A well-known cave shrine nestled in the hovering mountain ranges of Himalayas, Vaishno Devi temple is considered as one of the holiest destination for Hindus. The pilgrim centre has even got international acclaim as a much desired holy place. The shrine is also popular with the name of “Shakti Peeths” of Goddess.
Devoted to Mother Goddess Vaishno Devi, this marvelous temple magnetizes millions of devotees from farthest corner of the world. A deep sense of faith and reverence helps the pilgrims to mount the tiresome journey of 13 kms to have a Darshan. The feeling of visiting this holy place is so great and mesmerizing that it would fetch the worshipper again and again to this sanctified abode of Goddess Vaishnavi.
The sacred temple of Vaishno Devi is located in the folds of ‘Tirkuta Hills’, at a distance of 12 kms from Katra, in the Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir. The sanctified cave of Goddess Vaishno Devi is located at an altitude of 5200 feet.
Legend Of Holy Shrine
It is believed that Vaishno Devi is almost a million years old. The holy place is mentioned in Hindu epic Mahabharata. According to Mahabharata myth, it is said that Arjuna, who was the main warrior of the Pandavs, upon the guidance of Lord Sri Krishna meditated and wished blessings for triumph over Kaurvas in the battleground of Kurukshetra. It is also mentioned in the epic that after the victory Pandavs were the first who structured the shrines at Bhawan and Kol Kandoli in gratitude and respect for Mother Goddess.
‘Vaishnavi’ means the one who is connected to Lord Vishnu. Goddess Vaishnavi is the sign of combined pious strengths of Mata Maha Saraswati, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Kali. As described in Durga Sapatshati, it is said that the Goddess was born as an extraordinary beautiful girl with plethora of strength, out of the jointly pooled ‘Tejas’ of several ‘Devtas’ and three Lords- Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. The instantaneous aim of the creatiuon of Goddess was the total destruction of Asura (devil) Mahishasura. However, another reason of hear creation was that the Goddess might escort an age of ascetic and spiritual life, so that peace could triumph upon the world. The girl was born to Ratankar and all the lords gave her the name ‘Vaishnavi’. Soon, the extraordinary girl gave up all the worldly comforts and went into severe penance. Lord Rama was in exile at the same time and paid a visit to Vaishnavi one day. She recognized Lord Rama and pleaded him to amalgamate into himself.
Lord Rama denied and said that after the exile, he will visit the place again and if she recognized him, he would accomplish her desires. After few days Lord Rama visited the place as an old man and Vaishnavi failed to identify him. Lord Rama consoled and said that in the Kalyug period, he would merge into her and incarnate as Kalki. He headed to meditate at Trikuta hills so she could raise herself and also consecrate mankind and eliminate their sufferings. She instantly set out and placed herself at Trikuta. Her magnificence spread and people gathered for the blessings of Vaishnavi.
Significance Of Worshipping Mata Vaishno Devi
The sacred temple of Mata Vaishno Devi is unique as it comprises of the sanctified Pindis manifesting the Goddess in her three forms that are Maha Saraswati, Maha Kali and Maha Lakshmi, an amalgamation of these three forms in a single Shakti is named as Mata Vaishno Devi Ji. Every form symbolizes specific characteristic.
Maha Saraswati : stands for Satva Guna- Satva means kindness and purity. In her form of Maha Saraswati, the Goddess blesses her followers with high intellect and pure thoughts. This facilitates them to differentiate between the righteousness and unrighteousness, between good and the bad that helps them to walk on the correct path of life.
Maha Kali : symbolizes Tam Guna- Tam stands for darkness or irreverence. In her attribute of Maha Kali, Goddess is continuously trying to vanquish the forces of darkness. She blesses her believers by bestowing them strength to never lose heart.
Maha Lakshmi : represents Raj Guna- It stands for well-being, wealth and sustenance. In her role of Maha Lakshmi, the Goddess blesses her followers with prosperity and wealth and therefore makes their life more peaceful and comfortable.
An amalgamation of these attributes is what makes Mata Vaishno Devi revered all across the globe. Every person on this earth has these attributes of Satva Guna, Raj Guna and Tam Guna in some amount or other. The behavior of an individual is conditioned by the characteristic that is predominant. However, to lead a meaningful and peaceful life, a balance has to be maintained amidst all three. Though, the balance is quite difficult to get, it requires heavenly blessing, and Vaishno Devi is the place where one can accomplish such blessings by a single source of Shakti. That is why the temple of Vaishno Devi is unique in its own in way in the whole world.
The Sanctified Yatra Of Vaishno Devi
The holy Yatra starts at Katra and in order to reach the Darbar, devotees cover the distance of 13 km of terrain on foot. Banganga that is one km far from Katra is the place where Goddess Vaishnavi quenched her thirst. The sacred cave Adhkawari is situated at a distance of 6 km from Banganga. The whole route is quite tiled, broad and clean. Also it is decked with powerful sodium vapour lamps.
Throughout the Yatra route, sheds cum shelters and cafeterias are set up for devotees. Public utilities are also available all along the route. After this, devotees reach Adhkawari after trekking 6 km; it is the place where Mata meditated for nine months. After the trekking of 9.5 kms, an individual reaches to Sanjhi Chhat, where supporters can have rest for some time. Staying options are also available at this place.
