Being from a Punjabi family, we all love to offer prayers or follow Mata Vaishno Devi like daily, and also hear or see a post on facebook or Instagram, that some of our close or distant relative is at Mata Vaishno Devi in Katra J&K.
Now the thing with Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra is that you just can’t plan a trip here, its like you will say that lets visit Katra next week, but 99% of the time you will not go or postpone or make reservations for 2 months in future, and all thats to a saying, that “Mata ka bulawa jab aayega, tab he jayega”
And my bulawa (invitation) came after 26 years.
I visited Mata Vaishno Devi shrine back in 1997 when I was in 7th standard and 12 years old. Though my mom, dad, sister did visited Katra in 3-4 years gap, but no me.
But it all changed in 2023, when on my 4th marriage anniversary I finally reach Katra and started our Yatra of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, with my 2 sons, wife, mother in law and nephew.
In this post, I have tried to share my experience of planning and completing the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra from Delhi, and I hope that it can help you to plan yours. So have a look at this Vaishno Devi Travel Blog.
TRAIN, BATTERY CAR & NIGHT STAY AT DARBAR
So keeping in mind that don’t overthink about anything.
I just make prior reservation for our train tickets, battery car ride from Ardhkuwari to Bhawan, and vice versa and night stay, like anywhere near Darbar as that was the most difficult part.
I didn’t made any reservation for hotels in Katra as the one I saw online were not attractive or overpriced.
Old Delhi railway station
So we decided to catch the train on 17th April night from Delhi to Katra and return on 21st April early morning.
Since I was making the reservation just a month before, all good options were gone, like Shri Shakti AC Express Train, even better than the Vande Bharat.
Usually travellers book their train tickets 2-3 months before the Yatra, and thus I opted for one of the worst train ride I ever had “Jammu Mail“.
My train ride till Katra came with seat numbers like 6 & 5 for me and my wife, and 32 and 55 for mother in law & nephew, and it was very difficult to exchange seats as the train was jam packed, and many passengers from sleeper coaches were chasing the TT for seats in any AC coach.
Never the less, the train was just 15 minute late and we reached Katra next morning by 8:45 am.
2. Battery Car
battery car at Vaishno Devi yatra
Thanks to many vloggers, sharing such useful details on Youtube, I booked 4 battery car ticket online for around Rs 350 from www.maavaishnodevi.org (Free for children’s below 5). This is the official website of Shrine board who manage all the activities of whole yatra.
3. Night stay at darbar
Manokamna Bhawan at Darbar
We have a few family friends working at Darbar, and they suggested is to start the Yatra by 4 am from Katra, reach the main temple by noon and return back to Katra by late night, which wasn’t my 1st choice as I was travelling with my mother in law (senior citizen).
But thankfully we were able to get dormitory beds at Manokamna Bhawan, which is like 1 km from main temple. A better option is to book either dormitory or private room, again by visiting www.maavaishnodevi.org and book rooms well in advance. Will definitely share one more Vaishno Devi Travel Blog where it will be how to get a confirm rooms from shrine board website.
THE YATRA > KATRA TO DARBAR & RETURN IN 32 HOURS
So we stayed the whole day 2 in Katra (18th April) at a hotel near main bus stop, like 300 maters away, and did some dry fruits shopping, tried some family & relative suggested dhaba (tried Manoranjan Dhaba, but favorite one is Ma Restaurant near Nathu Sweets) and bought many toys for kids.
THOUGHT: Surprisingly all Yatra destinations in India, especially northern India has so many toys shop, and my son was like “no dinner till I get this spiderman car” which is broke in 3 days.
4. Day 3, Katra to Darbar in 8 hours
Starting the Yatra
So the idea today was to start the Yatra from Katra by 10 am, reach Ardhkuwari by 3-4 pm, catch the 5:30 booked battery car from Ardhkuwari & reach Darbar area by 6 pm. But in realty this happened.
We all got ready by 11 am, had breakfast by 11:30 am, bought rain costs by noon and started the Yatra by 12:15 pm. (Travelling with kids)
Now instead of leaving from Banganga to Ardhkuwari, we opted to go from the new Tarakote route, which is 2 km longer but many suggested us to take this route as there is no horse, palki here, and its not too tough for senior citizens too.
View of Katra city from tarakote marg
Back in 1997, these was a parchi registration system, which was not that important to have, but now things have changed. You need to get a RFID card (Radio Frequency Identification Card) to start the Yatra and that too on the same date of the Yatra.
Now if you are taking the old route from Banganga then you can get the card from Katra Bus Stand, like 10 minute line and if you are opting for start the Yatra from new Tarakote route, its like you are the only person in the que, as I think, only 100-500 people go from this route per day.
The route till Ardhkuwari from here is 7 km, 2 km long that the old route, but for me its better as we really had an amazing time with kids, no toys shop :), and there were food courts like every 750 meter -1 km, along with 24 hour Shrine Board Langar hall with an amazing garden (we stopped here on the return trip).
