Location: Katra town lies in Udhampur district, in the foot of Trikuta mountains; some 48 km from Jammu and 13 km from the holy cave of Vaishnodevi.
Best Time To Visit: March to July. Yatra season to the Vaishnodevi shrine- March-April and September-October.
Located at an altitude of about 2500 feet above sea level, Katra serves as the base camp for the Yatra (journey) to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji. Every year, more than 4.5 million pilgrims pass through Katra on their way to the holy shrine. The cave shrine of Goddess Vasihnodevi is located at an altitude of around 5,200 ft. A railhead is being made from Udhampur to Katra to facilitate the pilgrimage. Katra is the last destination uphill accessible by any modern transport (except the helicopter). Pilgrims cover the next 13 km to the holy shrine on horseback, palanquins, or on foot.
Vaishno Devi shrine is one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimages in North India. Trikuta hill is the base camp for the journey to this shrine. The holy cave of Vaishno Devi is considered the abode of the Mother Goddess, who is worshipped in the forms of Maha Kali, Maha Saraswati, and Maha Lakshmi in India. This is not only a hindu pilgrimage or simply a temple, rather a site of spiritual cleansing.
Jahan Kosha, a huge cannon about one km from Katra, draws several tourists to see this craftsmanship of the 17th century. The canon is 17.5 ft long, weighs 16,880 lb, and has a girth of 5 feet at the touch hole end. There is a beautiful mosque 'Kadam Sarif' near the Johan Kosha, which is said to have a replica of the footprint of Hazrat Mohammad, the Prophet.
Katra and the nearby areas have a number of restaurants and dhabas, which serve pure vegetarian meals. You will find a variety in north-Indian vegetarian dishes, prepared without onion and garlic.
The atmosphere is cloudy in April-July. The hilltop of Vaishnodevi cold even during peak summer.
How To Reach
Passengers travelling by rail or air need to break their journey at Jammu. From Jammu, board a bus or hire a taxi to Katra. A new railhead from Udhampur to Katra is being made to facilitate this pilgrimage.
According to myths, the Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is considered the place where Mata Vaishnavi spent some time observing various spiritual disciplines. It is believed that anybody who walks to the abode to ask for a boon rarely goes back disappointed. It is one of the most revered places of worship in Northern India.