Maa Vaishnodevi Temple is India's second most visited religious shrine, after Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. The temple is dedicated to Mata Rani or Vaishnavi, a manifestation of the Mother Goddess. It is located near the town of Katra, in Udhampur district. Pilgrims walk up the backbreaking journey to the shrine located high over the Trikuta hill at an altitude of about 5200 ft. Trikuta hill is the base camp for the journey to this shrine.
The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is established in a cave of the Himalayan Mountains. The route to the shrine is a stretch of 13 km, where there is no provision for modern transport, except for a helipad at the top of the hill. Pilgrims take the help of horses when the journey gets tiring. A rail link from Udhampur to Katra is being built to facilitate pilgrimage. The aarti ritual (a two hour act) of the Goddess Vashnavi is performed twice a day when the shrine echoes with the holy sounds of chanting Mantras accompanied by uttering 108 names of Goddess Durga. Devotees worship the three forms of Goddess Vaishnavi here: Mahal Kali, Mahal Lakshmi, and Mahal Saraswati. Being a renowned and crowded pilgrimage, the place offers a variety of budget and star rated hotels for acommodation. It is believed that anybody who walks to the abode to ask for a boon rarely goes back disappointed.