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.
PAUDI PAUDI CHADDA JA, JAI MATA DI KARDA JA
Meri Maiya Vaishno Devi
followed and worshiped Lord Vishnu and considered him as HER ideal.
His daily Puja and Prayers for Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi went on for many years. At last seeing his firm-faith and the true devotion, Meri Maiya one day came to Panditji, in the form of a little innocent girl.
Pandit Shridhar had been busy in his daily preparation of Kanya Pujan, where, some little girls were present before him. Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi manifested herself in those little-girls. As per the Hindu tradition, while Pt. Shirdhar had been washing the feet of these little girls, his sight fell on Meri Maiya manifested Herself in the form of a little girl. Panditji was astonished to see HER celestial beauty in vermilion garbs; SHE wore on HER divine body. He had never seen the little girl before, and SHE did not even seem to belong to his village. Anyway, he worshipped as usual. When the Puja was over, all the girls returned to their homes after getting their offerings from Panditji, except Meri Maiya who remained seated.
Panditji was very much confused and was about to enquire and ask Meri Maiya, that Meri Maiya Herself spoke to him and said " I have an important task for you." Panditji was spell bound and was astonished more and more to listen to such a conversation from that little-girl. Meri Maiya asked Panditji to invite people from neighboring villages for a collective lunch - called Bhandhara. Panditji was very much confused and before he could say anything or ask Meri Maiya about HER, Meri Maiya disappeared. [Bhumika Temple - About 2 kilometers from Katra on Panthal Road, is situated Bhumika Temple. This is the place, where Pt. Shirdhar had the sight of Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi - The Divine Girl. At this very place Pt. Shridhar arranged the Bhandhara.
Pt. Shirdhar went on thinking hard - who this little girl was?, but was unable to find an answer to it… SHE might be an "Eternal-Girl", or may be Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi Herself and the more he thought the more he got confused, and worried for the "Bhandhara", as it was not possible for him to keep such a huge Bhandhara. He could not think of anything, and in the end, he decided to obey the Divine Girl and went to tell and invite the people in the neighboring villages.
He went on to invite people from one village to another. On his way, he came across a group of saints. He very humbly bowed before them, and with his folded hands, extended an invitation to them also to attend Bhandhara, the next day. Maha Guru Goraksh NathJi - the leader of the group of saints - told him that he was mistaking in inviting them at home, as even Lord Indra had not been able to satisfy them. Pt. Shridhar got afraid and related them the event and told them of the Divine-Girl. Mahayogi Guru Gorakshnath ji in his anxiety accepted Panditji's invitation. He also wanted to see, such a girl, who could prepare food for so many peoples and was very curious to find Who this Girl was?
Panditji was fully exhausted
when he returned home, and so he went fast asleep immediately on returning
home. The next morning, once again, he started worrying about the arrangements
for Bhandhara. He just sat in his home, thinking, when people began to
gather outside his small hut.
Panditji was not able
to understand what was going on, and to his surprise, all of a sudden Meri
Maiya Vaishnodevi - The Divine Girl, entered into the little hut. No one
could know - which way SHE had come! How and when did SHE arrive? Meri
Maiya told Panditji, "Don't worry, and get up! Everything will be arranged
very soon. Tell your guests to come in and sit in the hut." Pt. Shirdhar,
immediately got up, and came out to the eagerly awaiting crowd. He invited
them to come inside the hut and have food.
All people who were invited began to enter one by one in the hut. All of them were astonished to see, that all of them had entered and sat inside the hut and still a small space was left in the corner of the same hut, which was very small !!
Meri Maiya began to serve food from a small vessel in HER little hands. The foods of their respective choice and likings! Everyone was surprised and Meri Maiya bhakt Pt. Shirdhar was overwhelmed with joy.
Maha Guru Goraksh NathJi and his senior disciple Bhairavnath were very much amazed and began to consult between themselves - and said SHE seems to be an Eternal Power. Who SHE was? and when Meri Maiya reached Bhairavnath to serve him the foods, he asked, "Shall I get the food of my choice?"
"What do you want?" Meri Maiya asked him politely.
Bhairavnath asked for meat and wine. Meri Maiya very gently told him that he was sitting in the hut of a pious Vaishnav Brahmin, and that only vegetarian food will be served.
Bhairavnath was an expert at the science of meditation and was a tantrik. He closed his eyes for a moment and saw with the help of his yogic-powers that Meri Maiya had proceeded towards the Trikuta Hills, in a subtle form of "Air". Bhairavnath started chasing Meri Maiya. Darshni Darwaza - Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi proceeded through this way, after disappearing from the Bhandhara. One can get a clear view of the hills, from this place. Hence it is called Darshni Darwaza, i.e., a gate to the hill-site one and a half kilometer from Katra.]
