Tourist Places and Sightseeing in Mata Vaishno Devi

Ardhkuwari Cave
Ardhkuwari Cave Halfway through the main shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi lies Ardhkuwari Cave. Also known as Garbajoon Cave, this 52 ft long cave is where Mata did her penance for nine months before annihilating Bhairon Nath. The cave name Ardhkuwari is said to have come from Adi Kumari, meaning ‘The Eternal Virgin.’ The cave en route to the main Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan acts as a stopover on pilgrimage for devotees to pay their obeisance to the deity.

Situated 6 km away from the holy temple of Mata Vaishno Devi, the Ardhkuwari cave resembles a mother’s womb in shape and is therefore famously called Garbajoon Cave. It is a locally held belief that in Ardhkuwari, Mata Vaishno Devi took the form of Maha Kali after meditating here for nine months before making Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan her eternal abode. One can only reach the innermost region of the cave by crawling on the knees. Once there, you will find an altar dedicated to Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati.
Bhairavnath Temple
Bhairavnath Temple It is a long-held belief that Mata Vaishno Devi blessed Tantrik Bhairon Nath in his dying moments that no pilgrimage to her abode would be complete without visiting the Bhairavnath Temple. Also known as Bhairav Ghati, locals believe it is where the demon Kaal Bhairav was slain by the Mother Goddess.

Legend has it that during his last breath to repent his sins, Bhairav Nath begged for Maa’s forgiveness. Mata forgave him and proclaimed a visit to his temple mandatory for her devotees. Today he is revered as Lord Bhairon and is considered the invincible guardian to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. His temple lies at a higher elevation than the temple of Goddess and is located 5 km away from it.

The climb to this holy site is treacherous, but the picturesque views of the forest-fed mountain make it worthwhile. If the journey feels too challenging, one can use pony service. A ropeway service is also available to ferry devotees from Mata Vaishno Devi to Bhairavnath Temple.
Dera Baba Banda Katra
Dera Baba Banda Dera Baba Banda is situated along the banks of river Chenab and lies 30 km from Katra. It is a historic 300-year-old Gurudwara dedicated to Baba Banda Bahadur. Formerly a commanding soldier of Guru Gobind Singh’s Army, he was later appointed as the leader of the Sikhs.

It is said that he was an ardent devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi and would frequent her shrine regularly. Pleased by this, Mata had blessed him. Today, his shrine symbolizes religious harmony as it is thronged by both Hindus and Sikhs, especially during the three days of Baisakhi Mela.

The Gurudwara has splendid architecture, and its interiors shine in the textures of golden shade. It houses ashes, weapons, and other relics of the great Baba Banda.
Ban Ganga Katra
Ban Ganga Ban Ganga, a tributary of River Chenab, has a great reverence among Hindus. It is a sacred river that acts as a pit stop in the Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrimage. The river gets its name from a mythological legend that states that when Mata Vaishno Devi was heading to her cave, she found her companion, Langoor Veer (monkey), very thirsty.

To quench his thirst, she shot an arrow in the ground, and a spring sprang up, which is famous as Ban Ganga today. Since Ban means arrow, hence the name Ban Ganga. It is also called Bal Ganga (Bal meaning hair) after another legend, according to which the Goddess washed her hair here.

Such is the sanctity of the river; it is also known as the twin of Gang. It is considered necessary that devotees take a dip in its waters before continuing their pilgrimage to Mata’s abode.
Baba Dhansar Katra
Baba Dhansar Baba Dhansar Temple lying in Karua village, approximately 15 km from Katra, is built to commemorate the worship of Baba Dhansar, and its commanding deity is Lord Shiva.

Baba Dhansar was the son of Vasudev, the human incarnation of Lord Shiva’s serpent. According to the legend, Baba Dhansar’s worship of Lord Shiva helped the village of Karua get rid of a demon who was terrorizing them. After this event, the temple was built at the site.

Near the temple, a huge spring emerges from the rocks in a thick grove of trees and forms a cluster of small waterfalls cascading into a holy rivulet, which merges with the river Chenab.

Close to this rivulet is a naturally formed Shivling on top of which milky water droplets constantly fall all year round—devotees in a considerable number gathered here on the eve of Shivratri.
Raghunath Temple Jammu
Raghunath Temple Located 18 km from the base of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine is a 19th-century temple called Raghunath Temple. Along the embankment of the Tawi River in the heart of Jammu City, this temple is a symbol of purity and prosperity.

Maharaja Gulab Singh initiated the construction of this marvelous temple. Later, his son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh, took charge of its completion. The temple takes pride in being the largest shrine complex in North India.

The complex consists of seven temples, each consisting of its own Shikhara (lofty spires). The royal temple has many gods and goddesses enshrined, but the presiding deity is Lord Ram. As such, the central temple is dedicated to him.

The temple is an architectural wonder built by combining two great architectural styles. Gold sheets wrap the inner walls of this main temple on three sides. While the carvings and arches being exceptionally resplendent show the influence of Mughal style, the towers or Shikharas offer a glimpse of Sikh architecture.

The grand temple interiors house images of almost all Hindu gods and goddesses and contains a gallery where phallic forms of lord Shiva (lingams) are placed. The temple pays tribute to its founder Maharaja Ranbir Singh, whose portrait corresponds with Lord Hanuman's photo at the entrance.

Inside the shrine complex is a library accommodating rare Sanskrit books and manuscripts. Flocks of tourists and believers visit the temple regularly magnetized by its splendor and spirituality.