Jai Maa Vaishno Devi
Vaishno Devi also known as Mata Rani, Trikuta and Vaishnavi are a manifestation of Goddess Mother also known as Adi Shakti. Vaishno Devi Mandir is situated in Katra at the Trikuta Mountains in Jammu and Kashmir.
Ever since the inception of the shrine board in 1986, the Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi has witnessed an ever-increasing number of devotees. This temple is one of the most popular religious places in India.
The holy cave of Mother is situated at an altitude of 5200 ft. The devotees have to trek nearly 12 km from the Katra. At the end of the pilgrimage, the devotees can have a darshan of the Mother Goddess inside the holy cave. The Darshan is in form of three natural rock formations called the Pindies. There are no statues or idols inside the cave.
Towards the right of the devotee is Goddess Maha Kali. The colour associated with her is black. She represents Tamas Guna. She represents darker and unknown realms of existence.
In the centre is the Holy Pindi of Goddess Maha Lakshmi. She represents Rajas Guna. She is considered to be the basic source of wealth, prosperity and all material aspects of human existence.
The Pindi to the extreme left of the viewer is worshipped as Goddess Saraswati. Her nature is Satva. She represents all wisdom, knowing and knowledge.
Shri Mata Vaishno Devi is considered to be an incarnation of the three supreme energies. Therefore, Vaishno Devi is a unique place in the entire world. The energy forces are balanced as Gunas are properly balanced. This helps in bringing a balance in the energy system as well as Gunas in the devotee. This helps in becoming more successful and balanced in life.
Why should we worship Goddess?
In a story in Devi Bhagwat, Narada Muni was wondering who does Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Maheshwar (Lord Shiva) worship. He asked Lord Shiva about this. He said to Lord Shiva that I do not see any other God bigger than three of you. Then whom do you worship and why?
Lord Shiva said; The one who is beyond subtle and physical nature, the one who is the life force of all, that Adi-shakti, who is Param Brahman, the one who by her own will creates, preserves and destroys the entire creation, the one who is beyond all gunas (inherent nature), for the preservation of dharma (righteousness) and for destroying evil, has incarnated in forms of Parvati, Durga, Kali, Chandi, Vaishno and Saraswati.
Lord Shiva further said that people have doubts about who this goddess is? Whether she is even greater than Para-brahman. Shrimad Devi Bhagwat clarifies this by the answer given by The Goddess herself to Lord Brahma. She said I am the only reality, and that reality is truth. I am the truth. I am neither male nor female, nor do I represent anything which is male or female. Also, there is nothing in which I do not exist. I am present in every physical thing and body in the form of shakti (inherent energy).
In Devi Bhagwat Purana. Lord Vishnu admits that even he is not free. He just obeys the Goddess. If Lord Brahma creates, Lord Vishnu sustains and Lord Shiva destroys, they merely act as instruments. Goddess is the real energy behind all the acts of creation, sustenance and destruction.
Even if we examine this scientifically, we can see this truth. Without, energy and power no one can exist. Entire life and life forms will remain lifeless without energy. Hence, the entire creation is nothing but the manifestation of the Supreme Goddess. In the physical and perishable world, the life force which sustains everything is the Goddess herself.
Hence, when we worship the Goddess, we actually worship the cause of all creation, sustenance and destruction. Goddess alone imparts energy to Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva to carry on the work of creation, sustenance and destruction. Hence, truly speaking, Goddess is the Para-Brahman. The source of all creation, sustenance and destruction.
History of Vaishno Devi
The fulfiller of all wishes of her devotees; Vaishno Devi’s temple is in a beautiful cave in Trikuta mountain in Jammu and Kashmir. In that cave is housed Goddess Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi, and Maha Saraswati in the form of three Pindies. Lakhs of devotees from across the globe throng to Vaishno Devi temple for the fulfilment of their wishes.
As per Chandi Puran, though Vaishno temple is not counted as a Shakti Peeth among 52 shakti peethas, it is counted among 64 Shakti Peeth listed in Devi Bhagwat Purana and 108 Shakti Peeth listed in Chandi Puran. As per legend, one arm of Goddess Sati fell here.
