Vaishno Devi Temple is probably one of the most sanctified manifestations of the Hindu Goddess Mahalakshmi in India. Be it before initiating anything new or after the fulfilment of a solemn promise, millions of pilgrims arrive here all over the sphere to worship and seek the blessings of Mata Rani. Before we start this holy trip to the temple of Vaishno Devi, let’s plunge into the saga behind this admired shrine.
History of Vaishno Devi Temple:
Positioned in Katra at the Trikuta Mountains within Jammu and Kashmir, this holy temple is believed to be discovered around 700 years back by a Pandit called Shridhar. The scared manifestation of Goddess Mahalakshmi Vaishno Devi is also referred as Trikuta and Mata Rani. People believe that during the pooja and Aarti, Goddesses arrive at this divine shrine in order to pay their respect to Mata Rani. Whereas from the perspective of Devotees, they can only reach to the temple once Mata Rani calls them of her own.
Based on the geological research and investigation, it is difficult to fetch the exact date when this temple was formed. On the other hand, the Vedic History of this temple elucidates the fact that no female worshippers were there at the time of Rigveda. Hence, the origin of Vaishno Devi Temple is still a mystifying tale.
Moving ahead, the history of Vaishno Devi further examines the connectivity of this temple with the greatest epic Mahabharata. It is also assumed that just before the famous battle of Kurukshetra, Arjun was advised by lord Krishna to practice meditation before Mata Rani to seek her blessing for winning the battle. Consequently, Arjun started following the instruction by chanting ‘Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye’ in the slope of Jamboo Mountain, which further famed as Jammu. According to the researchers, this indicates the existence of Goddess in the temple slop during that period. The structure of huge temples at Kol Kandoli and Bhawan further represents the gratefulness of the Pandavs to Mata Rani for all her blessings on them, which helped them in winning the great battle of the Mahabharata. However, the inexplicable assumptions behind the formation of this holy shrine not merely confined to the Mahabharata. Another section of researchers further claimed that the right arm of Mata Sati fell down at the cave of Kashmir region as a result of which Vaishno Devi Temple was formed.
It is also believed that the actual history behind this temple was a Hindu Pandit Shridhar, who started praying for Vaishno Devi after losing everything in his life, and he further locked himself in a room without taking food and water. In response to Shridhar’s heartfelt prayers, Mata Rani appeared in Shridhar’s dream and instructed him to start searching for her at the holy caves of Trikuta Mountain. Following the instruction of Mata Rani, Shridhar started finding the way to those caves, but he failed severally. Finally, the direction of the cave appeared in his dream and Shridhar reached his destination. Inside the cave, Shridhar discovered a rock formed with three heads (Pindis). Then Mata Rani appeared in front of Shridhar, blessed him and asked him further to spread the magnificence of this sacred shrine all over. And this is how the historic journey of Vaishno Devi Temple was initiated.
Things to do:
Visiting the holy temple of Vaishno Devi is not just picturesque; it also adds more adventure to one’s journey through the magnificent bridges and rousing caves. Therefore, one can expect lot many symbols here representing various forms of deities. Apart from getting a glimpse of mythological signs and figures, devotees can also get involved into Poojan and Arti. Let’s take a look into the things that one can perform as a devotee inside the temple.
Visit of Vaishno Devi Temple can take place only after getting a call from the Mata Rani. This is what every devotees and visitors believe about this holy shrine. Upon entering inside the Bhawan, you will get to observe many sacred symbols depicting the nature of your Darshans (visit) inside the cave. The key attraction of your visit here is the three Pindies. Though, there are many other Darshans as well inside and outside the cave.
Once you enter the 98 feet long cavern, at the left side you will notice the symbol of Vakra Tund Ganesh followed by the symbols of Surya and Chandra Dev. Next, stepping ahead after crossing the 14 feet long Dadh (trunk) of Bhairon Nath, there is a symbol of Launkra Beer, which represents the Lord Hanuman. Further, you will also come across a Sher Ka Panja symbolizing a lion, which is the Goddess mount. Around 13 feet beyond this, you will come to see a symbol of the Primary Hood of Shesh Nag.
Further, moving ahead of the symbols of Shankar and Gauri, you get to see the Holy Pindies of Mata Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Devi, Mata Maha Kali and Mata Maha Saraswati. From this sacred Pindies, vivacious water pours out and flows out of the holy cavern. This water is termed as ‘Charan Ganga’, which is collected by the devotees in small containers while returning home.
#Poojan (the worship):
Be it any temple, without poojan (worship) the entire trip to a holy shrine remains absolute incomplete. Thus, considering the ongoing demand from the devotees, the temple authority has initiated the practice of Poojan at the temple premises. To do so, one needs to book a Poojan day prior visiting the temple. These days, two categories of Poojan are introduced at Vaishno Devi Temple. The first category of Poojan is performed in the names of individuals against whom the Poojan is registered, but the person is physically not present there. This type of Poojan costs you INR 1,100. Next category of the Poojan on the other hand is meant for the devotees who have to be present there. The charge for this category of Poojan is INR 5,100. If you want to perform a special Poojan, there is an option for Shraddha Suman Vishesh Pooja as well.
Note: From one family, booking can be done for a maximum five names for the first category Poojan. The Prashad is further sent to the given address of the devotees by courier.
At Vaishno Devi Temple, the ‘Aarti’ is performed twice a day. Therefore, if you want to witness this prestigious moments, you have to be there either before the sunup or immediate after the dusk.
