Mata Vaishnodevi Temple
Mata Vaishnodevi Temple - Shri Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine is one of the oldest shrine of India, located at a height of 5300 feet on the holy Trikuta Hills of the Shivalik Hill Range. The Holy cave is 13 Kms from the Base Camp Katra. The Town Katra is 50 Kms away from Jammu and 35 Kms from District HQ Udhampur and is linked by road. The Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine is one of the most popular Shrines of India.
Recognized as one of the Shakti Peethas, Ma Vaishno Devi Temple is situated in the folds of the Trikuta Hill, in Jammu and Kashmir. This abode of Goddess Durga is supposed to be one of the wish fulfilling places, where lakhs of devotees from India and abroad gather for Ma Vaishno Devi's blessings.
Nestled between the folds of the Trikuta Hills, 56 kms. to the north of Jammu, the Shrine of Vaishno Devi Ji has been an abode of worship for the pilgrims since ages. The holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is unique as it contains the holiest of holy Pindis manifesting Mata in her three forms i.e. Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi, Maha Saraswati. Each form represents a particular attribute.
MAHA KALI represents Tam Guna, Tam Guna means darkness. In her manifestation of Kali, the goddess inspires her devotees to constantly fight the darkness and never to give up the path of righteousness.
The Total length of the holy cave is about ninety eight feet. The symbols of a large number of Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon can be seen in the holy Cave. At the mouth of the original tunnel to the holy cave can be seen the Vakra Tunda Ganesha on the left hand side of the rock face.
The distance from the entry point to the Sher Ka Panja is fifty-nine feet. Thirteen feet beyond this, immediately above the head of the worshipper, is Hood of Shesh Nag which appears as if bearing the weight of the roof of the cave at this point. The length of the cave up to the main hood of Shesh Nag is seventy two feet. Six feet further, on the left hand side, are the images of Shankar and Gouri. Thirteen feet beyond it are located the holy Pindies of "Mata Maha Kali Ji", "Mata Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Devi Ji," and "Mata Maha Saraswati Ji". The length of the Cave up to this point is ninety one feet. To the right of the holy Pindis on the upper side are the depictions of Ganesha, Surya, Chandra and Goddess Annapurna. Slightly behind the holy Pindis, on the right hand side can be seen the symbol of the seated Sinha Raj. A little ahead of it can be seen the full hand of the Goddess raised in the Varad Hast or the boon granting pose. Immediately opposite the Holy Pindis is the natural image of Lord Pashupati Nath. Water gushes out of the base of the holy Pindis and flows out of the holy Cave. It is known as Charan Ganga and this water is collected in small containers by the devotees and taken home. The same water is also channelised to the bathing ghat and the devotees take a bath in this water before they join the queue for Darshan of the holy Pindis.The holy Pindis though depicted in its three manifestations at the upper most part is basically one petrified rock at the bottom which is 5'-6" tall.
This abode of Goddess durga, started gaining importance from the tretayuga, when the three devi's namely, MAHAKALI, MAHALAKSHMI AND MAHASARASWATI were born out of the intelligence of all the deities, symbolizing Raja, Tama and Sattva gunas. These three goddesses collectively were blessed and directed towards the Trikuta hill by Lord Rama, the ninth Avatara of Vishnu. Thus blessed, these three goddesses are collectively called Mata Vaishno or Mata Vaishnavi Devi. As she stays on Trikuta hill, in some legends she has been reffered to by the name 'Trikutaa'. It is due to the blessings of Lord Rama that the abode of Vaishno Devi is gaining importance in this Kaliyuga. According to one legend, Lord Rama has promised Mata Vaishnavi that in te Kaliyuga, He will be incarnated as Kalki and will come to Trikuta mountain to marry her. It is for this divine union that Mata Vaishnavi is waiting for Vishnu on the Trikuta hill.
As in the case of all holy places, there are several legends connected with the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi.
