I was thinking of writing a new post since long but the events in my life didn't permit me to spare sometime to post some new stuff over here. I saw that it has been more than a month, I posted last :-(. Though I have a number of things to write about on the top of my head but decided to go with my Vaishno Devi trip which happened last-to-last weekend. This will not only set the mood but also falls first in chronological order. This trip was due on me since long as this post was but the wait of the trip was much longer than the wait for this post. I wanted to go to Vaishno Devi since last year and had strong desire to go there in month of January when my Bhai-Bhabhi went but as you know that until MAA herself doesn't call, you can't go there.

So it all started with a phone call from Bhatti just a week before the trip. At that time I was in a office party and was indulged in a long discussion over my resignation so couldn't listen to Bhatti properly at that point. Later, I called him back and got to know that he is making a plan to go there. Though I was waiting for the same since long but initially I did raise my concern to go by bus as I never feel comfortable in a bus journey especially when it includes mountain route. Also I was asked by many of my friends that I should wait for some more time and we all will go there by train. But by that time, I had already made my mind to go for it by any means. Another hurdle came, when cold trapped me and I was thinking of canceling the trip. But the power of BHAKTI didn't let me down and I was all set to go with a lot of medicines in my bag.

We started from Delhi on Friday (20th March, 2009) evening at around 7:00 pm. As seats in the bus were in pair and we were 9, one of us had to sit out of the group and share his neighboring seat with some outsider. But that wasn't a problem and Deepak did the job for us :-). I was thinking that I would fall asleep as soon as the bus would start coz I couldn't sleep the night before but to my surprise, I couldn't sleep for a minute in the bus. Not only that day, but I also couldn't catch a nap for two more days/nights. The journey to Katra was eventful and the events started from very beginning when one family was quarreling with conductor cum driver about their seats. That didn't only get the bus late by 15-20 minutes but also tortured our already empty stomachs. Finally, our driver heard our stomachs and stopped at a restaurant. The bone-chilling breeze was just perfect to feel relax at that time and mist in the air helped to set a great mood.

Cutting the rest of bus journey, I jumped when we reached Katra next day morning and stayed in a hotel for having a bath before start. After having brunch in a local restaurant, we started our journey to DARBAAR to find more problems following us. When we were entering, we got to know that baggage checking system failed and now the policemen have to do manual checking. This ended in almost 2 hours which could be done in 10-25 minutes. In all this time we were just waiting for our turn sweating in the sunshine. But I thought that this was the last hurdle, we faced :-). As I told you earlier that we were a group of 9, but during our way to DARBAAR, we were split in 3 groups. First group included one and only Aman, whose idea is to reach everywhere 1-2 hours before others, collecting tickets and take some rest. Second group included Gauri and Neha who were just ahead of the third group, which included rest of us.

Last time, I visit Vaishno Devi almost 4 years earlier and that time I saw energetic groups chanting “JAI MATA DI” all over the way to DARBAAR. Also the shopkeepers around the way used to play devotional bhajans of MATA to energize the devotees. But this time, that spirit was missing. Many times, I tried to motivate others by shouting JAIKARAs on the way and people responded well. Did I tell you that all this time I didn't find any problem with my cold? This is the power of BHAKTI, which keeps you alive all over the way.

We reached ARDH-KUMARI at around 5:00 pm and as expected, we got to know that we have to wait at least 4-5 hours for DARSHAN. So we decided to leave it and continued our way to DARBAAR. Here I would like you to know that we got the darshan-slip keeping in mind that if time will permit, we will do the DARSHAN on our way back. We got 2 slips numbered 625 and 67 5 respectively (just remember the numbers for future reference). For those who don't know, there are 2 ways to main DARBAAR (Bhawan) from Ardh-Kumari. First is a steep route around 6.5 kms and second is a smooth route around 5.5 kms. Though most of us wanted to take the steeper route coz there were many worth visiting places along that route, Sandy and Shikha's condition didn't permit us to take that route and going with the group (3rd group), we took the shorter route.

On the way to Darbaar, Namrata also gave up and she felt difficulty in breathing. There were 2 main reasons for that. First was that she wasn't used to walk long and second was that her bag was the second heaviest in the group (heaviest was mine :P). So I and Bhatti shared the load of her bag and pushed/draged her towards the BHAWAN.

