Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My fist visit to holy Shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi

Jai Mata Ki,

My name is Shiv raj Acharya. I always wanted to visit some places of my choice with my friends but I never got the chance to go outside of Delhi and NCR without my family members. A few months ago, my colleagues planned to visit Agra together, I joined them and it was wonderful visit. One day, at night I was randomly checking some tourist destination within 600 Km. around Delhi. I found some exciting descriptions about Jammu in Ghumakkar.com and I decided to visit holy shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi. I and my six other friends planned to visit on 13th august. Due to rush of festival Raksha Bandhan and Independence day, we could not get reservation in train. I frankly accepting that I can not travel more than 6 hours by Bus. Therefore, I tried to postpon the journey but three of my friends were not agree to me and they went to Katra by bus on same day.

At last I and my two other friends Amit Kr Katiyar and Rakesh Kr Pandey planned to visit on 3rd of Sept. 2011. Rakesh Kr Pandey who is working with IRCTC arranged all tickets.

3rd SEPT. As planned, I and Amit left office at 5'o clock in the evening and went to Room of Amit where we packed all necessary things in a bag and refresh ourselves. Around 7'o clock we left room to Noida Sector 15 Metro station where we would meet Rakesh Kr. Pandey who was coming from Greater Noida.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Noida Sector-15 Metro Railway Station"][/caption]  

