Katra, famously called as “Heaven on Earth” is a good hill town in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. It lies at the foot of Trikuta mountain about 48 km from Jammu. It is nearly 2,473 ft above the sea level. The town acts as a base camp for the famous pilgrimage spot named Vaishno Devi shrine. This shrine is nestled in the Trikuta mountain. It is 61 km from Jammu.
The legend goes that more than 700 years ago, there lived a devotee of Lord Vishnu, named Vaishno Devi. She had taken a vow of celibacy. Bhairon Nath, the demon-god chased her and interrupted her meditation. Mata Vaishno Devi assumed the form of Maha Kali and cut-off his head. The place where his head fell down is now called as Bhairon temple.
The Ma Vaishno Devi shrine is situated in a cave. This holy cave temple, which is 98 feet long, is said to have been built by the five Pandavas. Pilgrims should crawl from the mouth of the holy cave through the tunnel till Launkra Beer point. Beyond this point, they have to wade through water for 23 feet. After wading through the water, the main part of the shrine appears. Here pilgrims can see a number of carvings depicting divine symbols, like the divine cow (Kamadhenu), Trimurthi (Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma), etc. Ponies can be hired to trek up the mountain.
Travelers can enjoy panoramic views while trekking to the holy shrine. The Katra town’s scenic beauty is awesome. Since Katra is primarily a pilgrimage place, there are a number of pilgrim spots around this little hill town. These pilgrim spots are easily accessible from Katra. For non-spiritual travelers, the scenic mountain offers adventurous trekking. The famed hill station Patni Top is just two hours away from Katra.
Shiv Khori, a pilgrim spot situated 70 km from Katra has a holy cave with naturally formed Shiv Ling at the heart of its sanctum sanctorum. The length of this cave is one km. The temple of Baba Dhansar is located 15 km away from Katra on the way to Salal Dam. Here travelers can enjoy watching a huge spring emerging from the rocks in a thick grove of trees. This spring forms various side streams before ending up in the river Chenab.
Also there is a famous Hindu-Sikh pilgrim spot just 30 km from Katra, named shrine of Dera Baba Banda. Baba Jitto’s shrine is the temple raised for the legendary hero called Baba Jitto. This temple is situated in the village Aghar Jitto which is just five km from Katra.
Travelers can buy anything from the Kashmiri garlic, walnut, spiritual objects, saffron to gemstones and pendants. Katra is well connected to Jammu and other major cities in the state of Punjab by road. The nearest airport and railhead is in Jammu.