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A trip to Vaishno Devi

Traveling gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction.

It’s only when we travel that we learn a lot, experience new and sometimes unheard things, become conscious of our behaviors thus opening ourselves for correction and changes and broaden our horizons in the process.

Also the everyday routine does not leave us with much time to think and ponder on various things and thus what better time then travel to connect with oneself … when there is nothing else to do… when one is out of the routine… has no rules to follow and no set structure to adhere to.

And if the setting is natural too then nothing better!

So here is yet another of my travels… This is an old piece which I wrote some 5 years back…again about a journey… a trip to the shrine of Goddess Vaishno Devi.

“Chalo Bulaava Aaya Hai Maata Ne Bulaaya hai”

She beckons you, and you have to obey.

Had heard this very often, though believed in it with reluctance and an unbelieving nod. But everything, which is sacred, above human beings and also out of their control has an uncanny power, which it proves at a point when you start believing that these things don’t exist!

Same thing happened with me…I was becoming very engrossed in day to day life and had started taking the nitty grittys of life very seriously. The happenings of my office were becoming my breath and then suddenly came to light “A TRIP”.

A trip to none other than the sacred, respected, highly revered Shrine of Maata Vaishno Devi.

It was to be a very short trip (owing to leaves at our respective offices) stretching to only 2 and a half days.

There were four of us, Eakta, Pooja, My Bua and me, who had decided to go together.

On the First day of Month May 2004 and Last day of the week, Saturday, we started our journey for Maata’s Home. Our train a Summer Special “Jammu Tawi” left Delhi at around 8:30 P.M. in the evening. All four of us were charged, excited, anxious, though for different reasons! I was going for the first time, so were Eakta & Pooja. Though Bua has been there but that was a long time back. For us, it was like ‘Baby’s Day Out’ with no one to show right & wrong, and only ourselves to make decisions.

Our train reached Jammu in morning at around 7:30 A.M. The wind was chilly, though Sun was already high up there.

From Jammu, we had to go to Katra… so we started for Katra after having a light breakfast.

Katra is a small city, the home of one of the oldest pilgrim centers. Its main business comes from the tourists and the devotees. The occupation of natives range from selling merchandise to pilgrims, providing accommodation as in hotels and dharmshalas, rearing horses for taking devotees to the top (Bhawan) etc. In short, the population thrives on the tourism business. Otherwise, Katra is a normal hill station, with scenic beauty and calmness peculiar to such places. We reached Katra in about one and a half-hour, after crossing many military check posts and the River ‘Jammu Tawi’.

In Katra, we had booked ourselves in Ambika Hotel, which served us to the best. Once there, we took some time to freshen up and to ready ourselves for the great “Climb” ahead.

We left the hotel around 3:00 P.M. and hailed an auto, which took us to Baand Ganga. Baand Ganga is a small town, no different from Katra… but it is from here that the actual chadai or trekking starts. After that we were on foot and on our own as Bua took a horse and went ahead us. We met her only when we came back to Katra the next day. So for the entire trail, we three girls were on our own!

By the time we left Baand Ganga and started the real “Chadaai”, it was 4:45 P.M. The sun was still shining brightly and we each had one bag on our backs and one Hand support – a stick in our hand.

This was the real thing, so many people – some going up, some coming down all bound together by the same thread – Love, Respect & Trust for the Goddess – Maa Vaisno Devi. The first few kms were easy because of the fresh energy and motivation. Even the scorching heat of Sun didn’t deter us. After that it was the inspiration and the feeling, that a long cherished dream was coming true, that kept us going. The scenery on both the sides, at every point of time was enough to fuel even an amateur artist’s imagination.

The mountains were formidable, solid, natural and yet very inviting. No where I came across mountains which appeared to be hostile. The man made roads which criss cross the mountains, are all well built and also well lit. They are cleaned at regular intervals, to make the journey easier for all those devotees who go barefooted. After every 15 minutes or so, you come across vendors selling tea, coffee and lots of eatables. There are quite a lot of places, where one can sit and gain energy for going further. We made use of a lot of such places. These rest places also give a chance to view the natural beauty in different forms and colors.

