Navratra Festival is celebrated every year in Katra, the base camp of Sri Mata Vaishno Devi. On this auspicious occasion entire Katra town is decorated tastefully and people from the region participate in large numbers.
The Navratra Festival starts with the formal inauguration ceremony. On the first day, after the prayers are offered to Goddess Mata Vaishno Devi, flowers are showered from a helicopter (at times) to mark the beginning of the celebrations. The entire cultural heritage of the region is on display everywhere. One can see the locals dressed up in the traditional attire symbolizing the rich Dogra culture.
Every evening Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board with assistance from state tourism department organizes various cultural shows including famous singing competition in which singers from Jammu & Kashmir and the neighboring states participate to sing songs in the glory of Mata Vaishno Devi. Every evening a prize is given to the promising singer as a token of appreciation and the winner of the competition gets the mega prize.
Every evening is also marked by the famous drama displays as well as dispels by a learned Saints. Local songs by singers with colorful attire are a scene to watch. School children also display colorful programs on the occasion. Art, craft and handloom is exhibited during the festive celebrations and the pilgrims can choose to buy among the best on display.
Wrestling competition is another event organized during the festival in which wrestlers not only from northern India but also from Pakistan participate. It is a treat to watch celebrations during the Navratra Festival and people wait anxiously every year for the occasion.
Yatra during Navratras - Though the Yatra to the Shrine of Mata Vaishno Deviji is a round-the-year event, the one undertaken during the Navratras is considered the most auspicious.
"Navratri" or "Navratra" is a combined word which translated means nine nights. " Nav" means Nine and "Ratri" means night, so combined it means Navratri or Nine nights. In northern parts of India this festival is called "Navratra". In Navratras, during the first three days, the goddess is invoked as a spiritual force called Goddess Durga also known as kali in order to destroy all our impurities, vices and defects.
During the second three days, the Mother Goddess is adored as a giver of spiritual wealth, Goddess Lakshmi, who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth. She is the goddess of wealth. And the third set of three days is spent in worshipping the goddess of wisdom, Goddess Saraswati.
In order to have all-round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects of the divine femininity, hence the nine nights of worship.
In order to showcase and highlight the regional culture, heritage and traditions of the area during this period, the Jammu & Kashmir State Tourism Department has instituted the Navratra Festival as an annual event to be held for all the nine auspicious days of the Navratras. A large number of tourists pay their obeisance to the deity during this period. This festival showcases the religious traditions as well as the popular culture of the region among the millions of pilgrims who visit the Vaishno Deviji Shrine during this period.