Katra Town, lying in the foot of Trikuta Mountains, 48 kms. from Jammu, serves as the base camp for visiting the famous shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, which is approachable on foot along a 13 kms long well laid footpath. Every year, more than 4.5 million pilgrims pass through Katra on their way to the holy shrine.
The cave shrine of Mata Vasihnodeviji or Trikuta Bhagwati (alt: 5,200 ft.) has been a beacon of faith and fulfilment to millions of devotees from all over the world. The pilgrimage to the Shrine holds great significance for the pilgrims.
From here a trek of around 12 kms takes a pilgrim to the Holy Shrine. One can undertake this trek on foot or on horses/ponies or on palanquins (palkies or dolies). While most of the pilgrims prefer to go on foot, some who find it difficult to negotiate the climb hire a pony or a palanquin.
There are various Sarais/Dharamshalas in Katra, which provide good accommodation to the pilgrims, either free of cost or at a nominal price. While some of them do provide facilities to the pilgrims, many of these places have passed in the hands of certain people with vested interests who insist on the pilgrims buying offerings from their own shops located in the premises of these Sarais. Pilgrims should be careful of such elements as they tend to sell items at a price many times higher than their original value.
There are various lodges, Guest Houses, ordinary and luxury hotels, Cottages, Resorts and all types of accommodation facilities available too, which provide accommodation to the devotees. Pilgrims have a wide range to choose from depending upon their taste and budget.
Katra has all types of vegetarian restaurants and dining places. Being a religious place, almost all these restaurants and catering outlets provide pure vegetarian food to the pilgrims in which even onion and garlic is not used. Pilgrims are also requested to preserve and uphold the sanctity of the Holy place and desist from demanding non vegetarian meals or alcohol from any outlets. Provision, General and Medical stores are available all over Katra as also at Adkuwari and Bhawan.
Many nationalized banks have their branches at Katra. The State Bank of India, Bank of Punjab and J&K Bank also provide ATM facilities at Katra. Many more banks including ICICI Bank, UTI Bank are in the process of installing their ATMs here. The J&K Bank and the Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) have their branches at Bhawan also.
Temple of Vaishno
Temple of Vaishno Devi is the main reason to visit Katra and it is one of the
main attraction of Katra. It is one of the famous cave shrines of Goddess Vaishno
Devi which is also known as Trikuta Bhagwati. This temple is located at a height
of 5200 feet. In this beautiful holy shrine the goddess is symbolized in the form
of three pindis (rocks).
Shiv Khori is another attractive tourist destination and one of the important
Katra attractions. It is situated about 75 kilometers from Katra, it has its own
religious implication and stands on the second place after Vaishno Devi. This place
is famous for its naturally formed Shiv linga which is a symbol of Lord Shiva. The
shiv linga is 4 feet in high. Large number of devotees from all over the country
comes to this place on the occasion of Shivratri as there is a major fair here.
Baba Dhansar is located about 10 kilometers from Katra. This place is famous
for its cool and pleasurable atmosphere which makes it one of the wonderful picnic
spots for travelers. This beautiful tourist destination is located in the middle
of the thick grove of trees that brings together a large number of travelers every
year from all over the country.
Dera Baba Banda
Dera Baba Banda a holy place of Sikhs is another major tourist attraction of
Katra which is located just about 30 kms from the town. This place is considered
as an important Hindu-Sikh pilgrimage center. This gurudwara was built by Baba Banda
Bairaagi near the banks of river Chenab.