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Spiritual journey

Spiritual journey

Author: Prerna Katiyar
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: April 1, 2007
URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1841486.cms?epaper

It's everyone's dream to visit the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi once in lifetime. For the believers, it's a spiritual journey. And surprisingly even non-believers throng the place curious to find out what is it that pulls the masses to its fold every year. Well, for me it was sheer excitement of taking a weekend break and the pleasure to visit a holy place with my family.

In all, it's a 13-km trek from the base station Katra. At a distance of 1 km from Katra is Banganga. To cross this point, you need a registration slip that can be obtained from the Yatri Registration Centre (YRC) near the Katra bus stand. You also have the option to get it online. This slip has to be shown while entering darbar too which determines your number in the queue for darshan.

Vaishno Devi is located in the Trikuta mountains at a height of 5,200 feet, about 61 km north of Jammu city. We chose to cover the trek on foot. If you aren't feeling physically fit, you have the option of covering the winding path via palanquin, the pony or the helicopter.

That's right. You have the option of reaching the darbar via flight (How do you think most VIPs and politicians manage to get to the 'top' , on their foot?) . It's a delight to see the departure and arrival timing of flights for the shrine which says, departure 11:00 am, arrival 11:05 am. But the real adventure lies in taking a little pain and going en-masse on foot.

The enthusiasm among the devotees is mind blowing . After covering about 9.5 km, there is a place called Sanji Chhat, which is primarily a resting area. Taking a few breaks and not missing a cup of coffee at Café Coffee Day (It's even there! In fact, there are two outlets on the way); we hardly felt any pain when we actually got to the 'bhawan' . And the Shrine Board has done a terrific job by making arrangement for food, cloakroom, accommodation and changing room available at affordable prices.

The instruction in the cave requested devotees not even to mumble when inside, but the crowd, who was so overwhelmingly charged, hardly bothered. And in the tussle of pushes, came the chants of "Jor se bole (Jai mata di), aage wale (jai mata de), peechhe wale (jai mata de) ... " And while I was struggling to find the ground beneath my feet, literally, I saw two men on duty standing who turned me to show the real abode of the Devi. I had barely finished paying obeisance to the Devi, in the form of three pindies on a natural rock, and realising that now I too belong to that 'genre' who have had the Devi Ke Darshan , alas, my turn was over and I was asked to move on as others behind were desperately waiting for their turn. That was fair enough.

Legends say that the Darshan is not complete until you visit the Bhairon Nath temple which is at a distance of about one-and-a-half km, atop an adjacent hill. So, we too decided to make it the last leg of our visit. Our return journey was a smooth one as we opted to hire pitthus (pony), feeling a bit tired by now. Just one last bit about the trip. Don't miss the langar that is served on your return to the base station and it tastes even better as the satisfaction in your heart of making it to the 'top' makes it all the more delectable!

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