One of them which explains and signifies the emergence of all the holy places on the Trikuta hill, starts with the penance of Young and beautiful Vaishnavi. She was a staunch devotee of Lord vishnu. One Tantric called Bhairo nath, attracted towards this girl and started chasing her on her way to the Trikuta hill. Vaishno devi, realising this fact started climbing the hill speedily. As she became thirsty on her way, she shot an arrow and the lake Banganga was formed. she then started walking again. After a while she stopped at one place and turned to see whether the Tantric is still follwing her or not. the place where she stopped is known as Charan Paduka today. then she went ahead and started meditating inside a cave which is known as Andhkawari. It took Bhairo nath, nearly nine months to locate Vaishno Devi in that cave. Therefore, this cave is also known as Garbha joon. When Vaishno Devi saw Bhairo nath nearing the cave she with one blow opened the other side of the cave and escaped. Reaching another cave, which today is called Mata ka Darbar or the Main cave where the three pindis are located, Mata Vaishno Devi took the avatara of Mahakali and cut off Bhairo nath's head, which flung up the mountain and fell close to the Darbar cave. Today the place is known as Bhairo nath temple. It is said that the big boulder lying at the entrance of Darbar cave is the body of Bhairo nath. As Mata Vaishno Devi is known for her forgiveness, she is also said to have blesssed Bhairo nath and supposed to have granted him a boon that the pilgrimage to her abode on the Trikuta hill will not be complete unless and untill the devotee does not pay homage at the Bhairo nath temple.
There are several other legends connected with the place. A popular one amongst them is the legend of Shridhar's vision. According to the legend, Sridhar was a poor Brahmin who lived in village Hansali near Katra about seven hundred years ago. Sridhar was had no child and therefore, he ardently worshipped the goddess hoping to get a child of his own. As a part of his daily ritual he performed 'Kanya-Pujan' to please the goddess. One day while Sridhar was performing the 'Kanya-Pujan' a girl who looked did not seem from his village appeared and told him to hold a Bhandara (community meal) for all the villagers the next day. The girl assured him that by performing the same all his cherished dreams shall come true. Saying so the mysterious girl disappeared. Sridhar was mystified by the strange appearance of the unknown girl and decided to do as asked for by the girl inspite of the fact that he was a very poor Brahmin. He invited not only every villager for the Bhandara but also Guru Gorakhnath and his disciples whom it was believed that not even Lord Indra had been able to satisfy. When the fateful day dawned, the worried Sridhar was relived to see the strange girl again, who instructed him to ask each and every invitee to get seated in the small little hut of Sridhar. To the utter disbelief of Sridhar as the invitees started to take their place inside the small hut, there always seemed to be some space for few more people. After every one was seated the girl herself began to serve the food of their choice to everyone. Seated among the guests was a disciple of guru Gorakhnath named Bhairon Nath who on his turn asked the holy girl to serve him meat and wine. When the girl refused to provide him these items in the house of a Brahamin, Bhairon Nath tried to grab her hand. The girl immediately with her powers disappeared from the scene and proceeded to the mighty Trikuta Hills. Bhairon Nath in order ascertain the reality of this mysterious girl and to put to test her powers, started following her. The holy girl passed through Banganga, Charan-Paduka, Ardhkwari, and then reached the holiest of the holy cave situated amidst the folds of the Trikuta-hills. When Bhairon Nath continued to follow her despite the the girl (who was the goddess) trying to avoid a confrontation,she was compelled to kill him. Bhairon Nath met his ultimate fate when the goddess, just outside the mouth of the cave, beheaded him. The severed head of the Bhairon Nath fell with a force at a distant hilltop. The Bhairon Nath upon death realised the futility of his mission and asked her to forgive him. The almighty 'Mata' had mercy on Bhairon and gave him a boon that every devotee of the goddess would have to receive his Darshans after receiving darshan of the goddess and only then would the yatra of a devotee be considered complete.
In the meantime, Sridhar was depressed by the whole episode and in a fit of despair renounced food and started fasting. One day he had a dream of the same girl who told him that she was Vaishno Devi and showed him the vision of her cave and also blessed him with the boon of four sons. Sridhar, happy once again, set out in search of the cave, and after finding it he decided to spend the rest of his life at the foot of this cave in worship of the deity. Soon the fame of the holy cave spread, and the devotees began to flock it to pay their homage to the mighty Goddess
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