Places to visit in Katra
Katra is predominantly known as the starting point for the Vaishno Devi Shrine atop the Trikuta Hill. However, there are some other lesser known but quite important holy places in this small town which you should definitely visit, if you are of a religious bent of mind. For the others who are not so religious, these holy places are a great place to witness the Hindu rites and rituals and also take in the local culture. Of course there is the natural beauty of the Himalayan mountain ranges which you can enjoy in Katra, but apart from this there are the other places of interest also which you should definitely visit.
Ardh Kuwari Cave: The Ardh Kuwari cave is located about midway to the main shrine. When she was trying to hide from the malicious sage, the Goddess Vaishno Devi found this cave and spent about 9 months here in meditation. When Bhairavnath realised that the Goddess was hiding in this cave, it is said according to legend that she used her trident and other weapons to make an opening at the other end of the cave which led to the main shrine. There she took the form of Mahakali and beheaded Bhairavnath. Nowadays the cave is a stopover for people who are on their way to the main Bhawan or shrine.
Bhairavnath Temple: The Bhairavnath temple is another important shrine near the Vaishno Devi Temple. It is essentially a temple inside a cave and dedicated to the sage Bhairavnath. It is said that when Bhairavnath the Tantrik made a demand of the goddess to serve him meat and wine in the house of a Vaishnav, she disappeared and the tantric followed her to the Trikuta hills. She threw her trident at him which made his head fall two kilometers from the place. During his last moments he asked forgiveness and salvation from the goddess who took pity on him and blessed him saying that pilgrims to Vaishno Debi would be required to visit the temple of Bhairavnath without which their pilgrimage would be incomplete.
Shiv Khori Temple: The Shiv Khori temple is one of the many holy places in Katra and is dedicated to the Lord Shiva. It is a natural cave which has a self made Shiv Lingam. In this shrine there are beautiful natural rock formations which are roughly similar to the figures of Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesh, Nandi and other deities associated with Lord Shiva. It is said that right above the Lingam there is a crevice through which milky water consistently falls on it. There are etchings of snakes on the roof and snakes are very closely associated with Lord Shiva. There are many other shrines enroute to Shiv Khori and each has a legend of its own.