He was late becuase he chosen a wrong transport option to travel from Gr. Noida to Noida, meanwhile we were just planning about our next step like when to have dinner etc,. Somewhere in my heart, I was not feeling good as we did not carry a good quality digital camra. It was more than 30 minutes, me and Amit was in paltform with tickets; we were afraid if our ticket's validity got expired, so I was frequently calling up Rakesh to know his status. Around 7:45 Rakesh called me up and said he is inside the train coming from Noida City Center and asked us to board same train. We did as instructed but we did not find each other inside train as there was plenty of people traveling.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Crowd in delhi Metro"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Katiyar in Delhi Metro"][/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="New Delhi Railway Station"][/caption] At last, we all get together in Rajiv Chowk Metro station and we reached on New Delhi Railway Station at around 08:30. When I reached Ndls( new delhi railwaya station) I found everything was not same as it was before 3 years, my last visit . [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Rakesh, Shiv and Amit in Uttar S Kranti"][/caption] When we reached at paltform we found train was on track, we searched for our coach and boarded on train. We got all three births of one side (upper, lower and middle birth) and our co-passengers were not yet present. We bought two bottle of water and few paper soaps. There were no rush inside train so we dined before train start. Just 5 minute before the train started, one old couple and one teenage girl came and sit in our opposite seat. The old couple was from delhi and the girl was from Kolkata who recently came to delhi in summer vacation. She was living here with the couple, who are friend of his father. As usual we were enjoying journey by cracking jokes and gossiping about all hearsay. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Enjoing jokes with friends"][/caption] Around 11'o clock, most of passengers went to their birth and slept except few who were palying cards, waiting list ticket holders. I was also not sleepig and just browsing net and listening music till 3'o clock. 4th SEPT. Early in the morning at 5'o clock, Rakesh woke me up and asked to down my birth, I was tired as I slept just two hours before. I got down and saw some beautiful scenery. I was told that we were in Jammu. I pulled out my mobile phone and found there is not network signal. All prepaid numbers do not work in Jammu & Kashmir as prepaid numbers are prone to used by terrorist without any legal ID proof. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Bus from Jammu to Katra........."][/caption] The train was on time and we reached at Jammu at 6.30. We did not waste any single minute and went out from station and moved on the bus.   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="being refresh at a restaurent on the way to Katra"][/caption] All devotee inside bus shouted "JAI MATA DI'' and bus moved. Katra is approximately 50km. far from Jammu and fare is b/w Rs. 40 to Rs. 60. My mom used to say that when Maa calls out, nobody can stop you to visit. I was thinking "if I come here fun or Maa Vaishno Devi called me". I do not know about it but there was some spiritual power which was attracting me. Rakesh never visited any hill station earlier so he was so excited and Katiyar who is so lazy person just fall asleep. I am from a religious family. Although, I hardly worship god in my daily life but I have strong faith on Maata. After around 1.30 hrs of journey bus stopped at a restaurant for a short break where price of anything was almost double. We just took one cold drink, there were many monkeys playing with each other and entertained us. After 20 minutes brake, conductor ensured that no one left then bus started again. On the way to Katra all buses halt for checking at a check-post. Our bus also did the same.   Around 09:00 am we reached at Katra. I was told by my friends that there would be a huge crowd, you might wait for 3-4 hrs in queue to get Bhawan Yatra Ticket which valid for next 6 hrs to reach at main entrance. Although devotee(s) come to visit Bhawan in entire year but I believe month of Sept. is a non peak period as there is no HINDU festival ( except PITRA PAKSHA) fall in this month. We easily got ticket and move further to our way. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Raod to Main entrance of Bhawan from Katra Mkt."][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Bottom of Trikuta hills from Main entrance gate"][/caption] There are many shops of Handicraft, dry fruits and gift items in the market. We bought some JAI MATA DI written ribbons to tie on foreheads. Auto rickshaw drivers tried to convince us to hire rickshaw but we opted to walk. Main yatra gate is almost 1.5 km. far from Katra bus stand. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Main entrance gate of Maa Vaishno Devi"][/caption] I couldn't believe that I was in door of heaven. I was so excited to move up but I was starving too. We decided to first bath then breakfast so we walk around 1.5 Km to reach at Ghaat of Ban Ganga...... [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="3rd and best Ghaat of BanGanga"][/caption]   There are three bathing Ghaat in Banganga. Let me tell you something about Banganga, " When Bhairav Nath was after Mata Vaishno devi and she was one the way to Trikuta hill, she shot an arrow into the earth from where water gushed out -- this stream came to be known as Banaganga". We were hungry and not aware about Ghaat of Banganga so we stopped at first Ghaat and bathed, however, third and uppermost Ghaat is best as shown in above picture. Although, It was raining heavily yet we bathed for 1 hour and enjoyed a lot. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Second sanan ( bath ) ghaat of BanGanga"][/caption] At Main entrance, few boys were selling Raincoat ( a fullsize raincoat made of a lower quality polythin ) for Rs. 10 only but we did not buy there. After having breakfast/Lunch we purchased same raincoat at Rs. 15/ per piece. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Rain coat available at Katra for just rs.10 per piece"][/caption] After rain, weather was pleasent, air was blowing slowly. Once again, we started our journey with more energy and excitement. There were many temples, small shops and shelters on the way to Bhawan. We decided not to stop until we cover at least 5km distance but it was very difficult to move up, every kilometer seemed like 5 miles. People say "It is better to use footpath instead of stairs while moving upward" but I felt comfortable to use upstairs because it saves our time and I think energy too. