To be very much honest with my little family of readers, I’m sitting perplexed right here and actually not knowing from where to start. Hah! This is one of my prominent traits. Jiggling with my own thoughts and wondering which one to put first. There’s a lot to put down in words though but I will straight away start with my story of recent getaway.
It was a very random trip to Jammu mainly for Vaishno Mata Darshan planned by Maa Papa. Hills again. The thought only made me excited about the trip. And maybe because I was in a dire need of a break and spend some quality time with my parents. And this was it. Travelling has an answer to many questions we keep searching for. Actually its’s barely the place you are heading to that matters, it’s people. People you are traveling with matter more.
We reached Jammu and had a connecting train to Katra. This short route train is worth boarding if you are heading to Katra from Jammu Tavi station. The incredible landscape with hills, river stream, waterfalls and long tunnels should not be missed. Touching down Katra railway station was an experience in itself. Most clean and beautiful railway station I have seen in our country till date. This small town amidst the hills is a peaceful place with holy vibes all over.
Katra is the place where most of the pilgrims and tourist stay. You will find a number of hotels to stay at and restaurants serving special food with no garlic and onion. We had no prior bookings so chose a random hotel to stay in, just on the parameter of cleanliness. The rooms were clean & tidy and neatly organized. Our hotel staffs were generous too.
We began our trek to the holy shrine early in morning. It’s around 13.5 km long trek to the Bhavan where Vaishno Mata temple (cave) is situated. To me and my brother this holy expedition was more of an adventurous trek. We gave it a kickstart and had covered around one-fourth part of the trek when the dawn broke. The tall pine trees were now partly visible behind the clouds. The magnificent and rather greener Trikuta hills of Shivalik range were looking strikingly beautiful with the crimson and orange colored sunrays falling on them. Sunrise in the hills are captivating, bringing the whole place to life once again.
After a much needed ‘Chai’ break we continued with our way upward. The road was getting steeper as we were moving up. And some of the times it became so hard to move even a single step forward. But we were really thankful to shrine board who have arranged and managed everything so beautifully that anyone who is tired on the way can sit relax and buy something to eat and drink at the food joints on every two-three hundred meter. Local people are also very cooperative and helping to the pilgrims and visitors. It took us around 6-7 hours to reach Bhavan.
This holy place can barely be summarized in words. I don’t know about other people who have been there, but to me it felt magical. There is actually something very strong and powerful about this place we need to believe in. A natural cave were Goddess Vaishno Devi abodes in form of pindies has been beautifully preserved. After the ‘darshan’ and receiving ‘prasad’ we spend sometime in the magical aura of the place. Everything so pure and pious.
On the way back to Katra we had our lunch in ‘Ardhkuwari’ which is considered to be the halfway from ‘Bhavan’ to the base camp Katra. Pilgrims stop at Ardhkuwari to see the temple and cave. Downhill trek was really taxing. One need to be physically superfit to cover a downhill trek of 13 kms. We reached our hotel at around 8 in the evening totally tired and exhausted.
We spent our next two days strolling and exploring the streets of Katra. Had our lunch and dinner in local dhabas and bought some random thing to bring back home. Interacted with some local people and street vendors too. People here were so grounded with a simple, downtrodden lifestyle. People in mountains possess a nature I’m very much fascinated about. Hard working, honest, less fussy, more sorted and living on their own terms.
Most of the people who carry pilgrims and tourists to the holy Shrine, on their ponies are Muslims. And to your surprise they also use to shout ‘Jai Mata Di’ every now and then along with Hindu pilgrims. I have had barely witness this beautiful blend of religious beliefs anywhere in our country. It was a bliss to see and feel the religious brotherhood which gives a complete meaning to the highly debated word ‘secularism’. Beyond all the boundaries of religion and cast the local people of this place serve and help pilgrims with all their honesty.
While returning to Jammu from Katra we stopped at ‘Raja Hari Singh’s Quila’. The old beautiful fort has been now converted into a resort. And it’s worth paying a visit. Travelling gives us stories and experiences we savor for life. Many secrets unfold and many of my thoughts declutter while I’m on move. People I’m traveling with and random people I come across, sometimes leave an impact so inspiring that even influences my perception about many valuable things in life.
This highly unplanned trip turned out to be a beautiful experience. My phone was out of service for three-four days and believe me it was very peaceful. My little family was so much occupied with each other that we hardly clicked pictures. And some of the random pics we took with phones will also not do any justice with the incredible place and experience.
Until next time!