From the beginning the Goddess assumed different forms to destroy sinners and to protect her true devotees. The same Goddess took the forms of Maha-Kali, Maha-Lakshmi and Maha-Saraswati. They represent Tamasik Guna, Rajas Gun and Satwik Guna respectively.
In Treta yuga the earth was suffering from evil forces commanded by Ravana, Kumbhakaran, Khar-Dhusan and Taraka like demons. They used to torture saints and people following the path of Dharma. To protect righteousness, it is said that Goddess Maha-kali, Maha-Lakshmi and Maha- Saraswati combined their radiance to give birth to Divine power. As a result of this, a young girl was created. The girl asked divine mothers why she was brought into existence. The Devis explained to her that they had created her so that she can live on the earth and spend her time upholding righteousness.
She was asked to take birth in the home of Ratnakar Sagar and his wife who resided in the southern part of India, and who were great devotees of shakti. She was further asked to live on the earth and uphold righteousness and evolve herself spiritually so that she reaches higher levels of consciousness. She was assured that: “Once, you have attained the appropriate level of consciousness you will merge into Lord Vishnu and become one with him.”
As per the wishes of divine mothers the girl was born in the home of Ratnakar Sagar. The girl was named Trikuta. As the girl was born as an “ansh” (part) of Lord Vishnu she got famous by the name Vaishnavi. The religion she propagated was called Vaishnav Dharma.
In a short span of time Goddess Trikuta attracted Rishis, Munis and Demi-Gods towards her. She started getting famous. People started thronging to have a glimpse of her. After a few years, she sought her father’s permission to start penance to please Lord Vishnu. She performed hard penance. One day Lord Rama who was the incarnation of Lord Vishnu visited her while she was doing penance. Lord Rama at that time was searching for Goddess Sita who had been abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. Rama asked Trikuta for the reason of her penance. She said that she is doing so to attain Rama as her husband.
Rama said that in this life I have decided to marry only one woman and I am already married. But your penance will be answered. He said that he will come in a disguise. If she is able to recognize him, he will marry her.
It is believed that while returning from Lanka after defeating Ravana. Lord Rama disguised himself as an old sage and visited her. He asked her to marry him. As she was not able to recognize him, she refused. Thereafter, Lord Rama assured Trikuta that he will marry her in his Kalki Avatar. He asked her to move to the Trikuta mountain. Where she will find a cave, which is the abode of ‘Three Goddesses’ (Maha Shaktis). She was told to engage herself in Penance in that cave and be happy. Ram said: You will become immortal by doing this. You will be protected by Langurs. Your name and greatness will spread in the entire world. You will get famous by the name Vaishno Devi.
It is believed that the daughter of Ratnakar Sagar named Vaishnavi (Trikuta) is still residing in that beautiful cave since Treta yuga. This can be confirmed by many ancient stories. Time changed but the grace of Goddess and her sporting Leela continues till date. The most talked-about story about Vaishno Devi is described in the next chapter.
Story of Vaishno Devi
About, two kilometres from Katra, there is a village named Hansali. It is said that around 700 years ago there was a great devotee of Goddess named Shridhar. He was a resident of this village. He used to offer prayers to Goddess regularly along with the worship of ‘Kumari Kanya’ (young virgin girls). His childlessness was the cause of his sufferings. To encourage his faith, Goddess Vaishnavi visited Shridhar disguising himself as a kumari Kanya. Shridhar was preparing for the worship of little girls. Many kumari kanya were present there. Among them, Goddess placed herself. As per rules of worship, Shridhar washed the feet of all kumari Kanya and served all the girls ‘prasad’ (food offerings). Suddenly, Shridhar saw the divine girl. The very sight of her put him in doubts. That girl did not belong to the village. He was not aware of her whereabouts. After worship was over all the other girls of the village went after receiving their offerings (Dakshina). Only that divine girl remained there. Then the divine girl came to Shridhar and told him “I have come to you for one work”.
The girl asked Shridhar to invite everyone in the village and surroundings for Bhandara (mass feeding) at his place. Hearing this, Shridhar was amazed. He did not expect this from a small girl. Saying this the girl disappeared. Some stories also suggest that Goddess Vaishnavi gave a dream to Shridhar as Kumari Kanya and asked him to arrange for a Bhandara.