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Upstairs to temple"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Upstairs to temple"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="A monkey at the top of hill"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Baby monkey is following mother......."][/caption] Please read notice board carefully before moving upstairs because it indicates the number of steps of ladder. there are many monkeys around the hill, I found all were calm and not annoying any pilgrim. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="An old woman was carried by four man in palky."][/caption] Street was clean and there were many shelters, public toilets and Coffee shop. Only thing that I did not like " horses and donkeys were also using same street and they might hit anyone anytime, entire way was being smelled dung". We took break after every mile and recovered our lost energy with coffee, tea or cold drinks. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="It's time for tee break"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Pepsi yeh pyaas hai badi."][/caption]   There are many dustbins on the way. In stead of using dustbin many people were throwing garbage in corners. Please use dustbins and make your Mata's Bhawan clear, clean and Eco-friendly. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="throwing disposal into dustbin........"][/caption]   After a long journey, I saw big buildings and crowd of people. It was temple of Ardhkwari. The temple was under construction. I and my both friends were visiting first time so we decided not to stop here and move upward till we reach at Bhawan. That was our biggest mistake, we did not take coupen for Darshan of Garbha gupha. It is believed that Mata Vaishno Devi stayed here in a cave ( known as Garbha Joon ) for nine months and worshipped Lord Shiva. When Bhairo nath entered the cave, the Goddess made a new opening with her trident and ran away. Whole year, there is long waiting to visit Garbha gupha so visitors must take coupen for darshan before moving up toward Bhawan. Waiting list sometimes get so long that we have to wait for even 2 to 3 day. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Maa Ardhkwari temple ( under construction )"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Dharamshala (Inn ) at Ardhkwari......."][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Trikuta hills"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="336" caption="Langoors in a tree"][/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Sanjhi Chhat"][/caption] Around 4 O'clock, we reached at sanjhi chhat where we took longer break. we took coffee, ice-cream and cold drinks. There is a facility to visit maa vaishno devi bhawan by helicopter as well. Choppers stop here and Devotees have to cover rest of the journey on-foot or they may hire horse. Around 7 o'clock we finally reached at Bhawan. There was not so crowd as expected. We decided to took bath first. There was a great arrangement of bathrooms and toilets where devotees can fresh before darshan. We took bath in cold freeze water. I was not feeling well that time and had temperature too. After changing new clothes, we stored our all bags, mobile phones, wallet and belt in clock room. There are many clock rooms available at Bhawan where we can keep our belongings lock and keep key with us. After that, we bought prashad for Bhawan darshan. There was no crowd so we got much time for Darshan of Pindies in sacred cave. We had a great darshan of Maa. When we came out, we went to clock room and got our bags back. I was so tired so I wished to rest but my friends decided to reach at Bhairov Mandir as soon as possible. At Bhairow mandir we ate rajma rice, pakodies and rested their for few hours. Then we started our journey back to down. It was taking less effort to coming down, we just had to maintain the balance of our body, and rest of the work was being done by the gravity. We had some monkeys, langoors, deers on our way. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="A mom monkey breeding her son"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="School near by Maa Vaishno Devi Bhawan"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Deer looking at me"][/caption] Around 1o'clock we reach at Ardhkwari back and we took coupen. There was waiting of more then 24 hrs. We did not have much time so we decided to rest till morning then we will visit Maa Ardhkwari mandir without entering Garbha Goofa. We tried to get a room in any Inn, hotels or guest house but all room was booked we did not get any room. So we took 3 blankets and did rest till 7 o'clock. In Ardhkwari temple, all devotees get Blankets for free of cost, we just need to deposit security money rs. 100/blanket and we will get money back when we submit blanket to store room. 05 SEPT. Early in the morning, we woke up, brushed teeth and washed our faces. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Waiting room at Ardhkwari"][/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="I and Rakesh in Ardhkwari"][/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="I and Amit at Charanpaduka"][/caption] We had to reach at Jammu Railway station till 7o'clock so we did darshan of Ardhkwari maa and did breakfast. Once again were ready to start our journey downward to Katra with tired body. When we reached in Charanpaduka, we had our lunch in a restaurant. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Once again in BanGanga"][/caption] Once again I could not stop myself to bath in BanGanga. Chilled water of Banganga absorbed our tiredness and pain. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Duronto Express"][/caption] Finally, we did shopping at Katra market and reached at bus stand. We got return journey ticket for rs. 40 per person which rs. 20 cheaper than we paid while coming Jammu to Katra. Around 5'o clock we reached at Jammu Tawi railway station where we had Duronto Express at approx. 7:30. The train came on platform 10 min. before schedule departure of train. I found Duronto express was much better than other train of Indian Railways. The train have one stoppage at Jalandhar city between Jammu Tawi to Delhi Sarai Rohilla station. We were to tired to woke so we just felt asleep. 06 SEPT. I heard some noise and opened my eyes. I was surprised to see the train was in Delhi. It was raining outside, time was around 5 o'clock. We sit on the bench at platform and adjusted our clothes and luggage. After that we went to inquiry counter and enquired about any local train for New Delhi Railway Station or Old delhi Railway Station. There was a local train at 6:20 from Delhi S. Rohilla station to New Delhi Railway Station. We took tickets rs. 2 per passenger and boarded on train. Frpm NDLS we took metro to came back to noida. All we huged each other and went to own way. This is my first story I ever wrote. Soon I will write my second story........till the time .......... JAI MATA KI...........