Discovering the spiritual self in Katra

26 Feb 2018 no comments Archana Goel 1018 Views

My grandmother used to say that every family must go on an pilgrimage once every year. The reason of course, is to get the blessings of the almighty. I follow this small piece of advice from her every year…. well almost every year. This year, we decided to go to Vaishno Devi Yatra on foot, from Katra in Jammu & Kashmir, as always.

The journey started in a cozy train cabin which was supposed to drop us at Katra early in the morning at 5.10 AM. We expected the delay and were sleeping calmly. Then there is a knock on the door and someone said… उठो साहब उतरने का टाइम आ गया (Wake up! It’s time to get off the train). Dinesh (my ever-enthusiastic husband) looked from the curtain and told me…. देखो ज़रा  (can you check?)…

I, very lazily, peeped from the corner of the curtain. To my amazement, the view was breathtaking… actually breath-taking.

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Beautiful Nature… these are the words to define the views when you look at the mountains from Katra. We started our on-foot journey at around 11.45 AM. After crossing the Banganga check post, the actual climbing began. Kashish (my beautiful and very sweet daughter and adorable and sincere… i can go on n on n on) was very excited and that reflected in her enthusiasm. The views were stunning… nature at its best, weather was pleasant. It was family time… then what was disturbing us???

Horses/ Ponies….  Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) has done its bit by bifurcating the passage in two parts – one for Paidal Yatri and one for Horses/Ponies….

But who cares?

Horses…. No

Horse walas…. No

Riders…. No

On-Footers…. Definitely, yes

The sound system works wonderfully across the whole yatra, right from the Banganga to Bhawan. Listening to mantras and bhajans makes your journey easier… much easier.

It also keep announcing that the horsewalas should not control the horses by pulling its tail instead they must operate the wonderful animals from the front. They should not use stick to control the animals… they should not make them run fast…

But who really cares?

Horses…. Even if they want… they can’t

Horse walas…. No

Riders…. Really not… They just want to complete the yatra

On-Footers…. Definitely Yes… they are the ones who suffer the most

SMVDSB is doing great job by managing the large number of दर्शनार्थीs (pilgrims), providing facilities like clean public toilets, खाने लायक खाना (edible food), beverages etc.

But what about the dirt and inconvenience caused by the horses to on-footers? Every time I visit Vaishno Devi, I feel that the number of horses have doubled. Considering it provides good facility for people who cannot go on foot. The palkis and the helicopters and now, ropeways is also getting constructed. It is not affecting the environment… is it not diluting the holiness of this pilgrimage?

SMVDSB should dedicate a route for on-footers right from Katra like they have done from Ardhakwari to Bhawan…

Our hotelwallas told us that there is one such route that has been constructed. However, due to union of horsewallas, it is not operational.

SMVDSB must also take steps to maintainKatra’s natural beauty. When we were returning to hotel after the yatra, autowallah had to take the outer route… and what we saw was so filthy… there was garbage all over… so much construction going on… it seems that after 2-3 years there will be no mountains in Katra… only filth and roads…

I only wish that this holy shrine maintains its beauty, holiness, and the divine goddess keep everyone blessed.

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Archana Goel
Chief Manager IT
JK Paper Limited