Shrine board Langar hall at Tarakote marg
My favorite food courts were Verka where I had the mango drink and the last shop, Nescafe where we had some sandwich & coffee. And you will also get Bikanerwala, CCD, Sagar Ratna too.
We also hired a local Stroller guy as my younger son is just 10 months old, and both my boys (2nd one is 36 months old) sat in it comfortably.
On route you will not see many Yatri’s but saw many beautiful sites of Katra, a few waterfalls which I believe will give an amazing view in moon soon season, neat washrooms, and also an amazing garden area where we didn’t stopped, also the 24 hour Langar hall.
As we started our Yatra by 12:15, we reached Ardhkuwari by 5:45 pm & 15 minute after the battery car booking time, but thanks to the staff as they said that you can go at the next car which will leave at 7 pm.
You can get the ticket of battery car by standing in line but if you book it online you will get priority over other people standing, as your ticket will be issued first. Piece of advice, do get a printout of the ticket.
View of Mata Vaishno Devi Darbar at night
And finally we sat in the 7:30 pm slot car and reached the Darbar by 8 pm, as battery car takes like 20-30 minute. Had dinner at Manokamna Bhawan which is just next to Battery Car stand. Good food & tea over here and that too at very nominal price.
5. Some amazing time at Darbar
So we first checked in at the Manokamna Bhawan where we have our dormitory bed booked, wanted a room but there are very few here.
Till 1 am, there was huge line to get inside the main Gufa temple, and as per some fellow travellers it took them 2-3 hours to just reach the main temple.
So we decided to rest & reach the main gufa/ temple at 3-4 am, as its open 24 hour and travellers are only stopped twice in a day at aarti time, which is 6 am to 8 am and 7 pm to 8 pm.
After meeting a few friends near Ram Mandir, we slept by 1 am and woke up by 3, and reached the main Gufa by 3:15 am, and all thanks to Mata Rani, we all got one of the best darshan.
The Pandit ji sitting near the Pindis gave us good time to see the main gufa, and we were also lucky to enter the 2nd gufa (there are total 3) which was not open for public. After the darshan we also look the water from Charan Ganga, just outside the exit gate, and also stand there for 15 mins before coming back to the guest house by 4 or 4:30 am.
On the way back I also noted a new bhavan created near Ram Mandir, Durga Bhawan which has just open in early 2023 and has rooms too, more like suite room @ Rs 3400, but that too was booked :)
view of Mata Vaishno Devi Darbar from ropeway
For me personally, this darshan was amazing as it took me 26 years to get the invitation, and as was very lucky to come with with my 2 boys and wife…6.
So from 5 am to 9-10 am we slept and by 10 am, checkout from Manokamna Bhawan, which is also the checkout time here.
6. The must visit temple of Bhairo Baba
No journey to Mata Vaishno Devi is completed till you haven’t visited the Bhairo Baba mandir, which is 2 km walk from Darbar area.
So either you walk for 2 km which is really tough, even after 26 years or take the ropeway ride, for which I saw a 2-3 hour long line.
The ropeway starts at 7 am, & we even thought of skipping it as my return battery car ride was at 3:30 pm. But in our heart we wanted to visit the Bhairo Baba Temple, as it was first time for both my boys, I have visited the Bhairo Baba Temple 3 times before in 1997, 95 and 94.
So after a little request to the security guard which was allowing some Yatri’s to skip 80% of the line, my wife able to convince the guard that we are travelling with a 10 month child and its very difficult to stay in a line with him for 2-3 hour.
The ropeway fare is Rs 100 for return trip, and there is no waiting line for coming back as many prefer to walk down or stay some extra time near Bhairo Baba Temple.
View of Mata Vaishno devi from Bhairo Baba
We on the other hand didn’t stayed too long and came back by 2:30 pm after the darshan, and catch the 3:30 pm battery car, & reached Ardhkuwari 4 pm.
7. Back to Katra
After sitting at Ardhkuwari for an hour, we decided to again take the new Tarakote route instead of the old route, as it was raining and then new route has like 80% covered area.
Plus we also had the chance to have the langar at the Shrine board Langar Hall which is 4 km from Ardhkuwari. Here its suggested to clean the utensils you have used, and if you can do drop some donation after the meal.
We came down in 3 hours, and reached our Katra hotel by 8:30 pm.
view of Katra from Tarakote Marg at evening
My suggestion is that the Tarakote Marg is good if you are travelling with kids and old guys, as it has a spacious road , very peaceful environment where Mata bhajans are continuously running and even that with original Bose speakers (all thanks to Shrine board).
DAY 5: RETURN JOURNEY BACK TO DELHI
Finishing this Vaishno Devi Travel Blog in 21 April, and my return journey was also with Jammu Mail train, as it suited the 3:30 pm departure time.
Picture at Katra shop
Before reaching the Katra Train Station, we did some more shopping, had our brunch, and also took a 100 Rs photo clicked at one of many photography shops in the area.
me wife mother in law two sons and nephew at Katra railway station entrance
We reach Delhi next day at 4:00 AM, and even after coming home our energy was not gone, and we all shared the journey with our parents, and my son, he was just dancing after hearing this: