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Katra

 
Katra
Katra situated at an altitude of over 2,800 feet and ensconced in a mountain set-up has scenic beauty, wholesome water and salubrious temperate climate. The surroundings abound in a good number of sacred sites, other than the Vaishno Devi Cave, and charming natural spots. Pilgrims can easily combine their visit to the holy cave with sojourns at other attractive sites and add to their bliss.

About Katra Tourism
Katra or Katra Vaishno Devi as it is popularly called is a small town in the hilly northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is 2,473 ft above the sea level and is 50 Km away from Jammu. The town serves as the base camp for visiting the famous Ma Vaishno Devi Shrine, which is 13 Km uphill from Katra. Situated in the foothills of Trikuta Mountains, Katra is visited by more than 6.2 million devotees each year. The town has a number of souvenir shops and the local market is filled with stalls selling dry fruits, prashad and other items offered to Maa Vaishno Devi. There is a state handicraft emporium close to the bus stand where you can check out shawls and other woolen items. A number of vegetarian restaurants and food outlets have mushroomed in the close vicinity.

Vaishno Devi:
I bow to thee, O highest of Yogini’s, O thou that are identical with Brahma. O thou that are free from decrepitude and decay. I bow to thee, O bringer of benefits to thy devotees, O thou that rescues from dangers....
Goddess Mata Vaishno Devi is undoubtedly one of the most revered forms of Shakti
  • History of Holy Shrine:
    A geological study of the Holy Cave has indicated its age to be nearly a million years. Vedic literature gives no reference to the worship of any female deity, although the mountain Trikuta does find its mention in Rigveda, the oldest of the four Vedas The practice of worshipping Shakti, largely started in the Puranic period. The holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Jim is most sacred and divine as it embody the holy Pindies depicting Mata in her three forms:
    Mahal Kali represents Tam Gun : Tam stands for gloominess and unhappiness.
    Mahal Lakshmi represents Raj Gun : Raj stands for livelihood, prosperousness and happiness.
    Mahal Saraswati represents Sat va Gun: Sat va stands for pureness, righteousness and honesty.
  • Location of the Holy Shrine:
    Located at a height of 5300 feet on holy Trikuta Hills. The Goddess Vaishnodevi's abode is in a 100 feet long cave with a narrow opening. The holy Ganga's cold and crystal clear water washes the lotus feet of the mata's'Pindian'. The Pad Yatra commence at Kara is a 13km stretch of hard and rough terrain. The pilgrims generally cover the journey by foot or can go for a pony or a horse ride Since the year 1986, when the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (commonly called Shrine Board) was formed (under “The Jammu & Kashmir Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act, 1986’), the management of the Shrine and regulation of the Yatra has been vested in the Board. The Board has undertaken a number of developmental activities aimed at making the Yatra a comfortable and satisfying experience for the Yatris
  • Darshans and Blessings:
    The 'Aarti' of the Goddess is performed twice a day first time in the morning just before the sunrise and second time in the evening immediately after sunset. At this time Mata shower her blessings to all her devotees calling her with lots of love. The traditional offerings to Mata include Chunri (a red colored drape), Saries, Cholas, Silver or Gold ornaments, Dry Fruits, Flowers etc. But the divine journey does not end here rather The shrine of Vaishno Devi is not the last point of pilgrimage. One has to travel uphill to Ban Ganga, where it is believed that, the divine Mata quenched her thirst. A six kilometers travel further, will bring you face to face with another shrine, Ardhkunwari. Mythology says that, Mata Vaishno Devi hid in this cave while trying to elude a demon.

    All Human beings contain attributes of the three above mentioned Guns (qualities) and their behavior is determined by the Guna which is predominant in their nature. But, in order to lead a meaningful life, a proper balance among these three is necessary. The Holy Cave is charged with such energy that it helps in creating this vital but rare balance in a person. This is what makes the Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji unique in the entire world.
Bharion Temple:
The journey to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is not considered complete without Darshans at Bhairon Temple
Location
The Bhairon Temple is located at a distance of 1.42 kilometers from Bhawan. It is situated atop an adjacent hill and again involves a steep climb, which can be undertaken either on foot or on ponies or palanquins. The Bhairon temple is the highest point of the entire climb and is situated at an altitude of 6619 feet.

Legendary Association of Bharion Temple:
Legend says that Bhairon was killed by Mata and later upon seeking an apology was granted the boon of being the final link of the Great Pilgrimage.

Darshans inside the Bhairon temple are again in a rock form. It is believed that the head of Bhairon had fallen at this place while his body remained at the entrance of the Holy Cave of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji. Thus the rock form is round in the shape of a head and is covered in clothes of black colour, while the rock form worshipped as Lord Hanuman is draped in clothes of red colour. There is also a Havan Kund at Bhairon Temple. The ashes of this Havan Kund are considered sacred and it is believed that their application or merely keeping them in the house along with a daily Poojan of Bhairon Baba, protects the residents and especially small children from all types of curses, untoward happenings and mysterious ailments.

Thus, for the full blessings of the journey to Mata Vaisno Deviji, Yatries would have to pay obesiance at Bhairon temple on their return.

Agar Bawa Jito:
Agar Jitoo is the shrine of Bawa Jitto, a revolutionary peasant who led a campaign against the feudal order. According to legends, a dip in the holy spring water, flowing in front of the shrine, does miracles to pre-natal women for safe delivery of children.

It is a sacred site dedicated to Bawa Jito about 8 Kms. onward from Katra on the road to Reasi and at the foot of the Trikutta range.

There is a small shrine with carved murtis of Bawa Jito, where devotees offer prayers. Bawa Jito was born here and it is here that he started confrontation with the oppressive landlords who, however, forced him to migrate to Kahnachack where his samadhi is now located.

From this place also a bridle path leads to the holy cave. It is somewhat longer but easier.

Dera Baba Banda:
About 27 Kms from Katra is the well-known shrine of the famous saint-warrior Banda Vir Bhairagi who has earned immortal renown in the Indian chronicles. He gave a heroic fight to the later Mughal kings as the right arm of Guru Govind Singh. His life has aroused great controversy but none can deny his intrepidity in the battlefield. In his last days he retired to this sequestered hamlet beside river Chenab.

Now an impressive Gurdwara stands over his samadhi elaborately decorated with mural paintings, some of which show his life. Large number of people, particularly those coming for Vaishno Devi Yatra also visits this shrine and pay homage there. Vir Bhairagi had earned high name both in the spiritual and battlefields. An early incident in his life made him hate the worldly existence and he became a sadhu wandering in various parts of the country. Guru Govind Singh went to the South especially in search for him. By the inspiring persuasion of the Guru, Bhairagi agreed to martial life and head the Sikh army against the Mughals. After the death of the Guru, dissension’s rent the Sikh unity and heart-broken Banda Bhairagi returned to his spiritual life choosing this beautiful spot in the lap of virgin nature as his last resort.

Baba Dhansar:
Located 10 kms from Katra (1 km on foot) is Baba Dhansar, a beautiful and cool picnic spot. This Temple of Lord Shiva on way to Salal Dam Here, a huge spring gushes out of the mountainside in a thick grove of trees and forms a number of small waterfalls before flowing into the holy Banganga. Next to the spring in a small grove in the rock face is a naturally formed ‘Shivling’ on which droplets of water fall naturally all the year round. A major ‘mela’ (fair) is held here during Shivratri.

Shiv Khori:
I call God 'Shiva', so I will be doing this during the rest of this topic. Look at the bottom of this page for the general explanation of words you will crossing.

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Shivkhori Caves hold special attraction for the Shaivites. Lakhs of devotees throng the temple premise, especially during Shivaratri, in the month of March. Tour to Shivkhori is a dream journey for many a religiously inclined tourist. It involves a trip to the natural cave in a hillock at Reasi tehsil. It is just 100 kilometers from Jammu and its origin has a deep rooted mythological connection.

Legendary Association of Shivkhori Cave
It is said that the shepherds of the nearby hills one day, while driving their sheep down the hills when they discovered a cave, presently known as Shivkhori. Inside this cave, stretching for one kilometer, they discovered a naturally formed Shiva lingam.

The architects of His Majesty took the pains to draw the impression of Sheshnag on the ceiling of Shivkhori Cave in the centre the Jatta of Lord Shiva, which gives a divine sensation. There are self made ‘saligrams’ surrounding the Shiva Lingam and for the devotees it is an apt place to offer their prayers.

About Cave:
Khori means cave ( Guffa) and thus Shiv Khori denotes Shiva's cave. The cave is a real wonder to be seen which according to the people is unending and believed to have led to Swami Amar Nath cave in Kashmir. As per assessment of local people, it measures nearly half a kilometer in length but Yatries are allowed to go only upto 130 meters. Rest part of the cave is still a mystery as no one could go further due to lack of oxygen. The cave is in the shape of Lord Shiva's Damroo i.e. wide at the two ends while very congested at the center. The width of the cave is so less at certain place that a person can barely crawl through whereas at places it over a hundred feet wide and quite high too.

Shivkhori Cave is two chambered, with a spacious outer chamber and a smaller inner chamber. The outer chamber can hold numerous people while the inner chamber is enshrined with the natural Shiva lingam. People like to visit this temple during the Maha Shivaratri Festival, when a colorful pageantry held near the cave draws numerous tourists from across the globe. Since it is believed that a glimpse of the Shiva lingam is auspicious during Shivaratri, devotees throng the temple premises at this time, and offer their prayers with complete dedication. The opening of cave is a mammonth hall of nearly 20 feet wide and 22 feet high.

It is nearly 80 feet in length. While entering into this mesmerizing hall one can see the natural depiction of gigantic snake like formation believe to be Sheshnag.The natural water dripping from nipples of udders on the Shivlingum symbolizes the eternity of the holy river Ganga. It is believed that milk used to ooze out during old days but turned into water in Kaliyuga. To the left of Shivlingam Maa Parwati is sitting whose image can be identified by impression of her holy feet. Along the image of Maa Parwati, Gauri kund is also visible which is always full of holy water. Image of Kartikeya is also seen in left of Shivlingam. At nearly 2.5 feet above the Kartikeya , image of five headed Ganesha is clearly visible. To the right side of Shivlingam one can see Ramdarbar having images of Lord Ram, Lakhshman, Sita and Hanuman. The whole cave is abounds with a number of other natural images which have been described as images of 33crores Hindu deities and their vahanaas

The cave roof is etched with snake like formations, the water trickles through these in the cave. ‘Three pronged lance ' (Trishul) ‘Oum ' and ‘Six Mouthed Sheshnaga ' (Shkshthamukhi Sheshnag) are seen on the roof of the cave. The main part of cave roof has round cutting mark signifying construction of cave by Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Vishnu.

The whole environment inside the cave is so mesmerizing that a devotee feel himself in abode of god's place and whole nature appears turned spiritual.

Mahadeva, Rudra, Ishwar, Mahayogi. The formless God of regeneration, as represented by the three tilaks. They represent the union between Shiva and Parvati resulting in creation. All other Hindu Gods are believed to have descended from Him, the Supreme Being."


 
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