At this point, I want to put some snippets from Bhatti's blog as he has already written the same thing and I don't want to repeat it.

  • Finally, at around 9, we were there at the top. Aman had already taken the token for us. But then, there was a long queue for lockers in the cloak room. After a long, long wait, finally our turn was there. The system is a bit problematic here too.. It’s one locker per yatra-parchi (the slip that you get before setting for the trip from Katra) irrespective of number of people on the slip. (which can vary from one to five) Since we were nine in the group, we got two lockers and had to do some JUGAAD to get the third one.
    (Quick tip: If you are in a group of four or more, make sure that you do not get more than three people registered on a single slip)
  • Sometimes, some small things happen, which make you believe in the almighty even more strongly. A similar thing happened in the queue for us too.
    We were dead-tired and it had been more than an hour in the queue and the queue had hardly moved a bit. At this stage, I was almost giving up. (Though that wasn’t an option!!) I silently made a prayer to the Goddess that now that we have made this much effort in reaching at the final frontier, we needed her blessings to finally complete the DARSHAN. This was more of a helpless plea than a prayer with some real hope. I requested for some JUGAAD (yes!! this is the precise word that I had used in my prayer) for us to get in quickly. And lo!! my prayers were answered almost instantly.
    Here’s how it happened. Akash went ahead to ask the man-at-duty at the gate about how long will it take for the darshan (Thanks to the cloak room chaos, our number had already passed. Ours was 84; it was 105 running at that time) and Neha, the youngest of our group, decided to accompany him. She was about to ask him, when the policeman there shouted at her and asked her to be in line. By mistake, he thought that she is right at the head of the queue and is getting out of the line. :-oAnd thus, she was thrust almost at the head of the queue. Then, she politely asked him that some of her friends are left behind in the queue. The policeman initially insisted that she wait for us, but then relented and suddenly, all of us were at the head of the queue, saving at least 3-4 hours. :-o

After entering in the first gate, we were not far from long awaited DARSHAN and in 10-15 minutes we were at the main temple. It was a divine feeling which can not be described in words. I was feeling so relaxed and fresh. The tiredness of the journey and sleepy eyes from last 3 nights had vanished some where and the only thing in my mind was to say thanks for all the things in life, to ask for well-wishing of family and others, to show us the right path, to forgive us for all the mischief we have done and to keep the Almighty's hand on us for rest of our lives. That was such a long list to ask for but we know that SHE has a lot of space in her heart and listens to each and every prayer from her children so why not ask for everything. Then we got the DARSHAN of 3 forms the Almighty and got all the pleasure of the world. The 3 idols seemed everything for me at that time. Though it was just a glimpse of the idols but that resided in my heart forever. I know people who could not get the DARSHAN after reaching there in the GUFA but it was the kindness of MATA that she allowed us to get a glimpse of her :-).

Now, It was the time to go for steepest part of the journey: From BHAWAN to BHAIRAV-MANDIR. It is said that if you don't visit to Bhairav-Mandir after DARSHAN, your DARSHAN is incomplete. It was around 2 km steep journey but everyone was too tired to continue walking. So all but me decided to take KHACHHAR for this part. Since I was alone on feet, I started w/o waiting for others and it was fastest part of my journey. We were done with Bhairav-Mandir at around 6:00.

Now we had the option to go back to katra either on feet or by helicopter. 6 of us chose to go by helicopter but Namrata, I and Deepak continued our journey back on feet. And I advise you to be back on feet. It is such a great journey on way back to Katra coz you feel so refresh after DARSHAN. Now the best part came when we reached ARDH-KUMARI on way back. Guess which number was on display when we arrived there. No prize for guessing that it was 625. We were so happy and surprised to see 625 on display. We submitted our luggage in locker and queued for DARSHAN there. Even after entering in the queue, it took us around 3 hours to complete the DARSHAN. But no regrets for that, as we were through with our DARSHAN as a reward to be back on feet.

We 3 finished our back journey at around 2:00 pm with a great satisfaction and met the rest of the group sleeping in guest house. After that we did some local shopping at Katra, had lunch and got ready to go back to Delhi.

Over all, It was a great trip. We enjoyed a lot on the trip. And the most important thing that we all were returning with a light heart from DARBAAR, giving all our worries and tensions to MAA and carrying the peace and happiness in return.