Vaishno Devi, as it is popularly known, is a small town in Udhampur district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir situated in the foothills of the Trikuta Mountains, where the holy shrine of Vaishno Devi is located. It is located 42 km from the city of Jammu. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, one of the leading technical universities of India, is also located here.
Katra is located at 32.98°N 74.95°E. It has an average elevation of 754 metres (2,474 feet). There also been reports of possible oil reserves in the area
As of 2011 India census, Katra along with Ban-Ganga had a population of 37569. Males constitute 52% of the population and females 48%. Katra has an average literacy rate of 70%, higher than the national average of 59.%: male literacy is 77%, and female literacy is 65%. In Katra, 14% of the population is under 6 years of age.
Katra serves as the base camp for pilgrims who visit Vaishno Devi. It has a thriving tourism industry that offers plenty of hotels, guest houses, restaurants, dhabas, fast-food joints that fit all kinds of budgets. Free accommodation is provided by some registered trusts in the form of Sarais for the poor. The number of pilgrims that visit the shrine every year has increased from 1.4 million in 1986 to 8.2 million in 2009. Over the years, a lot has changed, but one should not miss the opportunity to walk through the main bazaar (market) for buying (do not forget/hesitate to negotiate a bit) souvenirs, dryfruits, woolen garments, hosiery, leather jackets, etc.
To reach Vaishno Devi temple the pilgrims have to register at the Katra before starting the trek. By registering, the pilgrims get accidental insurance while on the trek for 1 lakh INR. It is a trek of 10.5 km.
There is another trek (1.5 km) from Vaishno Devi temple for Baba Bhaironnath. It is said that the pilgrimage is not complete until you visit this temple at last. The scenery throughout the trek is picturesque.
Environment-friendly auto rickshaws and helicopter services also have started now-a-days to make the journey a pleasant one.