Shridhar was lost in thoughts. Who was this girl? He realized that she must be some divine energy. But he was bothered about arranging Bhandara at a short notice. Yet, considering the appearance and disappearance of the Kumari Kanya as divine grace. He went out to invite everyone he met for mass Bhandara.
On his way, he met a group of sages. Shridhar bowed to them and requested them to come for Bhandara. Gorakhnath asked his name and expressed doubts about how he can feed him along with all of his devotees. Shridhar narrated to him the appearance of the Kumari Kanya and that he is arranging for Bhandara as per her directions. Gorakhnath wanted to probe further who the girl can be who can feed so many people. In order to test, he told Shridhar that they will come for Bhandara. They will join Bhandara, tomorrow at right time, he assured Shridhar.
That day Shridhar roamed around the village to village inviting people. He returned at night and being tired went to sleep. In the morning when he woke up, he realized that it is not in his means to make such a big arrangement for Bhandara. How to prepare for such a big occasion. He sat down for puja outside his hut. Every villager including Gorakhnath and Bhairav along with their devotees came for Bhandara. Seeing Shridhar deeply involved in puja, all the guests found their way inside the hut and sat down for their meal. When Shridhar came out of meditation he saw a huge number of guests already assembled. He was wondering how to feed all of them. He suddenly saw Vaishnavi coming out of his hut. With the grace of Goddess Vaishnavi, all guests were offered food of their choice and the Bhandara turned out to be very successful.
Problems were created by Bhairav, a disciple of Guru Gorakhnath. Bhairav wanted to test the kumari Kanya about who she was. He made a strange request. He asked the girl to serve him wine and meat. The girl almost authoritatively told him that this is a Vaishnav Bhandara. Only, that food will be served which are allowed in Vaishnav Bhandara.
Bhairav wanted to get hold of Vaishnavi in the form of kumari Kanya. Knowing this she disappeared from that place. Bhairav was stupefied by the beauty of Vaishnavi and lustfully stalked her. Bhairav was a yogi. By using his yoga vidya he saw Vaishnavi was moving towards Trikoot Parvat. Yogi Bhairav started chasing her. She crossed Darshini Darwaja, Baan Ganga, Charan Paduka and other places and reached Garbh-Joon cave. In order to escape, Vaishnavi entered into this cave and continued her meditation there. In that cave, Goddess stayed for nine months in meditation.
Bhairav kept on searching for Vaishnavi till he reached the entrance of the cave where Goddess was resting. The langur who was her protector stopped Bhairav from entering the cave. Bhairav started fighting with brave langur. This made the goddess extremely angry. She assumed the form of Goddess Chandi and slew Bhairav. His body fell near the cave and his head flew to the place where Bhairav ghati is located. At the same place later a Bhairav temple was built.
Bhairav realized that he was confronting Aadi-shakti the source of all power after his head was severed. He pleaded to Goddess that he is not unhappy with his death. Rather, he is happy as his death occurred at the hands of the Goddess herself. He asked for forgiveness. He said that his misdeeds were because he was not aware of her divine personality. He said that if Goddess didn’t forgive him, in times to come everyone will see him as a sinner and hate him forever.
To this, the Goddess blessed him; that after my puja people will worship you. Further, you will be entitled to liberation. My devotees after having my darshan will have darshan of you. The people visiting your place will also be blessed and their wishes will also get satisfied. Because of this reason people who visit Vaishno Devi after having darshan of Goddess go ahead to Bhairav temple as well.
Vaishnavi decided to shed off her human form and assuming the face of a rock she immersed herself into meditation forever. Thus Vaishnavi, in the form of a five and a half feet tall rock with three heads or Pindies on the top is the ultimate destination of any devotee.
At the same time, Shridhar was very upset because of the sudden disappearance of the little girl. He stopped eating food and was constantly anxious about the little girl. Goddess knowing his plight, gave her darshan in his dreams. Shridhar was shown the entire place where Goddess resided.