We reached our next stop point ARDHKWARI at around 7:30P.M. Reaching ARDHKWARI tells you that you have covered half the distance. This fills you with renewed energy and you want to start for the top without any delay. We did the same, had our dinner, and started again. The weather had changed dramatically. It became cold and some protection was needed against the chilly wind. We made full use of our woolens and kept walking.

Now the number of people going up was more than those coming down. Everyone was chanting “JAI MATA DI” and all believed firmly that Maata heard them well. Such is the belief in Vaishno Devi, that the devotees included a large number of children and old aged people. All so engrossed in the business of praising and singing songs for Maata Devi, that the burns in their feet also could not demean their spirits.

We reached the Bhawan Of Vaishno Devi around midnight.  A look at the town, with its sparkling lights & streets bursting with activity can easily fool anyone about the time of the hour. We took the Prasad from one of the various shops in the market area and then headed towards our contact person, who was to help us for special DARSHAN.

Once we had our passes, we took some time and freshened up and got ready for the Darshan. Because of our passes we were able to reach the main temple within 10 minutes. The DARSHAN took another 15 minutes or so. We had good DARSHANS, though the time we got inside the temple was very less. The reason being large number of devotees…

After that we did a quick darshan of Bhairon Nath Mandir and set out for the journey back to Katra. It was on our way back that we witnessed yet another of nature’s beautiful scene.

As the Sun was rising, its rays were falling on the snow-covered peaks of Himalayas and being a clear day, we were able to see the entire mountain range. They appeared to be the last thing, which a human eye could see. So white, so distant and yet so clear due to Sun’s rays, which were playing with them and giving them all the seven different colors at just one point – their peak.

It was yet another way of the Supreme Power telling us that he still is the greatest artist!

We stopped there for almost half-hour, just couldn’t wean ourselves away from this scene. This point was above the Ardhkwari, where we reached in the next half-hour. Now the Sun was starting to go from being a soother from the chilly winds of night to a scorcher which can make skin go red & itchy. So we increased our pace and kept going down. The number of people going up had again increased now.

We finally reached Katra at around 11:00 A.M. Bua had come back in the morning itself and had rested well. All of us realized how tired we were for the first time, when we saw the beds in the Room! We somehow stopped from lying flat & freshened up, ate breakfast or brunch and got ready for going back to Jammu to catch our train.

On our way back to Jammu, we came across a very special place – Amar Singh Palace. There is a palace converted into a Museum and then there is a hotel. We couldn’t see museum as it’s closed on Mondays. But the mere picture which the palace made from outside said enough for the closed interiors. The palace looked as if it has come out of a painting, very English in its look – a solid structure less like any Indian Palace and more on lines of a British Fort. It was built by grand father of Present Raja Amar Singh and is located on the outskirts of Jammu City.

Next to the palace is another building, which has been converted into a hotel. It has a terrace garden, which gives a panoramic view of mountains, valleys and the river beneath. We had our dinner out in the open with stars all over. Then came out the moon and made the evening electrifying, even more beautiful. No other way could we have had a more fitting end to our long awaited, well planned, full of fun trip.

Our taxi then took us to the Railway Station, where we just managed to catch our train. Once inside the train, we took our places and went off to sleep, to wake up barely 5-10 minutes before reaching Delhi.

And so our Journey came to an end. This trip has left us with lots of memories and has also taught us a few new and a few old things!

It has taught us to be ready for any kind of contingency, to keep silent in the face of opposition rather face it with facts, to keep going, to always respect other person but still maintain one’s own dignity.

It has made us relearn some old things like Team Spirit, bonding between members, helping others, being open to changes, being accommodating and never giving up.

All in all, we had great fun, enjoyed a lot, saw beautiful nature and collected fond memories.

Bas ab hamari wishes bhi puri ho jaye…then All’s well that ends well.


Categories: Travel
  1. Rajiv
    December 12, 2010 at 17:26

    Very good descripition of ur tip. Keep up the good work.I plan to take my mother soon and will keep ur blog tips in mind.

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