Zor se bolo… Jai Mata Di… Saare bolo… Jai Mata Di… With these joyous,energetic cries to the Goddess, we began our trek to Maa Vaishno Devi’s Bhawan. Having lodged in a decent hotel in Katra, the shrine was about 18kms from our place of stay. The weather wasn’t cool at all. We spent some time trying to choose our mode of transport for the uphill climb.
There were a variety of options before us. Helicopters, horses, electric cars, dolis(unclosed palanquins) and our own legs! Helicopters were advance booked, horses didn’t appeal to us(another way of saying, we were scared :P) , electric cars were available only after a phase and dolis were appropriate for old people. So finally, we thought our legs were the most reliable means and with yet another cry to Maa for strength, we began our trek.
One word of advice, if you ever happen to go trekking to Vaishno Devi, a support-stick is a real help. Initially i was reluctant to buy it, thinking that carrying it would only make it tedious to hold on to it all the while. But with passing time, it was a real boon. I bought the red cloth thingy that you tie on your head with JAI MATA DI written over it. I don’t know exactly what it’s called, but it seemed to give me the energy to go for it!
We started our yatra with smiles, prayers and enthusiasm. The way was lined with horse-renters and dolis. But we had to keep an eye on the floor to miss the horse shit that is almost everywhere on the road. As we walked on, there were numerous stores on the side, selling fruits to maggi to juices to milk to tablets to hats to sticks to souvenirs to almost everything for a long stretch. There were benches to lay and rest.
The sun was high and the heat was not helping the uphill climb. We were really tanned and sweaty. We bought some sunscreen to prevent the really bad sunburns. We kept hydrating ourselves every now and then. There were water tanks, tea, coffee and cool drinks available at every nook and corner. The thirst taken care of, i must say, we expected the yatra route to be very muddy with stumbling stones on the road. But from the entrance, all the way till the temple, there was a very convenient constructed road with interlockers!
As it neared evening and the sun lost it’s intensity, the winds started blowing and the yatra became very pleasurable. We enjoyed it so much. The view we got as we went higher was breath taking. The magnanimity of the view makes you feel very insignificant. Huge mountains scaling the range with pine trees was a sight to behold.
Finally we reached the Bhawan. Kept our belongings including footwear, leather items, mobiles and cameras in the lockers available. None of these are allowed inside. Stood in the long queue and got Maa Vaishnavi’s Darshan just after the night pooja. The sight of the three pindis in the sanctum sanctorum was worth the whole journey. Feeling blessed and happy that we walked all the way, made us feel so fresh and energetic that after having dinner, we started back to our hotel on foot again.
It took us 6 hours to climb up and about 3 hours to climb down a total of about 36 kms. Some tips for you if you choose to go by foot too. On your way up, take the road, it’s easier to climb. There’s a way by steps too. But climbing up using steps is really exhausting. On the way back you could use steps, it makes your climb down very easy and you take very less time.On the way up you could use the steps at some places to make it quicker, but i would suggest not to use the only-steps way!
What i liked the most is the spirit of the people who came. From little kids to teenagers to middle-aged people to really really old fellows, there were all kind of people, with just one goal. Reaching Maa! There was zeal and enthusiasm in the atmosphere, which energized everyone who tagged along. There were many groups down where it started. But on reaching up, there was just one huge one. Maa unites everyone during the yatra. There are no fights, no arguments… Only Devotion and Love in the air! And yes, also this….
‘Zor se bolo.. Jai Mata Di.. Pyaar se bolo.. Jai Mata Di.. Saare bolo.. Jai Mata Di.. Aage bolo.. Jai Mata Di.. Peeche bolo.. Jai Mata Di.. Peeche bolo.. Jai Mata Di.. Daaye Bolo.. Jai Mata Di.. Baaye bolo.. Jai Mata Di.. Phir se bolo.. Jai Mata Di.. JAI MATA DI.. Jai Mata Di‘