme can be enjoyed throughout the sojourn.
Charan Paduka is a sacred destination that is nestled at an elevation of 3380 feet just 1.5 kms from Banganga. It is believed that the Goddess Durga decided to stay at this place, when she was chased by Bhairavnath. Devotees from various geographical locations of the world visit the Charan Paduka temple to pay homage at the footprints of the Goddess etched on a large piece of rock. The devotees touch the feet of the Mata and pray for her blessings while also enjoying the fun-filled journey. The serene environment of the place and Mata’s blessings fill the devotees with a new found energy and a get great peace of mind. To handle any medical emergencies, a medical unit of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has also been set up to provide all the important medical facilities for the betterment of the devotees.
-Dera Baba Banda
An old Gurudwara, Dere Baba Banda is dedicated to Baba Banda Bahadur who was one of the favorite Jathedars of Guru Gobind Singh. The walls are filled with pictures depicting the times of war and various important personnels of that time. Being one of the important religious centers in Kashmir, the Gurudwara attracts a huge number of Hindus and Sikhs, especially during the three-day Vaisakhi mela.