Do you worship the almighty? Most of us do, in different forms. What is God? For me, it’s a belief/ hope when I’m depressed, sad or scared and to thank for when I’m happy/excited. It’s a supernatural power that we haven’t seen but we still believe it’s there. Indian heritage is thousands of years old and there are many caves/ places/ stories in the history. Most of them are located near Himalayas but it’s not just limited to one place. As it dates thousand years back, there are many stories and sacred places related to Gods and Goddess.
Jai Mata di, our fun filled trip to Katra and Vaishno Devi just ended, to help other devotees. I would like to put down the other holy places you can visit while visiting the Holy Shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi. You would at least need 3 days to be in Katra to finish all of these. We stayed 4 days/nights in Katra and every part of our trip was mesmerizing.
1. Kol Kandoli Temple:- This is the first stop when you are visiting the shrine. Located on the way from Jammu to Katra. This is the place where Mata Rani first rested before taking up her permanent place at Trikuta Hills. It is 14 km from Jammu, it is believed to be good to visit this temple before starting the journey for Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.
2. Deva Mai Temple:- This is the second stop before the shrine. It is believed that Goddess Vaishno Devi meditated at this very spot where the Deva Mai temple is constructed in order to complete her life as a human during the early phases of Kalyuga. The temple is located on the top of a mountain, right in front of Trikuta Hills. You can see the beautiful scenery of the hills from this place. It’s around 3 miles from main Katra city.
3. Nau Devi Temple:- Nau Devi temple is a holy cave, around 4 km from Katra and is located amongst the hills. It is believed that all nine sisters of Maa Vaishno Devi live there. The magical cave has nine pindis located inside the holy cave.
4. Dhansar Baba:- The holy place is 17 km from Katra, it is believed then Baba Dhansar was a son of Vasudev and a big devotee of Lord Shiva. There is a small cave of Lord Shiva as well. According to the locals, the serpentines with multiples heads appear in the stream once a while, many people have seen them. This is the family deity of villagers nearby who offer statues when a child is born in the family. You can forsee Vaishno Devi shrine clearly only from this spot.
5. Baba Jitto temple:- This temple was made in the memory of Baba Jittoji, who was a greater devotee of Maa Vaishno Devi. He hiked the mighty Trikuta Hills, every day for 12 years without a fail. To see his dedication, Maa Vaishno appeared in front of him one day and blessed him with a flower and asked him what he would want! He wanted the sight of Mata Rani every day and the Holy water. To his surprise, a girl child was born from a flower and Gangajal started flowing from the mountains. Goddess told him, he doesn’t have to climb up and down the mountain anymore since she will live with him in the form of a baby girl.
It’s astonishing the girl suddenly disappeared after Baba Jittos demise.
6. Bhumika temple: – This temple was the place where Pandit Shridhar used to pray before Maa Vaishno killed Bhairav Nath. Mata Vaishno came in front of Shridhar and his wife in form of a Kanjak (the girl form). Pandit Shridhar was blessed to be the priest of the Holy Shrine so that he can have a sight of Mata Rani every day and his ancestors (13th generation) is still worshiping Mata Rani as priests today.
7. Shiv Khori temple:- Shiv Khori temple is located around 90 km from Katra. You can take a taxi to visit there. The natural cave is located 3kms from the taxi drop off, you can hire a pony from here or hike up.
This is believed to be the cave where Lord Shiva took a shelter after assenting a boon to Bhasmasur (demon king), that whoever he touches will burn into ashes. As Bhasmasur wanted to rule the Universe, he thought of using the boon on Lord Shiva only. The priest at the Shivkhori temple said, Lord Shiva then hid in the holy cave and then created his path through Amarnath. The rest of the cave has been closed now but we experienced this one. It was truly adventurous and a bit scary at times. There are lights all the way to the temple to brighten up space. People who visit Katra now are visiting Shiv Khori. It can be pretty busy during the evening hours. We did it early afternoon and after there a lot of buses arrived, ending into huge lines up to the cave.
8. Baglihar Dam:- Baglihar Dam also known as Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project, is a run-of-the-river power project on the Chenab River in the southern Doda district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.The Chenab River is a major river that flows in India and Pakistan and is one of the 5 major rivers of the Punjab region. There is a waterfall in this area where a lot of locals and tourists gather during summer months. It is not permitted to take a bath or go near the river as the levels can increase anytime.
9. Har ki Pauri: One has to land in Jammu either through flight or train, why not visit a few sacred places in Jammu. Har ki Paudi is one of them, named after the place in Haridwar. This place is beautifully designed with most of the Hindu Deities placed in one single location. The gigantic Ganesha Idol steals the attraction of this temple. The temple is located on the banks of Jammu Tavi river, you can walk to the river. It would be nice in summer as the rains pour more water into the river.
10. Bage Bahu Kalika Temple: Lush green gardens around an ancient fort, featuring fountains with colored lights, a lake & views. Located on the mountain and built in a fort, Bage Bahu fort also has a famous Kalika temple. The sunset looks gorgeous from this place and the temple is visited by thousands every day.
11. Jamwant Gufa: It’s another Lord Shiva’s cave located at a scared place. There are many caves located in Himalayas that are belived to be sacred, Jamwant Gufa is one of them. We reached here during the evening aarti and felt blessed.
12. Raghunath Temple: Raghunath temple is one of the biggest shrine in Jammu- Kashmir after Vaishno Devi. It was built by King Ranjit Singh. The temple is basically for Lord Rama, evening aarti here was a bliss and we were fortunate to experience it twice during our trip.