The Vaishno Devi temple is among the sacred Hindu Mandir (temples) that is dedicated to the Goddess of Shakti (The Power) and is situated in a cave on the triangular hill named Trikuta of the Shivalik range in the Jammu and Kashmir State of India. In Hindu mythology, Vaishno Devi is a roop (form) of Mother Goddess, also known as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi. The cave enshrines Vaishno Devi, as a manifestation of three roops of Mother Shakti as the holiest Pindis (rocks) namely:
Maha Kaali: Is the form of Tam Guna meaning darkness. In this form, the goddess stimulates the virtue of courage in her devotees to keep fighting against the darkness and never to succumb to the evil or leave the route to the ultimate truth.
Maha Lakshmi: Is the form of Raj Guna meaning prosperity. In this form, the goddess sanctifies her devotees with the riches and prosperity for their smooth living.
Maha Saraswati: Is the form of Satava Guna meaning wisdom and knowledge. In this form, the goddess blesses her devotees with the ability to discriminate between the good and bad and choose the right path.
It is believed that each human being contains these gunas to some extent. The behavior of the person dependent upon the leading guna. However, a balance is to be achieved among these gunas to live a meaningful life, which is not easy. It needs celestial blessings, which are showered by a single source of power, Maa Vaishno Devi.
Accepted as one of the Shakti Peethas, this abode of Goddess Durga (the ultimate Goddess of Shakti) is one of the wish gratifying pilgrimage, wherein millions of devotees from all over the world for the mother’s blessings. A popular fact is that if a person walks the Himalayan trail until the temple, the asked wish is fulfilled.
This religious shrine is the second most visited shrine in India, the first being Tirumala Venkateswara temple. It is located about 60 km northeast of Jammu and at a height of 5300 feet at a distance of around 12 km from the town, Katra.
Story Behind the Temple
Recall the Treta Yuga, where the moral people were attacked by the Asuras (demons) such as Ravana, Kumbh-Karan, and Tadka. The celestial gods at that time pledged to introduce a divine character in the form of a girl for protection of morality and religious spirit. This girl took birth at the home of Ratnakar Sagar in the South India, who was named Trikuta. Later, her name was Vaishno as she took birth from the Lord Vishnu’s lineage.
She took permission from her father and took vow of celibacy, due to which she spent her life in meditation and prayers. The father permitted because before birth, he had pledged of not coming in the way of the child desires. With time, she attained great spiritual powers and in fact obtained a promise from Lord Rama of getting married to ‘Kalki’ avatar (reincarnation) of Ram in Kaliyug if she sticked with her spiritual mission. This is the reason she is also called as the Ardhkuwari or the ‘eternal virgin’.
She began to meditate in self-established ashram in the foothills of the Trikuta. As forecasted by Lord Rama, her fame of her divine power started spreading and people began to visit her in the ashram to seek her benediction. After some time, a Demo God named Gorakh Nath, who knew about the conversation between Lord Rama and Mata Vaishno Devi, wanted to know about this Devi. So, he sent his disciple Bhairon Nath behind her. Maa was not effected by the spanks of this demon and flew to Himalayas for the mission.
In between, she was thirsty when she reached Banganga and shot an arrow to bring water out of the ground. Charan Paduka, where her feet are still symbolized, is the location where she relaxed.
Then, she meditated in the cave at Adh Kanwari. Bhairon took nine months to find her, due to which the cave is called Garbh Joon. On finding her, the Goddess fled to the Holy cave at Darbar (currently, her temple).
Bhairon still did not succumbed and tried to harass her. This made the goddess angry who then, with the flying disc (gift) of Lord Krishna, took the form of Mata Kaali and beheaded Bhairon. This head fell at a distant place and in his last moments, he asked for forgiveness.
It is believed that the pilgrimage is incomplete without visiting the Bhairon ka Mandir (2.6 km from the main sanctum). The goddess then took up an everlasting rest in the cave by metamorphosing into three Pindis (rocks).
Cave Temple – At a Glance
The holy cave is 98 feet long with encompasses a number of Hindu deities. In the origin of the tunnel to the holy cave, Lord Ganesha resides on the left side adjacent to which Lord Surya and Chandra dwells. While passing the natural tunnel, you come across the boulder of the body of Bhairo Nath that is 14 feet long. As you go ahead, this is followed by:
- The image of Lord Hanuman (Veer Langur)
- Shesh Naag (a miracular snake on which the entire world is standing)
- Symbols of Shankh, Chakra (flying disc), and Gada (a heavy weapon to fight)
- Images of Pandavas, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiv, and Parvati
- Yantra (characterized by mystical symbols)
After viewing the Yantra, now comes the Sher Ka Panja (lion symbol), which is the peak of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji. This is followed by the Hood of Shesh Naag, images of Shiv and Gouri, and finally the three Pindis. The holy Pindis are basically considered as a single rock that is 5’-6″ tall.
It is a hard steep 13 km walk from Katra. If you have difficult in walking, there are horse on rent, chairs to carry you up, and rickshaw to take you until the temple. To climb, it takes 4 hours and 3 hours to descend. As a pilgrim, you are required to obtain a Yatra-Slip from the Tourist Reception Center near the Katra bus stand to pass Ban Ganga.
Days of Attraction
The best time to visit this temple is at the time of Navratri (in September or October) and during February. Generally, winter is not preferred due to very chilled climate.
Reaching the Place
By Air: Jammu is the nearest airport that is 67 kms away. A helicopter service is available from the airport at Sanjhi Chat in the morning.
By Rail: Jammu is the nearest railway station 63 kms away from Katra.
By Road: Buses and private taxis are available. Taxis can be hired from the Jammu airport, railway station, and the Tourist Reception Centre.