Vaishno Devi – One of the Oldest Hindu Shrine in India
Vaishno Devi Temple is situated in Katra, Jammu. Katra is located at a distance of 50 km away from Jammu. The Vaishno Devi mandir is one of the oldest mandir in India. The holy shrine is situated at a height of 5300 ft above sea level. The Shrine is situated on Trikut Mountain in the shivalik range. The distance from the base to the mandir is about 13 Km and pilgrims cover it by walking. The base is known as Katra. Mata Vaishno devi temple was once tucked away deep in mountains and used to be difficult to reach. But the modernization of the place has made it easy to reach and is now the most popular religious centre in India. The main cave of the vaishno devi mandir is about 100 ft long. There are 3 Stone structures known as “Pindian”. The three pindies represent Maha Sarswati, Maha Lakshmi, Maha Kali, which represent creative, preservative, and destructive aspects of the Super Power. Vaishno mata is actually incarnation of these three goddesses.
Soon a man named Bhairon Nath saw the Girl. He was pleased with her extraordinary beauty and grace. He wanted to marry the young Girl. Vaishnvai came to know about BHairon’s intentions and ran away deep into the Jungle. After a long period Vaishnavi beheaded Bhairon at the entrance of the Holy cave where the pindis lie. After the death Bhairon realized his mistake and asked Vaishnavi for forgiveness. The Kind Vaishnavi forgive him and blessed that every pilgrim who visits Vaishno devi has to visit Bhairon Nath Temple as well without which their pilgrimage is incomplete.
The Yatra begins at Katra and pilgrims have to cover 13 km. of terrain on foot to reach the Darbar. One kilometer away from Katra, is a place known as Banganga, where Mata quenched her thirst and at 6 km., the holy cave at Adhkawari. After 6 km. of trekking, the yatries reach Adhkawari, the holy cave where Mata meditated for nine months.
Vaishno Devi Yatra begins from Katra, the base camp. Vehicles are not allowed to enter so they are parked at the base camp. The devotees have to cover a distance of about 13 Km on foot to reach the Darbar (the main Vaishno Devi Temple).
1. Bhumika Temple:
It is just 1 km away from Katra. It is believed that at Darshani Darwaza Mata Vaishno Devi disappeared. It is called Darshani Darwaza because all three peaks of Trikut Parvat are visible from this place. These three peaks of Trikut Parvat are believed to be the abodes of the Goddess Vaishno Devi.
2. Ban Ganga Temple:
This is about 3km away from Katra. This is the place where Mata and Veer Langur quenched their thirst. It is said that while going upwards Veer langur felt thirsty and Mata vaishno Devi shot an arrow into the stone and a holy river was produced, now known as Ban Ganga. Mata then took a bath here and proceeded. Most devotees also take bath at this point.
At a distance of about 6 km, from Katra, is the place called ArdhKumari. Here is a temple and a cave known as “Garbhjune”. The legends say that when Mata Vaishno was running away from Bhairon Nath, she hide herself here for nine months in the cave called ‘Garbhjune’ and meditated. Now days it’s a place to halt and get some rest. There are various small restaurants, rest rooms and dharamshalas available, devotees can stay here to rest.
4. Bhairon Temple:
After visiting the Vaisho Devi Temple devotees have to visit Bhairon Nath Temple without which their yatra is incomplete. Bhairon Nath temple is situated 2,5 km from Vaishno Devi temple. Outside the main cave there is a huge stone structure which is belived to be Bhairon’s beheaded body. When Mata Vaishno Devi Killed Bhairon Nath, his head flew up to this place i.e. 2.5 Km away from the cave.
You can visit the shrine at any time of year, but in winters it is quite difficult. The extremely cold climate and heavy snowfall makes it a bit difficult. You can reach Jammu by Rail, Road or Air. The Jammu Airport and Jammu Tavi railway station are well connected with the major cities of the country. From the airport or the railway station a taxi can be hired. Katra is 48 Km away from both the places.
The nearest airport is in Jammu, which is 48-km from Katra. There is a helicopter service that departs from the airport at Sanjhi Chhat in Jammu in the morning.
The nearest railway station is in Jammu (Jammu Tavi), which is well connected to all the major cities in India.
There are regular buses leaving for the 52-km trip from the central bus stand in Jammu to where the road ends at Katra (2 hr).
Before beginning the Yatra you need to register yourself and get a slip from Yatra Registration Counter in Tourism center at the Katra bus stand. The slip is mandatory for carrying on with the trip. On reaching the Bhavan, you will get a batch number on showing your yatra slip at the registration office. Keep the number with you as the number tells you your position in the queue for Darshan. Deposit all your offerings at the entrance of the cave and do not forget to collect the prasad on your exit.
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. 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’.