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Tourist Places To Visit In Katra
Katra is a small town in Jammu And Kashmir that serves as the base for pilgrims who visit the Vaishno Devi Temple from distant cities in India and are required to hike uphill to take blessings from the Goddess. Vaishno Devi being one of the most popular temples in India, makes Katra quite a bustling town almost throughout the year. Other than Vaishno Devi, which is the major attraction, there are quite a few places that are worthy of visit. Whether you want to simply enjoy a day with your family at the banks of the river Jhujjar, visit the natural cave of Shivkhori on horseback, or even get an adrenaline rush by going rafting on the streams of Neeru and Dondi, Katra has a lot of other things to do in store to spend time after visiting the Holy Bhawan.
Ready to plan your trip? Here are some of the tourist places in Katra that you must visit after taking blessings from the Goddess.
Vaishno Devi Temple
Vaishno Devi is a renowned temple that houses an illustration of the Hindu Goddess Mata Mahalakshmi who is believed to be the Goddess of Wealth. The temple is located at an altitude of 1560 m above sea level and is a 13 km uphill trek; starting from Banganga which is the base, all the way up to the Holy Temple. Due to this major temple, Katra is always packed with people, majorly during the summers.
There are various ways to go up to the Bhawan, that include riding a horse or a pony, a palanquin to sit on and carried by four men, electric vehicles as well as helicopter services that will take you all the way up to the temple. The trek to Vaishno Devi is one of the holiest and one of the most exhausting pilgrimages in the country, requiring a lot of endurance. Most pilgrims, who are able to walk, prefer the climb on foot, which shows their dedication and respect towards the Goddess. It is said that when you see a vision of the Goddess of Vaishno Devi, is when you should take that strenuous trek and go offer your prayers at the temple.
Located close to the Karua Jheel, near Karua village, 17 km from Reasi, is a religious place called Baba Dhansar. Trek your way up 200 m from the road and you will find the quaint temple of Baba Dhansar and a cave that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Washing oneself in the Karua Jheel is considered holy but is not allowed. However, devotees are allowed to bathe downstream, where the water flows out. It is believed that if you pray with complete conviction and wash your sins in the Karua Jheel, all your wishes will be fulfilled. Since the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, it attracts a lot of devotees from every city in the country during Mahashivratri. There are a number of cascading waterfalls that add to the beauty of the pious temple.
Built close to the banks of the Jhajjar River and located about 15 km from Katra, is the famous tourist center of Jhajjar Kotli. It is situated on National Highway 1A, on the way towards Srinagar. The crystal clear and cold water is the main attraction of this place making it a perfect place for a picnic with friends and family. Jhajjar Kotli often attracts foreigners and locals to its picturesque beauty, especially during the summer. Get away from the crowd in town and come away to the clear waters to enjoy a fun filled and relaxing day.
Shivkhori, also known as the Shiva Cave is a natural cave that contains a naturally made lingam which is 200 m long and 1 m wide. This attraction is also a major one and a sea of people come every year to offer their prayers and fulfill their wishes. Just like Vaishno Devi, Shivkhori is also a place of worship and one has to go on a 3 km hike on foot before reaching the Shiva Caves. Hiking to the cave with other devotees, chanting the name of Lord Shiva and seeing images of various deities inside the cave, evokes a very religious feeling.
Though the primary entrance of the cave can adjust 300 people at one time, the inner portion of the cave is much smaller. It is said that a path from within the cave leads to Amarnath in Kashmir, but is not open for the general public at the moment.
Sanjichhat is a tiny little plateau sitting two and a half kilometers from the Holy Shrine of Vaishno Devi. The upward ascent towards the temple ends at this point and also offers a beautiful view from the top, which is why this place is a pleasant stopover for the pilgrims who are climbing up. Before 1986, this place was rather dirty with shopkeepers throwing waste down the hill, disrupting the sanctity of the place.
After 1986, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Katra took over the management of the Shrine and has maintained it well ever since. The area was cleaned and now offer facilities like clean washrooms and clean drinking water, bringing back its sanctity. A helipad was also constructed to bring people close to the temple so they wouldn’t have to walk the treacherous uphill path.
Nau Devi Cave Temple
A famous tourist attraction in Katra, the Nau Devi Cave Temple is quite popular among tourists. A flight of one hundred stairs leads to the temple, which consists of nine naturally carved Goddesses with silver crowns that are believed to be incarnations of Goddess Durga. The temple is surrounded by a river and is considered to be 200 years old. Once up there, the sacredness and peace of the place is surely felt as you can only hear chants and bells in the temple ringing. There is a small cave that houses a lingam, bringing devotees of Lord Shiva as well. After you are done with your worship in the caves, don’t forget to feed the tiny fish in the surrounding river and get friendly with the mountain monkeys by feeding them peanuts.
Himkoti is a spot up in the mountains, which does not have any religious significance, but is known for its breathtaking scenery. It offers tourists a panoramic view of the valley, which is a majestic site to behold. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Temple Board has devised a new route that goes to the Holy Shrine via Himkoti and is also a 0.5 km shorter route than the others. This place gives tourists a chance to halt, rest and take in the natural splendor of the place. After the place was renovated, a number of eateries, clean toilets, meditation centers, gardens and artificial lakes have been made. So if you are on your way to see the Goddess make sure you stop at this attraction to seep in the beauty of the scenery.
The Bhairavnath temple is located on a hill that is adjacent to the one that the Vaishno Devi temple is on and is 1.4 km from the Goddesses’ Bhawan. History of Katra says that Bhairavnath, the demon was killed by Mata Vaishno Devi and as he was dying, he repented for all his sins. Maa Vaishno Devi forgave the demon and erected the Bhairavnath Temple at the place where the demon took his last breath. People proclaim that no journey to the Bhawan is complete without visiting the Bhairavnath Temple. Though the path to this temple is treacherous, it is worth the trek once you reach the top.