The entire procedure of ‘Aarti’ is quite prolonged, which takes around two hours time to complete. The process includes bath of Mata Rani (with water, ghee, honey, sugar and milk), dressing up of Devi (in saree, chuni and ornaments). During the ‘Aarti’, the available Pandits chant various shlokas and mantras lighting the divine lamp before Mata Rani. At the time of entire ‘Aarti’, darshans remain suspended for the devotees.
#Prashad and Offerings:
The best part of entire Poojan and Arti is relished when one gets the Prashads served. The traditional Prashads and offerings to Mata Vaishno Devi generally include dry fruits, flowers, ornaments, red Chunri, Saries and Cholas. However, no sweets stuffs are allowed to purchase or carry inside the Holy Cave. Additionally, for security considerations, pilgrims are also restricted from buying or carrying coconuts inside the cave. On the way to the temple, you will find many souvenir shops from where you can purchase mythological CDs, cassettes, pictures of sacred Pindies, bangles, Jute Bags etc.
A huge amount of donation is received from the devotees all over the world. Donations are the mainstay of the income for the regular maintenance of the holy shrine and other amenities. Though, the Shrine Board do not accept any monetary backing from the Central or the State governments. Therefore, all the facilities catered here for the pilgrims are generated only through the central pool of donations.
Apart from the holy cave, there are some other places as well that you can explore during your trip to Vaishno Devi Temple. These places include Bhairavnath Temple, Ardh Kuwari Cave, Dera Baba Banda etc. It is believed that your journey to Vaishno Devi Temple remains incomplete without visiting Bhairavnath Mandir or Bhairav Ghati. The route to cross this 5Kms distance from Vaishno Devi to Bhairav Ghati is quite difficult. However, once you get there, the tranquil environs of the temple premises makes your journey a meaningful one.
Note: For the convenience of the pilgrims, ponies are also available, which helps them in their up and down through the erected stairways.
Best Time to Visit:
The temple of Vaishno Devi is open for the visitors throughout the calendar. However, the best time to visit the holy shrine is during winter as the temperature is quite favourable that time. The peak season is between March and October, and maximum numbers of footfalls are experience during Navratras.
How to reach Vaishno Devi Temple:
Reaching Vaishno Devi Temple is not a matter of concern for the pilgrims. However, the main confront for the visitors starts while trekking the heights (around 10-12 hours in total). In order to reach the holy shrine, one needs to reach Katra, which is located around 50Kms away from Jammu & Kashmir. This is the place from where the base camp for the trip gets started. The small town of Katra is well-connected to Jammu. Therefore, traveller can reach Jammu quite conveniently by train, road and by air.
Let’s take a look into the various modes of commutation to reach Vaishno Devi Temple:
By Air: The nearest airport is Jammu airport, which is well-connected to the major cities of India. From airport premises, one can hire a cab or taxi to reach till Katra. In addition, visitors can also avail the Helicopter journey till Sanjichhat, which is merely 9.5Kms away from Katra. However, in order to avail the Helicopter ride, one has to book online ticket. For details information regarding the ticket booking, you may visit the official website of Maa Vaishnodevi at www.maavaishnodevi.org
By Train: The nearest railway station is Udhampur railway station, which further connects Katra town to the holy temple. From railway station, taxi and cabs are also available to reach Katra.
By Road: The road connectivity between Jammu and other parts of the country is quite convenient. The presence of NH 1A successfully connects Jammu with various parts of Srinagar and the cities of North India. Regular private and state buses are also there that run till Jammu and Katra. In addition, one can also hire taxi and cab to reach Katra from Jammu.
Places to Stay:
Keeping in mind the mounting footfalls of pilgrim throughput the year, the Vaishno Devi Shrine Board caters various cost-effective and well-maintained accommodations for the visitors. These accommodations are available at various nearby locations like Vaishnavi Dham, Niharika Yatri Niwas, Shakti Bhawan, Adkuwari, Sajichatt, Ashirwad Bhawan and Saraswati Dham. Depending on the places, types of rooms and amenities, the room tariffs may range from INR 100 to INR 3000.
In order to make your trip more convenient, the Shrine Board also provides medical centre, catering units, toilet blocks, blanket stores and Bhojanalayas on the go. Furthermore, when there is too much rush, the Shrine Board also facilitates the pilgrims by providing them free accommodations. Most of these accommodations are arranged near the Yatra Parchi counter II in the form of sheds.
If you are yet to get any call from Mata Rani, hope soon your wishes come true, and you start you trip humming the song ‘’Chalo bulawa aaya hai, mata ne bulaya hai’’
- Though, visiting Vaishno Devi Temple truly depends on the inner call that you receive directly from Mata Rani, but try to avoid visiting the temple during May to June and Navratras, as maximum visitors are witnessed that time.
- If you book a Helicopter ride, carry light luggage.
- Photography is not permitted inside the temple.
- Do not get convinced with any fraudulent individuals on the way who may ask you for financial help.
- Keep all your important belongings like mobile, keys, cameras, shoes etc. in the lockers provided there.
- While trekking the heights, take rest at small intervals. This will help you to regain your energy to some extent.
- For elderly individuals, battery operated cars are also available from half way.
- Try to avoid carrying heavy luggage to make the trip convenient and comfortable.
- On the way you will easily get food and drinks.
- Before you start your journey, get mentally and physically prepared for scaling the heights and stay motivated.