About The Darshan
After entering inside the cave, Bhavan is the place where the devotees buy Prasad and other offerings for the Goddess. Worshippers are issued a token number for the Yatra, the time for the turn of the yatri and group no. is mentioned on the token.
At Bhavan, there are lockers and changing rooms. Before joining the queue for the Darshan, it is mandatory to take bathe and change clothes. Amidst the constant chanting of ‘Jai Mata Di’, worshippers wait patiently for their yatra turn. Every person enters in the cave alone as the passageway to the temple is very narrow. After getting inside the consecrated cave, Darshan of Mata is provided to devotees. The Darshan of Mata is free, but devotees who wish to attend the special Darshan can pay Rs 11,000 for five people and become a part of the Darshan. Apart from this, daily havans are also performed inside the cave and in order to attend this, a family of five people needs to pay Rs 5,100. The returning journey is different, it take pilgrims to Bhairon temple and then back to Katra.
The divine experience one get in the Darshan is so impressive that devotees would even stop thinking about all the haphazard they have gone through during their strenuous journey.
The Hallowed Cave
The total length of the cave is approximately ninety eight feet. One can see signs of numerous deities of Hindu pantheon. The symbol of Vakra Tunda Ganesha, Chandra Dev and Surya Dev are also printed in the sacred cave. After these symbols, one can come across the sign of Lord Hanuman who is also named as Launkra Beer. The roof of the cave looks like it is resting on countless heads of Shesh Nag. Hawan Kund of Mata is immediately below the Shesh Nag. The ceiling of the cave has the signs of five pandavas, the Than of the divine cow, the Sapt Rishi, Brahma, Kamdhenu, Shiv, Parvati and Vishnu.
Sher Ka Panja that is located at a distance of almost fifty nine feet from the main entry of cave. The marks of Gouri and Shankar can be seen six feet further ahead from Sher Ka Panja. The holiest of holy Pindies of “Mata Maha Saraswati”, “Mata Maha Lakshmi” and “Mata Maha Kali” are located thirteen feet ahead of the signs of Shankar and Gouri. Charan Ganga pours out of the bottom of the sacred Pindies and gushes out of the holy Pindies.
The sanctified cave is unique, it is the place where the Goddess stayed in a petrified rock structure and manifested in her three attributes. The holiest Pindies of “Mata Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Devi Ji”, “Mata Maha Kali Ji” and “Mata Maha Saraswati Ji”, all these significant destinations are nestled inside cave at a distance of 91 feet.
A stream of water flows out of the base that is known as “Charanganga”. As a mark of devotion, pilgrims carry this ‘Charanjal’ to their homes.
Chores Of The Temple
The “Aarti” of Mata Vaishno Devi is performed in morning before sunrise and in evening after sunset. During the period of Aarti, the cave remains closed for worshippers. The aarti usually takes two hours in completion. Pandits, Pujaris and security staff is allowed during the period of aarti.
Other Worth Visiting Holy Places At Vaishno Devi
Banganga : Banganga is located at a height of 2800 feet and one km away from Katra. Banganga River is the first stop where worshippers take a holy dip before starting their yatra. Prasad is offered here to every follower of Mata. The myth related to this place is something of mysticism. It is said that Mata Vaishno Devi shot an arrow at this place to quench her thirst.
Charan Paduka Temple : The sanctified shrine is situated at a distance of 5 km from Katra town and placed at a height of 3,380 feet. The temple is devoted to Goddess Vaishno Devi. ‘Charanpaduka’ means the holy footprints of Goddess, as per Hindu myth, it is the place where the Goddess stopped for sometime while she was hounded by Bhairon. It is deemed that a sacred stone with the footmarks of Mata is present at this spot.
Ardh Kuwari : It is a place of spiritual significance, famous for a narrow and 15 feet long cave, called Gabha Joon. The site is located 4.5 kms away from Charan Paduka. In order to reach to the main shrine, Ardh Kuwari is the middle point. It is said that Goddess Durga stayed here for nine months to save herself from Bhairav Nath.
The Bhairav Temple : This shrine is about 2.5 km from Vaishno Devi and located at a height of 6,700 feet. After paying a visit to Mata Vaishno Devi temple, a visit to this temple is customary. The place has its own story, when Goddess Durga killed Bhairav Nath, he was absolved of all his wrong-doings. It is believed that Goddess gave the blessing that the wishes of her worshippers would be fulfilled after visiting this temple.
How To Reach Vaishno Devi Temple ?
By Air : The closest airport to reach Vaishno Devi is positioned in Jammu at a distance of 50 km from Katra. Daily flight services to all the major destinations of India are available from this airport. One can also avail helicopter service from Katra to Sanjhi chat.
By Rail : The nearest railway station is Jammu Tawi Railway Station that is placed in Jammu. It is interconnected with all the major network of Indian railways.
By Road : In order to reach Vaishno Devi temple, visitors can take several mini buses, taxis and cab services that are easily available from Jammu State Road Transport Corporation.
Some Important Facts
- State- Jammu and Kashmir
- District- Udhampur
- Famous for/as- Pilgrim
- Languages- Dogra, Hindi, Urdu
- Best Season- March – October
- Altitude- 5200 feet
- Weather- Summer 5°C to 40°C, winter -14°C to 24°C