Katra or Katra Vaishno Devi, as it is popularly known, is a small town in 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. The name Jammu is derived from its ruler who founded it. Raja Jambulochan founded this city and named it Jambupur which later changed to Jammu. The climate here is mild and generally warm and temperate. The temperature ranges from an average of 40.6 °C in the summer to a low of 77 °C. The religious tourism forms the major source of economy.
History: Jammu has historically been the capital of Jammu Province and the winter capital of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir princely state (1846–1952). Jambu Lochan was the brother of Raja Bahu Lochan who constructed a fort, Bahu Fort, on the bank of river Tawi. The city name figures in the ancient book Mahabharata. Excavation near Akhnoor, 32 km from Jammu city, provides evidence that Jammu was once part of the Harappan civilisation. Remains from the Maurya, Kushan, Kushanshahs and Gupta periods have also been found in Jammu. The area witnessed changes of control following invasions by Mughals and Sikhs, before finally falling under the control of the British. The city remained in scientific isolation and lagged behind other Indian cities. Then came the Dogra Rule that revived its ancient glory by building great temples, renovated old shrines, built educational institutes and more. A 43 km long railway line connecting Jammu with Sialkot was laid in 1897 but it was abandoned after the Partition of India as the railway link to Sialkot was broken. Jammu had no rail services until 1971 when the Indian Railways laid the Pathankot – Jammu Tawi Broad Gauge line.
Legend: As per the legend, Vaishnavi was born in the house of Ratnakar and his wife in the southern part of India. Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Saraswati coalesced to form Vaishnavi. At a very tender age, this beautiful girl meditated in the forest to seek knowledge. She then set up an Ashram at the base of Trikuta hills. As time passed her glory spread far and wide, and people began to flock to her Ashram to seek her blessings. Maha Yogi Guru Gorakhnath Ji sent his most able disciple ‘Bhairon Nath’, to find the truth of Vaishnavi being able to attain a high level of spirituality. Bhairon Nath was enamoured by Vaishnavi’s extraordinary beauty, and losing all good sense he began to pester Vaishnavi to marry him, she tried her best to daunt him. On failing to do so, Vaishnavi decided to flee away into the mountains to continue her meditation undisturbed. Bhairon Nath, however, chased her to her destination. The goddess after halting at (present day) Banganga, Charan Paduka, and Adhkwari, finally reached the holy cave Shrine. When Bhairon Nath continued to follow her despite the goddess trying to avoid a confrontation, the goddess was compelled to kill him. The severed head of Bhairon fell at a distant hilltop. Bhairon Nath upon death realised the futility of his mission and prayed to the deity to forgive him. The almighty Mata had mercy on Bhairon and gave him a boon that every devotee of the goddess would have to have the Darshans of Bhairon after having the Darshans of the Goddess and only then would the yatra of a devotee be complete. Meanwhile, Vaishnavi decided to shed off her human form and assuming the face of a rock she immersed herself into meditation forever. Thus Vaishnavi, transformed into five and a half feet tall rock with three heads or the Pindies.
Airport: Jammu Airport has direct flights to Srinagar, Delhi, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Leh, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Rail: The railway station at Jammu, called Jammu Tawi is connected to major cities of India. With the commencement of the Kashmir Railway, all trains to the Kashmir Valley will pass through Jammu Tawi. A part of the Kashmir railway project has been executed and the track has been extended to Katra.
Road: National Highway 1A which passes through Jammu connects it to the Kashmir valley. National Highway 1B connects Jammu with Poonch town.
Local: The city has JKSRTC city buses and mini buses for local transport which run on some defined routes. These mini buses are called “Matadors”. Besides this auto-rickshaw and cycle-rickshaw service is also available. Local taxis are also available.
Vaishno Devi: The trek from the Banganga check post in Katra to Mata’s Bhawan is an arduous 14 km long. One can cover the trek by four different methods, by Helicopter, by foot, by horses, by Palki. Helicopter services are offered by Global Vectra and Himalayan. The booking for availing helicopter service needs to be booked online, 60 days in advance through the official website of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. Helicopter tickets can also be bought on the spot from Jagjivan Ghat near Katra Bus Stand. But tickets can be bought subject to availability. Also, the Helicopter service takes place only in fair weather and often the trips are cancelled. The Katra helipad is approx 3.5 km from Katra main town. One needs to report at the helipad two hours in advance of the time mentioned on the ticket. The helicopter ride from the Katra helipad to Sanjichhat takes a mere five minutes.
Dera Baba Bunda: This is an ancient Sikh pilgrimage built by Baba Baanda Bairaagi on the bank of river Chenab.
Baba Dhansar: This is a holy Hindu shrine situated by the Karua Jheel near Karua village.
Amar Mahal Palace: This has now been converted into a Museum. It was built in the nineteenth century for Raja Amar Singh, a Dogra king by a French architect on the lines of a French Chateau.
Bahu Fort: Bahu Fort, which also serves as a religious temple, is situated about 5 km from Jammu city on a rock face on the left bank of the river Tawi.
Raghunath Temple: This is an old temple situated within the heart of the city.
Jamvant Gumpha or Peer Kho cave: It is located on the bank of river Tawi and it is widely believed that Ramayan character Jamvant (the bear god) meditated in this cave.
This tour planner is made on the basis of the location of the destinations. One can make changes as per their interest, convenience and accessibility and duration of the trip.
Day 1 & 2: Vaishno Devi and other places in Katra.
Day 3: All the places in Jammu can be covered in a day.
Hotels: Online booking is always preferable for discounts in tariff. Hotels in Jammu are Satyam Hotel, Raghunath Hotel, City Top, Rajdhani, Shree Hari Niwas and more. Hotels in Katra are Hotel Shri Hari Niwas, Hotel Atithi International, Grand Sharan, Jai Ma Inn, Hotel Swing High, Hotel Sagar Palace and more.