Goddess Vaishno Devi
Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji resides in a Holy Cave located in the folds of the three peaked mountain named Trikuta (pronounced Trikoot). The Holy Cave of the Mother is situated at an altitude of 5200 ft. The Yatris have to undertake a trek of nearly 12 km from the base camp at Katra. At the culmination of their pilgrimage, 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.
A geological study of the Holy Cave has indicated its age to be nearly a million years. Vedic literature gives no reference to the worship of any female deity, although the mountain Trikuta does find its mention in Rigveda, the oldest of the four Vedas The practice of worshipping Shakti, largely started in the Puranic period.
The first mention of the Mother Goddess is in the epic Mahabharat. When the armies of Pandavs and Kaurvas were arrayed in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjun, the chief warrior of Pandavs upon advice of Sri Krishna; meditated upon the Mother Goddess and sought Her blessings for victory. This is when Arjun addresses the Mother Goddess as ‘Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye’, which means ‘you who always dwell in the temple on the slope of the mountain in Jamboo’ (probably referring to the present day Jammu).
It is also generally believed that the Pandavs were the first to build the temples at Kol Kandoli and Bhawan in reverence and gratitude for the Mother Goddess. On a mountain, just adjacent to the Trikuta Mountain and overlooking the Holy Cave are five stone structures, which are believed to be the rock symbols of the five Pandavs.
Perhaps the oldest reference of the visit of a historical figure to the Holy Cave is that of Guru Gobind Singh who is said to have gone there via Purmandal. The old foot track to the Holy Cave passed through this well-known pilgrimage centre.
Some traditions believe this Shrine to be the holiest of all Shaktipeeths (a place where the Mother Goddess, the Eternal Energy has Her abode) since the skull of Mata Sati fell here. Others believe that her right arm had fallen here. But some scriptures do not agree with it. They do agree that at a place called Gandarbal in Kashmir, the right arm of Sati had fallen. Nevertheless, in the Holy Cave of Shri Mata Vaishno Deviji, one does find stone remains of a human hand, popularly known as Varad Hast (the hand that grants boons and blessings).
It is believed that Pandit Shridhar discovered the shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji around 700 years ago. At his place Mata had helped organize a Bhandaara but she left amidst the Bhandaara to escape Bhairon Nath. When she left the bhandaara Pandit Shridhar is said to have felt as if he had lost everything in his life. He felt immense grief and gave up the intake of food or even water and closed himself in a room of his house, fervently praying for Vaishnavi to reappear.
It is then that Mata Vaishnavi appeared in his vision (dream) and told him to search for her at the Holy Cave situated amidst the folds of the Trikuta Mountain. She showed him the way to the Holy Cave and insisted him to break his fast. Pandit Shridhar then went on to discover the Holy Cave in the mountains. Every time he seemed to lose the way, the vision of his dreams reappeared before his eyes and finally he reached his destination. Upon entering the Cave he found a rock form with three heads atop it. At that moment Mata Vaishno Devi appeared before him in all her glory (another version says that the Supreme Energies of Mata Maha Saraswati, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Kali appeared in the Holy Cave) and introduced him to the three heads (now known as the Holy Pindies) of the rock form along with various other identification marks in the Holy Cave. She blessed him with a boon of four sons and a right to worship her manifestation and asked him to spread the glory of the Holy Shrine all over. Pandit Shridhar then spent his remaining life in the service of Mata at the Holy Cave.
No clear account of Mata's birth is available but according to a prevailing legend during the period when the Goddess was busy in annihiliting the Asuras, Her three main manifestations viz. Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Saraswati got together one day and pooled their collective Tejas or spiritual strength. A stunningly bright light emanated from the place where the Tejas of the three manifestations coalesced and a beautiful young girl emerged out of this Tejas. The young girl asked them, "Why have I been created?'' The Devis explained to her that they had created her so that she would live on earth and spend her time in upholding righteousness.
