LEGEND OF MATA VAISHNO DEVI
Every hour, every day, every year a mass of humanity surges up steep pathways that cut across the hillside for mile after mile. Popular belief holds that anybody who walks the Himalayan trail to her abode to ask for a boon rarely goes back disappointed. There are many who journey here year after year to pay obeisance regardless of their faith or belief, creed or class, caste or religion, for Mata Vaishno Devi transcends all such barriers. As the legend goes, more than 700 years ago Vaishno Devi a devotee of Lord Vishnu, used to pray to Lord Rama and had taken vow of celibacy. Bhairon Nath, a tantric (demon-God) tried to behold Her. Making use of his tantric powers, Bhairon Nath was able to see Her going towards the Trikuta mountains and gave chase. The Goddess felt thirsty at Banganga and shot an arrow into the earth from where water gushed out. Charan Paduka, marked by the imprints of Her feet, is the place where she rested. The Goddess then meditated in the cave at Adhkawari. It took Bhairon Nath nine months to locate Her, the reason why the cave is known as Garbh Joon. Mata Vaishno Devi blasted an opening at the other end of the cave with Her Trident when the demon-God located Her.
On arriving at the Holy Cave at Darbar, she assumed the form of Maha Kali and cut off Bhairon Nath's head which was flung up the mountain by the force of the blow and fell at the place where the Bhairon Temple is now located
The boulder at the mouth of the Holy Cave according to the legend is the petrified torso of Bhairon Nath who was granted divine forgiveness by the benevolent Mata in his dying moments.
HOW TO VISIT
Nearest airport - Jammu (48 km from Katra)
Daily Flights are available from Delhi, Srinagar, Mumbai and Other Major Towns. These flights (Indian Airlines, Go Air, Indigo, Jet Airways, Spicejet, Kingfisher) connect Chandigarh & Amritsar on some days of the week.
Nearest Railway Station - Jammu By rail, Jammu is directly connected cities like Mumbai, Delhi Kolkatta and Chennai. Besides, it is connected with other major cities of the country.
Jammu is the terminus of a large number of Inter State Bus Services.
Jammu to Katra
Buses leave for Katra every 10 minutes from the main bus stand at Jammu between 5.30 am to 8.30 pm. During rush periods, additional buses are also pressed into service between Jammu and Katra. Private Taxis are also available for hire between Jammu and Katra. These can be hired from Jammu Airport, Jammu Railway Station and the Tourist Reception Centre at Jammu.
On reaching Bhawan, buy Prasad and other offerings. Show the Yatra Ticket at the office and collect the Token No., and check the group No. and time for your turn. The group number is allotted at the Yatra Slip Counter located on the left hand side immediately after the luggage check post. This group number would then determine the sequence in which the yatries would have the Holy Darshan and the time till they would have to wait before obtaining Darshans.
As has already been mentioned, the Holy Darshans in the Cave of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji are in the form of natural rock formation called Pindies with no idols or statues. Due to the narrowness of the Cave and restriction on the number of people being able to pray inside the Cave at any given point of time, Darshans are regulated through a continuously moving queue. Yatries are grouped into batches of 200 each depending on their time of arrival at the grouping counter at Bhawan and each group is called one by one to enter into the Darshan Queue.
The group which is having Darshans at any given point of time is called the current group and the number of groups in between the current group and the group number allotted to the yatri will determine the time for which the yatries shall have to wait before having Darshans. On ordinary days or days of moderate rush, yatries can have Darshans almost immediately after reaching Bhawan. However, on days of heavy rush, especially during the peak months, one may have to wait for 9-10 hours before one’s group number is called out for Darshans. In any case, irrespective of the rush, one must obtain the group number immediately after reaching Bhawan. Most pilgrims prefer to take a bath before proceeding for Darshans. In the olden days pilgrims used to take a bath at the Bathing Ghat, with the water that flows from the feet of Mata.
Immediately after a pilgrim’s group number is called or displayed, he/she is ushered in through Gate No.1 into the queue complex. The queue complex is a long corridor which opens first into two large waiting halls, one after the other and finally opens at the mouth of the Holy Cave. During ordinary days a pilgrim can enter Gate No.1 and upon crossing the required distance can reach the Sanctum Sanctorum in no time. But on days of heavy rush, one may have to wait inside the railings or the waiting room for some time before the queue ahead gets cleared.
Instead, at a designated point in the main waiting hall, pilgrims have to deposit their coconuts to the temple priests who then take responsibility for the rituals. The pilgrim is handed over a token and the offered coconuts can be reclaimed after Darshans upon producing the token at the Coconut Prashad Counter.
While on the way to the Sanctum Sanctorum, one crosses a small patio type of structure on the right hand side of which is a Cave opening. This is the original Cave leading to the Holy Pindies - Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati. In the olden days, the yatries used to reach the Sanctum Sanctorum through this cave only. Nowadays, this cave is kept closed for a large part of the year. Since this cave is quite narrow, it takes several minutes for a single person to cross it and reach the Sanctum Sanctorum. When you come out, be sure to collect an offered coconut from the other side by depositing the coconut.
Therefore, two new tunnels have been utilised to facilitate a larger number of pilgrims to have Darshans. One tunnel is used for the entrance and leads directly to the Sanctum Sanctorum. The other tunnel is used for exit. The original cave is opened during the lean periods or on traditional festivals or for ritualistic occasions. Obtaining Darshans through this Cave is a different experience altogether and pilgrims desirous of enjoying this Divine Bliss are well advised to plan their trip during the lean periods only.
Outside the exit tunnel and just beyond the Amrit Kund lies the Prashad counter. The blessings of the Mother Goddess in the form of Prashad pouches are handed over to the devotees by the temple priests. Each Prashad pouch comprises the Mishri Prashad plus a blessed coin, carrying the image of the Holy Pindies. In addition, Khazaana (coins) are given to the devotees. This Khazaana Prashad is believed to be a good luck coin(s) and devotees would do well to keep it in their cash boxes, temples or other important places in their homes or establishments. It is not only a belief but a fact that the Khazaana Prashad wherever kept has brought in prosperity and luck. Yatries would recollect that Coconut Prashad had been handed over by them to the temple priests in the Waiting Hall and a token had been received in lieu of it. This token is now exchange for the blessed coconut at the Coconut Prashad counter. This counter is located on the right of the exit route.
It is believed that the Yatra is complete only after visiting the shrine of Bhairon while returning. Bhairon's Shrine is 2.5 km. from Bhavan. Please collect your belongings before going to the shrine, as the path of return is different.
The return path is just 13 km. as the return path from the Bhairon Shrine joins the main path at Sanjhi Chat.
High, High to the north, amidst snow capped mountains and sprawling forests arise from within the holy shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi. Our journey takes you to this awesome wilderness, a place so holy and sacred, a place of mystery and adventure scarcely known to most in modern world. The Yatra begins at Katra and pilgrims cover 13km of terrain on foot to reach the holy Darbar. There is a common faith among the folk that Goddess-Vaishno sends a 'Call' to her devotees : and that once a person receives it, wherever he or she is, marches towards the holy shrine of the great Goddess. Howsoever difficult the passage may be : the difficult ascents, with innumerable stairs, are accomplished on foot by those who had never walked even small distances at their homes. A supernatural power seems to draw them through the mountain and they climb up those great heights step by step, chanting 'Prem se bolo, JAI MATA DI' The Holy Cave Shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi is situated in a beautiful recess of the Holy Trikuta Mountains forming a part of the lower Himalayas as in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. There are images of three deities - The Mahakali, Maa Saraswati and Maha Lakshmi.