Katra or Katra Vaishno Devi, as it is popularly known, is a small town in Reasi district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir situated in the foothills of the Trikuta Mountains, where the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi is located. This beautiful destination is located around 42 kilometers from the city of Jammu and is at the altitude of 754 meters (2,474 feet). Katra serves as the base camp for pilgrims who visit Vaishno Devi. It has a thriving tourism industry that offers plenty of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, food joints that fit all kinds of budgets. Over the years, a lot has changed, but one should not miss the opportunity to walk through the main bazaar (market) for buying (do not forget/hesitate to negotiate a bit) souvenirs, dry fruits, woolen garments, hosiery, leather jackets, etc. To reach Vaishno Devi Mandir (temple) the pilgrims have to register at the Katra before starting the trek. It is a trek of 14 km. There is another trek (1.5 km) from Vaishno Devi temple for Baba Bhaironnath. It is said that the pilgrimage is not complete until you visit this temple at last. The scenery throughout the trek is picturesque. The entry gate to the track is around 1 km from the bus stand at a point known as Darshani Deodhi (meaning entrance) or Darshani Darwaza (meaning gate). Legend says that Mata Vaishno Devi met Pandit Shridhar at this spot in the form of a girl child. This is also known as Darshani Darwaza because from here one gets a complete view of the Trikuta parbat (mountain). The term Darshan stands for view; hence symbolically this is the first Darshan of the Yatra. This spot is at 2800 feet above sea level.One can either walk up to the Darshani Darwaza on foot or hire an auto rickshaw. If one has his own vehicle one can drive up to the new gate, adjacent to the Darshani Darwaza and leave it parked there.

Accommodation in Katra

Katra is one of the small towns located in the hilly areas of Jammu and Kashmir. Due to the famous sacred shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, a large number of devotees come here. Katra has a number of hotels which provide great facilities to its guest such as exotic cuisines, fully air conditioned rooms and magnificent looking lobbies that attract many of the travelers here. Here, one can get mid-range hotels as well as budget hotels.

Events / Festivals in Katra

  • Baisakhi Festival : It is one of the famous festivals, celebrated on the 13th of April, every year. This festival is one of the famous Sikh festivals and is celebrated by both local devotees as well as foreigners with great enthusiasm. This famous festival is dedicated to the start of the cropping season in Northern India. It is one of the famous and popular festivals in Katra.
  • Lohri festival : It is another one of the famous festivals of Katra which is celebrated on the 13th of January. This festival is dedicated to welcome the beginning of spring season and to the end of the winter season. During the festival, local people also celebrate the taking of the winter crop. The Lohri festival symbolizes the fruitfulness of the earth. Generally, people celebrate this festival during the night and groups of people gather round bonfires. They celebrate this festival by throwing sweets, puffed rice and popcorn into the flames and generally they also worship the fire.

Places of Interest

  • Aghar Jitto : Just 5 km away from Katra is Aghar Jitto, the Shrine of Baba Jitto, a devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi and a revolutionary 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. A path from here leads to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi.
  • Dera Baba Banda : At about 30 kms from Katra lies this major Hindu-Sikh pilgrimage centre. Baba Banda Bairaagi was Guru Gobind Singh's favourite 'Saint-soldier', who had the gurudwara constructed on the banks of river Chenab, where he spent his last days.
  • Baba Dhansar : Located 10 kms from Katra (1 km on foot) is Baba Dhansar, a beautiful and cool picnic spot. 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 : This holy cave is nearly a kilometre long and houses a 4 ft high, naturally formed ‘Shivling’. It is considered second only to the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi in religious importance. There are stalactites and stalagmites dripping milky limestone water. To the left of Shivling Mata Parwati is symbolized by impression of Her Holy feet. Kartikeya is also seen in left of Shivlingam. At nearly 2.5 feet above, five headed Ganesha is can be seen. The Holy cave has a number of other natural images which are believed to be that of 33 crores Hindu Deities. The cave roof is etched with snake like formations, the water trickles through these in the cave. ‘Three pronged lance’ depicting the Trident (Trishul) of Lord Shiva and ‘Six Mouthed Sheshnaga’ are also seen on the roof of the cave. The main portion of cave roof has round cutting mark signifying construction of cave by Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Vishnu.