Planning to visit Vaishno Devi temple, few tips may make it a memorable journey
Travel to sacred places in India requires lot of home work for planning journey to make it comfortable and convenient. A journey to Vaishno Devi needs more care and advance planning since number of visitors is fairly large and facilities to such a huge population is not easy to provide by the management.
One has to take care in making reservations for travel and have to consider time taken in visiting the shrine.This article provides few tips to make journey a memorable one. First and foremost thing to do to undertake journey to Vaishno Devi is to carry an umbrella and suitable clothes depending on weather. Online services are available to book various tickets in advance. If online services are not used, one has to collect registration slip (yatra parchi) from the shrine board's office that is located near the bus stand.Helicopter booking may be done offline from "Niharika Bhawan" located near bus stand. However, current availability of tickets for helicopters is difficult since tickets are booked by people using online services 15 to 30 days in advance.
Registration facility is now available online and it may be made in advance. One has to register first at the official site of Shri Mata Vishno Devi Shrine Board. Login details, after registration, are emailed to the mail address of the person concerned.
Using these login details one may use the online services of the shrine board for the following.
1. Yatra parchi: It's free to get a registration slip issued from Tourist Reception Center, Katra Bus Stand but costs rupees fifty if you get it online.
2. Attka Aarti Darshan: A maximum number of Attka allowed are five per calender month.
3. Helicopter services: The maximum number of booking of seats allowed are five seats/calender month/user. It costs Rs 1398/- for both side journey and 700/- for one way. Online reservation may be made one month in advance. One may try at Niharika Bhawan if any slot is vacant under current booking.Pawan Hans and Global Vectra Helicopter services are available from Katra to Saanjhichhat.
4. Room bookings: A user can book a maximum of one room having five dormitory beds per calender month. Accommodation is available at Vaishnavi Dham and Saraswati Dham near Railway Station in Jammu, at Niharika Yatri Niwas and Shakti Bhawan situated at the Bus stand in Katra. Trikuta Bhawan, Katra situated near the 2nd Yatra counter (YRC II), has 700 bedded accommodation. Accommodation is also available for online booking at Adkuwari, Sajichatt and at main Bhawan. One bed accommodation in dormittory is available at a charge ranging from 60 to 80 rupees and four bedded accommodation ranging between 400-900 and six bedded hut at 1000 rupees.
5. Individual poojan
6. SSVP poojan: Only one poojan can be booked per user per calender month.
7. Bhaint & Prasad
There are several options available for tourists to perform their journey and make stay arrangements. One has to move from Jammu to Katra and begin journey to holy shrine.Time taken to reach holy shrine depends on the mode of travel. Distance of main temple from Katra is approximately 14 km that may be performed using different modes of conveyance. Auto rickshaws are available from Katra bus stand to Baanganga and next stretch from Baanganga to Ardhquaary may be toured either on foot or on a pony. Ponies are available from Katra Bus Stand to main temple at a price of rupees nine hundreds. Journey using ponies appears bit expensive as journey by a helicopter costs just rupees seven hundred and takes just 10-12 minutes but availability decides the choice.Distance of Ardhquaary from Baanganga is just 6 km but slope is very steep. Battery operated auto-rickshaws are available to take pilgrims from Ardhquaary to Sanjheechhat.
Things to remember:
- Take suitable clothes and accessories such as umbrella with you
- Book train tickets well in advance to avoid last hour rush
- Book accommodation using online services. It's cheaper compared to private accommodation such as hotels and dharamshalas
- Online bookings are available for one month. Hence, book accommodation and helicopter services in the midnight as booking for 30th days begins at midnight (00.01 AM).
- Avoid carrying luggage and baggage as nothing is allowed inside the main temple and one has to deposit all possessions in the clock room and it consumes considerable time.
- Avoid journey during rainy or extreme winter season.
Space availability in and around the main temple is limited considering the visiting crowd. Devotees may save considerable time if they go without luggage and valuables considering the wastage of time in depositing their belongings to clock rooms. There are only three clock rooms located far away from each other and each has long ques. It is always advisable to book rooms in advance for taking rest if you are traveling on foot or ponies as journey is tiresome. It takes 3-4 hours travel time if journey is performed riding a pony and 5-7 hours in case you prefers to walk on foot. Other means of travel like riding auto-rickshaw may reduce travel time considerably.
One has to plan stay at Kota or Jammu based on the itinerary. Usually people use accommodation to take bath and rest for few hours before taking up their journey from Katra. Rooms are available in the hotels of Katra at a price ranging between Rs 900 - 3000 for double or triple accommodation. Dormitories are also available at reasonable prices. However, one may bargain at a price of Rs 400-900 for a group of 8-10 people to take rest, get fresh and drop luggage in clock rooms of the hotels before beginning pilgrimage to holy shrine. Avoid 'Dharamshaalas' and use of their facilities since owners of these insist to buy "Prasad" at very high rates.
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