The Devis added, "Now, go and take birth in the house of Ratankar and his wife who reside in the southern part of India, and who are great devotees of ours. Live on earth. Uphold righteousness and evolve yourself spiritually so that you reach higher levels of consciousness. Once you have attained the appropriate level of consciousness you will merge into Vishnu and become one with him.'' So saying they blessed the girl. Sometimes later a very beautiful girl child was born to Ratankar and his wife. The couple named the child Vaishnavi. The girl right from her childhood displayed a hunger for knowledge which was like a vortex and which no amount of teaching and learning could sufficiently satiate. Subsequently, Vaishnavi started looking into her inner self for knowledge, and soon learned the art of meditation and realized that meditation and penance only could bring her close to her greater objective. Vaishnavi thus relinquished all household comforts and went deep into the forest for Tapasaya (meditation). Meanwhile, Lord Rama, during his fourteen years of exile happened to visit Vaishnavi who recognized him immediately as no ordinary being but the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and immediately asked him to merge her into himself so that she could become one with the supreme creator.
However Lord Rama, knowing that it was not the appropriate time, dissuaded her by saying that he would visit her again after the end of his exile, and at that time if she succeeded in recognizing him, he would fulfill her wish. True to his words, Rama visited her again after being victorious in the battle, but this time he did so in the disguise of an old man. Unfortunately, Vaishnavi was unable to recognize him this time and was distraught. Upon this, Lord Rama consoled her that the appropriate time for her being one with the creator had not come, and that time would come eventually in 'Kaliyug' when He (Rama) would be in his incarnation of 'Kalki'. Rama also directed her to meditate, and set up an Ashram at the base of Trikuta hills, to elevate her level of spirituality so as to bless mankind and rid the poor and destitute of their sufferings.Only then would 'Vishnu' merge her into himself. Vaishnavi, immediately set off for the northern part and after immense hardships, reached the foot of the Trikuta Hills. After reaching there she set up her ashram there and began to meditate.
As predicted by Lord Rama, her glory spread far and wide, and people began to flock to her Ashram to seek her blessings. As time passed, MahaYogi Guru Goraksh Nath ji who had a vision of the episode between Lord Rama and Vaishnavi in the retrospective time frame, became curious to find out whether Vaishnavi has been able to attain a high level of spirituality or not. He, therefore, sent his most able disciple 'Bhairon Nath' to find out the truth. Bhairon Nath on locating the ashram started observing Vaishnavi secretly, and realised that though a 'Sadhvi' she always carried bow and arrows with her, and was always surrounded by langoors (apes) and a ferocious looking lion. Bhairon Nath was enamored by Vaishnavi's extraordinary beauty, and losing all good sense he began to pester Vaishnavi to marry him. Meanwhile a staunch devotee of Vaiashnavi, Mata Sridhar organised a Bhandara (Community meal) in which the whole village and MahaYogi Guru Goraksh Nath ji along with all his followers including Bhairon were invited. During the course of Bhandara Bhairon Nath attempted to grab Vaishnavi but she tried her best to daunt him. On failing to do so, Vaishnavi decided to flee away into the mountains to continue her Tapasaya undisturbed. Bhairon Nath however chased her to her destination.
The goddess after halting at (present day) Banganga, Charan Paduka, and Adhkwari, finally reached the holy cave Shrine. When Bhairon Nath continued to follow her despite the goddess trying to avoid a confrontation, the goddess was compelled to kill him. Bhairon Nath met his ultimate fate when the goddess, just outside the mouth of the cave, beheaded him. The severed head of Bhairon fell with a force at a distant hilltop. Bhairon Nath upon death realised the futility of his mission and prayed to the deity to forgive him. The almighty Mata ( Mother Goddess) had mercy on Bhairon and gave him a boon that every devotee of the goddess would have to have the Darshans of Bhairon after having the Darshans of the Goddess and only then would the yatra of a devotee be complete. Meanwhile, Vaishnavi decided to shed off her human form and assuming the face of a rock she immersed her self into meditation forever. Thus Vaishnavi, in the form of a five and a half feet tall rock with three heads or the Pindies on the top is the ultimate destination of a devotee. These Pindies constitute the Sanctum Sanctorum of the holy cave known as the shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, which is revered by one and all.
It is not only a belief but also a strong experience of one and all that the Divine Mother sends a call to her children. And once a person receives it, wherever he is, is bound to visit the Mother to receive Her unbounded love and blessings.
The Mother Herself Calls! It is also a matter of experience by almost all those who visit the Holy Shrine that upon the Call of Mata, a person needs to just take one step and leave the rest to Her and his journey gets completed with Her divine blessings.
Simultaneously, it is also believed that unless there is a call or Bulawa no one can visit the Shrine or have Her blessings, howsoever high or mighty one may be.