From that day onwards, Shridhar started searching for that place. One day, as per his dreams he was able to locate the cave. He entered the cave and had a darshan of the abode of Goddess. Seeing this all his sufferings got over. Shridhar sat down in prayers and worshipped the divine mother. Goddess mother blessed him that he will have four sons. She also blessed him that all his descendants will continue worshipping her. She blessed him with everlasting peace and happiness. Till now, the descendants of Shridhar are still worshipping the Goddess.
Getting out of the cave Shridhar spread the name and fame of this cave. Devotees started visiting the Vaishno temple. This place became famous as Vaishno Devi Shrine.
Important Pilgrimage places in Vaishno Devi
Shri Raghunath Mandir:
This temple is situated in Jammu. It was made by King Ranbir Singh in the year 1860. It is a temple of Lord Rama based on Rama Yantra. The temple houses almost all deities of Hindu Mythology. In total, around 15 temples are found. This temple is close to the Jammu Bus stop. Devotees prefer to visit this temple either before going to Vaishno Devi or after returning from Vaishno Devi. Within the precincts of this temple are 6 big halls. It contains uncountable numbers of Shaligram brought from Narmada.
“Kol Kandoli” (Nagrota):
This place is situated around 9 kilometres from Jammu. This place is famous for the temple of a goddess named Kol Kandoli. This is the first place to visit during Vaishno Devi Yatra. It is said that Goddess used to play with local girls at this place. Once while playing with village girls. When the girls felt thirsty, she produced water from Kol (bowl) by shaking it on the ground.
According to mythology, Mata Vaishno appeared here at the age of 5 years in the form of a little girl and did penance here for 12 years. After the penance, she settled here in the form of Pindi. In this temple, the Goddess herself appears before the devotees in the form of natural Pindi and fulfils the wishes of Her devotees.
Deva Mayi temple:
After living in Kol Kandoli for some time, Vaishno Devi resided in Deva Mayi temple, before she finally moved to her abode in Trikuta Mountain. Devotees of Goddess generally say; First darshan should be of Kol Kandoli, second Deva Mayi then Vaishno Devi temple.
There is a statue of Goddess in this temple along with her Trishul. It is believed that this temple is named after a devotee of Goddess named Mayi Deva who did immense worship and bhakti of Goddess.
Raghunath Temple Katra:
Around 500 meters from Katra Bus stand there is a beautiful temple of Shri Rama. It was constructed by swami Nityanand. It also has a big statue of Lord Hanuman in it. There is the temple of Lord Ashutosh and also the samadhi of Nityanand in the precincts of this temple.
This temple is situated on Udhampur Road, Katra. Just around 2 km from the main bus stand. This temple is of great historical and spiritual relevance. This is the place where Goddess Vaishno Devi gave her first darshan to Shridhar around 700 years ago. It was this place where Shridhar used to do ‘Kanya poojan’ with utmost devotion and sincerity. Goddess served everyone food from her magical vessel. But, when Bhairav misbehaved with her she vanished from this place.
The divine girl child after vanishing from Bhumika temple arrived here before moving to Trikuta Mountain. Just to mark this Darwaja (gate) has been constructed here. From Katra, it is around 1.5 km.
The Goddess in the form of a little girl crossed this place along with valiant Langur. On the way Langur was thirsty. Goddess shot an arrow on rocks. River Ganga (Holy water) started coming out of there. Goddess washed her hair at this place before moving ahead.
This place is around 1 km from Katra. People have to cross a small bridge to cross this small river. Nearby there is a beautiful temple. Many devotees offer prayers at this place and even bathe in the holy water here. From here starts the tough climb to Trikoot Parbat. Banganga is at an altitude of 2800 feet.
Charan Paduka Temple:
At this place, Goddess stopped to see whether Bhairavnath was following her or not. Because, of the goddess standing here, the footprint of the goddess got formed. Because of this, it is called the Charan Paduka temple. It is around 1.5 km from Baan Ganga temple. Charan Paduka is at an altitude of 3380 feet.
At this place; the divine girlchild gave her darshan to a sage and then entered this cave. The divine girlchild stayed in this cave for nine months. She stayed in the cave with utmost comfort as if a child is resting in her mother’s womb for 9 months. The sage informed Bhairavnath that this girl is not an ordinary child. She is Mahashakti or Adishakti. Then Bhairav wanted to get in the cave. Goddess by hitting her Trishool on the other side of the cave paved a way out and left this place. This cave is also known as Garbh-Joon and the place is called Adhkuwari. This place is around 3.5 km from Charan Paduka Temple. Adhkuwari is at an altitude of 4800 feet.
