T004: Jammu (Part 2)

It was almost mid afternoon that we finally reached the top. It was chilly and no signs of the Sun, making it worse. SMVDU management had intimated the police officer at the shrine, and he greeted us with a broad smile. We took some rest in the cozy room, adjacent to his office. Soon, one of his policeman escorted us to the cave, where the devotees queue up for the darshan.

The shrine is situated at 5200 feet (above the sea level). The yatries are blessed with the Darshans of the Mother Goddess inside the Sanctum Sanctorum- the Holy Cave. These Darshans are in the shape of three natural rock formations called the Pindies. There are no statues or idols inside the Cave. The best part is that this is written on the boards outside the shrine, and the devotees can read them when in queue. It is important to know it, since the darshan time is so less, that those who are NOT aware often have a puzzled look when they come out of the cave, “Where was the Vaishno Devi Mata?”

After we finished the darshan, we came out of the cave and enjoyed the lovely scene outside. This place has a magnificent view of the valley. We had our time with some photo-opps, and started the descend. As mentioned earlier, there are multiple ways available, based on your preparedness! We chose to climb down the stairs, as we were excited to come down faster. It is not easy, unless you have good shoes to absorb the jerks. The easier way out is the slope road, which is quite a leisure walk!

All the time that we were climbing down, we had just one target in front of our eyes..and that was the hotel where we had the tasty and sumptuous breakfast. We were looking for the same one, but we missed it somewhere as we were busy jumping down the road. We were back to Adkumari, where we finally decided to stop and have food, at the first hotel we can see. It was a dhaba, and the tandoor was hot, with a cheerful boy excited to serve the food. We ordered our heart out, since we were too hungry to think rationally! The food come up, and was a marathon eating feat, that we finished everything on the table!!

We left the Dhaba with a heavy heart (and stomach), and touched the finishing line in the next hour and a half! Rain tried to play a spoil sport, and we had to change our track to a covered one to save ourselves. We could also shop around for the amazing walnut shops on the way.

The car brought us back to the guesthouse, where we had a nice hot bath, and a light but tasty dinner! The legs were sore and the heart filled with joy!

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T004: Jammu (Part 1)

Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University (SMVDU), has organised a one day Faculty Development Program (FDP), and had requested me be the resource person for the same. However, since I was supposed to travel from Pune, I was unable to reach Jammu before the start of the session. Therefore, I requested my colleague Dr. Kapil Kadam to be the resource person for the morning session, while I reach there for the post lunch session.

Well designed and maintained campus of SMVDU, Katra

As per the schedule, I reached Jammu airport and was picked up by the car to travel for the sprawling campus of SMVDU at Katra. The workshop was attended by teachers from various domains, and the participation was spontaneous and active.

After this workshop, the next agenda was to climb up the famous pilgrimage of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi! This shrine is situated at 5200 feet above the sea level, and a distance of ~13 KMs. Kapil and I started off at 7 AM, with a popular slogan: Jai Mata Di!

The ascend is not very easy, but the company of large number of devotees, ample number of ponies, 24×7 shops flanked on both the sides, and occasional chant of ‘Jai Mata Di‘…makes it look easy. The trick is to conserve your stamina as much as you can. We decide to take a pit stop a bit later, since we may slow down after that. It was chilling cold, and walking up the hill was better than climbing up the stairs. However, we ended up using the stairs at many places. We kept having some handy snacks and lots of water on the way up to delay the stoppage! The excellent landscapes of the pure form of mother nature helped us to have short resting opportunities (under the pretext of watching the panorama or clicking the photographs!).

We stretched ourselves till we got up to the half way mark which is called as Adhkuwari. It was 11 AM, and we were hungry as hell! The restaurant chain by the MVD trust had some awesome Chole, sans Bhature! A friendly Dhaba owner right in front of this restaurant was happy to sell us ONLY Bhature.. The crisp Bhature (direct from the hot oil) were simply heavenly when we had them with the tasty Chole! After a hot cuppa chai, we were off to the final destination: Bhawan!

At this point there is a comparatively simpler road which has NO stairs. It is also free from the horses, ponies, and the mules. We decided to take this route, and began our walk for the final lap of 8 KMs. The road is full of unique things! Firstly, you are surprised to find clean toilets every 500 meters. You also find a medical booth ready with an ambulance, stretcher, and medical officers (in clean white aprons). Clean (ultra filtered) waer in multiple forms are available: normal temperature, chilled, and warm! In addition there are monkeys to keep you alert, and watchful! We also met locals, who will offer a leg massage (the moment your face gives up your tired situation!). The most bizarre experience was when a local chap put his firm hand on to my back and asked, “Sir, support du kya?”. He literally WALKS with the person who avails his services, by providing support to the aching back, all the way to the top!! I was sure that I did not need it, therefore suggested him to find another client!

(To be continued)