The trek from the Banganga check post in Katra to Mata’s Bhawan is an arduous 13 km long one.
One can cover the trek by four different methods:
1. By Helicopter.
2. By foot
3. By horses
4. By Palki – human palanquin
Helicopter services are offered by Global Vectra and Himalayan.The booking for availing helicopter service needs to be booked online, 60 days in advance through the official website of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. Helicopter tickets can also be bought on the spot from Jagjivan Ghat near Katra Bus Stand. But tickets can be bought subject to availability. Also the Helicopter service takes place only in fair weather and often the trips are cancelled.
The Katra helipad is approx 3.5 km from Katra main town. One needs to report at the helipad two hours in advance of the time mentioned on the ticket. The helicopter ride from the Katra helipad to Sanjichhat takes a mere five minutes. The immensely thrilling ride gives a breathtakingly beautiful view of the Trikuta valley. On reaching Sanjichhat, the Bhawan is at a distance of about 3 km. This distance can be covered by a downward trek or by horses. It takes approx 90 minutes to reach the Bhawan by foot. Those going for Mata’s darshan via helicopter are issued VIP passes and are allowed to entry through Gate No 5 of the Bhawan.
If one is going for darshan by the other three means, by foot, by horses or by Palanquin, he/she needs to register his traveling group members at the Katra Vaishno Mata Dev Shrine Board office and get a "travel slip". The office is located near the Katra bus stand. The travel slip is extremely important as it will be checked at several points of the journey, failing which you will not be allowed to trek further.
The Bhawan is open for darshan 365 days and the Shrine Board, the governing body of the Bhawan has made it possible to do the trek 24 by 7. The entire trekking path is lit up for devotees, some preferring to start the trek in the late evening to avoid the morning sun. The scintillating lit up path is visible from the Katra bus stand.
Throughout the trekking path, there are restaurants, tea stalls, drinking water, medical aid,benches, toilets and police check posts. A major length of the trek is covered providing protection from rain and snow.
At the start of the trek, at Banganga check post, there is massive scanning of luggage and security check.
The trek is divided into two parts. The first part of the trek up to Adkuwari is roughly half way at a distance of 7 km from Banganga starting check post. At Adkuwari the road to the Bhawan bifurcates into two. One road goes via Adkuwari while the second one goes via Himkoti.
The horses are allowed to continue on the Adkuwari trail, but are not allowed to go via the Himkoti road. At the Himkoti road, electric rickshaws are available for senior citizens, people with disability and those with medical conditions.
It must be noted that if traveling with children by foot, as is the case with many devotees, one needs to be very vigilant of the horses plying alongside as the road is narrow.
It is believed that he darshan of Mata is complete only if one visits the Bhairon Mandir, as Mata had given Bhairon a boon that he would be worshipped alongside her. The Bhairon Mandir is approximately 3 km form the Bhawan. It is a steep upward trek and can be done either by foot or by ponies.
The Shrine board has taken immense care to provide all amenities for a comfortable darshan of the devotees. So you will find shops, restaurants like Sagar Ratna, PCOs, Cloak rooms, Prashad shops and police posts.
The 'Aarti' of the Goddess is performed twice a day first time in the morning just before the sunrise and second time in the evening immediately after the sunset.
This whole procedure of 'Aarti' takes nearly two hours during which time the darshans remain suspended. All the maintenance works required inside the cave are carried out during this time only.
Banganga Check Post is around 50 km from Jammu Airport, 3.1 km from Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra station and 1.5 km from Katra Bus stand. It is from this place the hiking starts. Direct buses are also available from Jammu Railway station mini bus stand for Katra which is around 53 Km. From General Bus Stand Jammu Katra is around 45 Km. Private taxis are also available from Jammu to Katra.
Jammu is well connected through road also to rest of India. National Highway No. 1A passes through Jammu towards Srinagar. Regular bus services from all major North Indian cities are available for Jammu as well as Katra. Many standard and deluxe buses of various State Road Transport Corporations as well as private operators connect Jammu with important cities and towns of North India.
Passengers using Air or Rail as a mode of travel have necessarily to break their journey at Jammu and from thereon select an alternative mode of transport. However for passengers traveling by road, either through pub
- Mandir is only closed for morning and evening Aarti for 2-2 hours, rest of the time darshan is open
- Contact Person:
Office of the Incharge
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