From this point, steep cliffs start. Climbing becomes difficult from here. Using staircases may be a horrendous exercise. This place is 2.5 Km from Charan Paduka. People prefer level roads even though the road may take a longer time. The physical exhaustion is less using road. Himkoti is at an altitude of 5120 feet.
After climbing the stiff cliff of Himkoti the next junction is Sanjhichhat. This is 1 km from Himkoti. From this place onwards the road to Darbar is either level or sloping. The walk here is easy and joyous. Sanjichhat is at an altitude of 6200 feet. Devotees using Helicopter service land on Sanjichhat.
Goddess’s Main temple and Cave:
Goddess’s main temple is around 3.5 Km from Sanjichhat. At the very entrance of the cave Temple has been constructed also known as Bhawan. People queue up for darshan before this temple.
New Cave: For the easiness of devotees a new cave was inaugurated by Dr Karan Singh. It became easy to have darshan after making this new cave. Earlier, the devotee had to return from the same entrance after having darshan which caused lots of inconveniences. Now, the devotees after the darshan can come out from the new cave entrance. The altitude of Bhawan is 5200 feet.
The distance from Bhawan to Bhairov Ghati is 1.5 km. Goddess punished Bhairov and severed his head. His head fell in Bhairov Ghati. Bhairov while dying asked for the forgiveness of Goddess Vaishno. To which, the goddess not only forgave Bhairov but also blessed him. Goddess said that the devotees who will come to visit her will also come to visit him. The place where the head of Bhairov fell a temple of Bhairov was raised. Goddess also granted him liberation. She also promised that whosoever visits his temple will equally be blessed and their wishes will get fulfilled. The altitude of Bhairav Ghati is 6619 feet.
Important Consideration Before Starting the Trip
Yatra to Mata Vaishno Devi is open throughout the year. During the summer months of May, June and July and the festive months of Chaitra Navratras and Sharad-Ashwin Navratras and during the New Year vacations. Devotees can witness peak rush. During this period a devotee may have to wait for 12-20 hours before having Darshan.
Therefore, for comfortable, quick and satisfying Darshan it is better to avoid peak rush periods as aforesaid.
Monsoons and winters are good periods to plan a yatra. In Monsoon nature is at its scenic best. The surroundings look greener and more beautiful. The winter months of December and January are colder. At times the period may witness snowfall. However, except for very young and physically weak people, this is the best period of having a quick darshan.
Generally, one can expect cold weather, especially at higher altitudes. It is better to carry heavy woollen clothing in winter. Even in the summer season, nights near the Bhawan is on the colder side. It is better to carry light woollen clothing.
Blankets are generally available free of cost. There is no need to carry them. If one wants to walk to Bhawan it is better to wear canvas shoes. Fancy shoes or footwear may make it difficult to walk. A walking stick is very helpful in negotiating steep climbs.
If planning journey in the rainy season. It is better to carry a raincoat or umbrella. Even if one forgets to carry any such thing, there is no need to panic. It is easily available on route to the shrine in any shop. The rates as usual are negotiable.
Nowadays, facilities to reach the shrine have improved. There are helicopter services. The helicopter starts from Katra on the foothills and lands at Sanjhichatt.
Recently, ropeway service has also started between Vaishno Devi Bhavan to Bhairav Valley. This has reduced travel time from 3 hours to 5 minutes. Earlier many people used to skip going to Bhairav temple because of the steeper and difficult terrain after Bhawan. Nowadays, it has become easier.
To reach Katra it is necessary to reach Jammu first either through flight service or train service. However, few special trains have started from New Delhi which directly goes to Katra.
Otherwise, it may be necessary to break the journey at Jammu. From Jammu, an alternative mode of transport has to be taken. There are options for buses as well as rented vehicles.
“Jai Mata Di”
I am a Vedic astrologer by profession. I have done Jyotish Acharya from Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan. I am devoted to my Sadguru Shri Sai Nath of Shirdi. I am also interested in spirituality. I love to guide people.