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"Exploring the Sacred: A Journey to the Holy Shrines of Maa Vaishno Devi"

Many of us believe in a higher power, which we may refer to as God. It is common for people to have beliefs in a higher power or deity, which they may refer to as God. For some, belief in God represents hope and a sense of comfort during difficult times, as well as a feeling of gratitude during happy moments. Different people may have different understandings of what God means to them and may express their belief in different ways. In Indian culture, there are many ancient holy places scattered across the country, especially near the Himalayas. During a recent trip to Katra and Vaishno Devi, we visited several sacred sites. Here's a list of 12 places in and around Katra you must visit on your trip to Vaishno Devi. 

  1. Kol Kandoli Temple:- One of these was the Kol Kandoli Temple, located about 14 km from Jammu on the way to Katra. It is said to be auspicious to visit this temple before embarking on a journey to the Vaishno Devi shrine. According to legend, it was at this temple that Mata Rani first rested before taking up her permanent residence at the Trikuta Hills.

 

2. Deva Mai Temple:- The Deva Mai Temple is the second stop on the journey to the Vaishno Devi shrine.According to legend, Goddess Vaishno Devi meditated at this spot during the early phases of Kalyuga in order to fulfill her human life.The temple is located on top of a mountain with a view of the Trikuta Hills.The scenery from this temple is said to be magnificent. The temple is located about 3 miles from the main city of Katra.

 

 

 

 

3. Nau Devi Temple:- The Nau Devi Temple is a holy cave located among the hills, about 4 km from Katra.According to legend, all eight sisters of Maa Vaishno Devi lived and continue to bless pilgrims at this temple. The cave is said to be magical and has nine pindis inside.

 

 

4. Dhansar Baba:- The Dhansar Baba temple is located about 17 km from Katra. According to local legend, Baba Dhansar was the son of Vasudev and a devout follower of Lord Shiva. There is also a small cave dedicated to Lord Shiva at this site. Some people claim to have seen multi-headed serpentines (Sheshnag) appearing in the stream near the temple from time to time.Dhansar Baba is also the family deity for many local villagers, who offer statues when a child is born in the family. From this location, you can get a clear view of the Vaishno Devi shrine. However, be aware of the monkeys at this site and avoid carrying food in your hands.

 

 

 

 

5. Baba Jitto temple:- The Baba Jitto temple was built in honor of Baba Jittoji, who was a devout devotee of Maa Vaishno Devi.He hiked up the Trikuta Hills every day for 12 years without fail.One day, Maa Vaishno appeared before him in recognition of his dedication and offered him a flower. When he asked for a blessing, he requested to see the goddess every day and to have his village blessed with holy water. The goddess granted his wish and, to his surprise, a baby girl was born from a flower and holy water began to flow from the mountains. The goddess told him that he no longer needed to hike up and down the mountain, as she would remain with him in the form of the baby girl. It is said that the girl suddenly disappeared after Baba Jittoji's death.

 

 

 

6. Bhumika temple: Bhumika Devi is the temple where Pandit Shridhar used to pray is now known as the Shridhar Temple. If you've seen the movie "Jai Maa Vaishno Devi," you may remember this story. One day, while Pandit Shridhar and his wife were praying, Maa Vaishno appeared before them in the form of a young girl, or kanjak.

Blessed by the goddess, Pandit Shridhar became the priest of the Vaishno Devi shrine and was able to see her every day. His descendants, now in the 13th generation, continue to serve as priests at the shrine to this day.

 

 

7. Shiv Khori temple:- The Shiv Khori temple is located about 90 km from Katra and can be reached by taxi. From the drop-off point, it is a 3 km walk or pony ride to the natural cave. This is a popular destination for families, and my kids particularly enjoyed the experience and have been talking about returning.

 

According to the priest at the Shivkhori temple, this is the cave where Lord Shiva sought refuge after granting a boon to the demon king Bhasmasur. Bhasmasur wanted to use the boon to rule the universe, so he attempted to use it on Lord Shiva. In order to escape, Lord Shiva hid in the holy cave and then created a path through Amarnath. The rest of the cave leading to Amarnath has since been closed.

Visiting the Shivkhori temple was an exciting and slightly frightening adventure. There are lights along the way to the temple to brighten the space. The temple is a popular destination for those visiting Katra, and it can get quite crowded in the evenings. We visited early in the morning and saw many buses arrive as we were leaving, leading to long lines to enter the cave.

8. Baglihar Dam:- The Baglihar Dam, also known as the Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project, is a run-of-the-river power project located on the Chenab River in the southern Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The Chenab River is a major river that flows through both India and Pakistan and is one of the five major rivers of the Punjab region.

There is a waterfall in the area that attracts many locals and tourists during the summer months. However, it is not permitted to bathe or go near the river as the water levels can rise unexpectedly.

 

 

9. Har ki Pauri:- To reach Katra, most people land in Jammu either by plane or train. While in Jammu, it is worth visiting some of the sacred sites in the area. One such place is the Har ki Paudi temple, named after a similar temple in Haridwar.

The temple is beautifully designed, with many Hindu deities located in one place. The large Ganesha idol is particularly notable. Cameras are not allowed inside the temple, but this view is from the road above.

The temple is situated on the banks of the Jammu Tavi river, and you can walk down to the river from the temple. The summer months are a particularly nice time to visit, as the river is fuller due to rain.

 

 

10. Bage Bahu Kalika Temple:- The Bage Bahu fort is located on a mountain and features lush green gardens with fountains that have colored lights and a lake with a view. The fort also houses a famous Kalika temple, which is visited by thousands of people every day. The sunset from this location is said to be particularly beautiful.

 

 

 

11. Jamwant Gufa:- The Jamwant Gufa is a cave sacred to Lord Shiva, located in the Himalayas. There are many other caves in this region that are believed to be sacred as well. According to legend, Jamwant from the Ramayana stayed in this cave to pray after the war in Lanka was over. We were fortunate to visit during the evening aarti and felt blessed by the experience.

 

12. Raghunath Temple:- The Raghunath temple is one of the largest shrines in Jammu-Kashmir, second only to Vaishno Devi. It was built by King Ranjit Singh and is named after Lord Rama. The evening aarti at this temple was a truly blissful experience, and we were fortunate to participate in it twice during our trip.

 

 

Our trip to Katra was truly fantastic. We used a rickshaw to visit nearby sites and a taxi for longer distances. Our kids had a great time hiking and exploring the caves, and they loved all the thrills and excitement of the trip. We hope that we will be fortunate enough to visit Maa Vaishno again in the future.

We wish the same for all other travelers, and we hope that Maa Vaishno will bless you with a wonderful trip. Have a nice journey!