During this chase, Meri Maiya felt thirsty, and SHE perched an arrow with HER bow on the land and a stream of water flew out. This place is called Ban Ganga. [ Ban Ganga - Starting form Katra and passing through Darshni Darwaza, Ban Ganga is a streamlet gushing out from the hills over a bridge. The stream is regarded very sacred and many bhakts take a purificatory bath in it before proceeding further. A beautiful idol of the goddess is place in the corridors of Ban Ganga temple.]
Meri Maiya stopped for some time and looked behind at Bhairavnath who was chasing her. [ Charan Paduka - The place where Meri Maiya rested have marks of the impressions of HER feet and were printed on a stone as SHE stopped here. The foot prints are still visible on the stone, preserved here in the temple. Hence, the place is called "Charan Paduka" i.e., the holy foot prints.]
At a considerable distance from Charan paduka, Meri Maiya reached a small charming plateau, called Ardhkwari, where a mendicant was practicing his meditations opposite a small tunnel. SHE gave HER divine sight to the mendicant and told him not to tell any thing about HER visit to any one. Thereafter, Meri Maiya went into the tunnel and took rest for full long nine months, as if the child in the womb of a mother. Meri Maiya spent the nine months in complete devotion. Hence, the tunnel was called "Garabh Joon".
Searching for Meri Maiya, Bhairavnath reached here. He asked the mendicant " Have you seen a girl on this plateau?" The old mendicant replied, " SHE is the supreme power in the whole world, whom you think to be an ordinary girl and that she is Adikumari", i.e. A virgin since the very beginning of this earth. He told Bhairavnath either to run away or to beg pardon from HER. The moment universe came into existence since then SHE has maintained virginity better you go back. Bhairavnath again put a deaf ear to the advice and entered into the tunnel. Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi was aware of it. Meri Maiya with HER divine powers made another opening of the cave by strucking a path at the end of the tunnel with the help of HER trident and moved ahead towards the Holy cave at Darbar (Bhavan). [ Garabh Joon - The tunnel is about 15 feet long that starts horizontally and ends vertically. This place is about 5 kms from Charan Paduka.]
On reaching at the Holy cave at Darbar Meri Maiya with all HER powers looked as Meri Maiya MAHA KALI and in the end Meri Maiya with HER Trishul cut the head of Bhairavnath and threw it with such a force that it went at a distant Mountain. The place at which the head fell is now Bhairav temple. According to the katha the big rock at the entrance of the Holy cave is the remaining body of Bhairavnath.
Bhairavnath then started pleading Meri Maiya, and begged to Meri Maiya to forgive him, for his sins.
Merciful Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi forgave Bhairavnath for all his sins and blessed him and granted him a wish that whenever HER bhakts will come to Bhavan for HER Darshan their yatra will not be completed unless on going back after HER Darshan the bhakts pay homage at Bhairavnath temple.
On the other side, Pt. Shirdhar was very much disappointed with the sudden disappearance of Meri Maiya. He was very much worried about Meri Maiya, and went on for fasting for many days, even leaving food and water.
Kind hearted Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi, again appeared before him, in his dream one night. In his dream, Meri Maiya showed him HER shrine - the Holy cave and asked him to follow HER through the route. Panditji followed Meri Maiya and reached Meri Maiya Pavitra Gufa. Pt. Shirdhar was very happy when he woke up in the morning. All his distortion was removed.
From that very day, Panditji began to search for the Holy cave of Meri Maiya, which he had seen in his dream. He was very much disturbed and wanted to find Meri Maiya Holy cave as soon as possible. He started recounting and following the route as Meri Maiya has directed him, and once while climbing up the hills, Panditji was able discover the Holy cave, the same which he saw in his dream.
Panditji entered inside the Holy Cave .…. And to his astonishment, he got the Holy sight of the abode of Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi to the success of his life. He saw, Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi, represented by three goddesses, viz. Meri Maiya Maha Laxmi (the goddess of beauty and wealth), Meri Maiya Mahakali (the vanquisher of evil (right)), Meri Maiya Maha Saraswati (the muse of art and learning (left)). Pandit Shirdhar read hymns and verses in praise of Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi, with his hands folded before HER, and offered "Aarti", and bowed and prayed by all means. Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi was very much pleased with him. SHE granted him a boon of four sons, and said that his descendants will continue to worship HER. Since that day, the descendants of Pt. Shirdhar have been worshipping Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi, inside the Holy cave (Pavitra Gufa).
Thereafter, Pt. Shirdhar made known to this world of the Holy Cave and existence of Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi in the Pavitra Gufa. This is how, we all came to know of our beloved Meri Maiya Vaishnodevi ..... and had been blessed by HER all through these years .....
Bhairon Nath upon death realised the futility of his mission and prayed to the deity to forgive him. The almighty Mata ( Mother Goddess) had mercy on Bhairon and gave him a boon that every devotee of the goddess would have to have the Darshans of Bhairon after having the Darshans of the Goddess and only then would the yatra of a devotee be complete. Meanwhile, Vaishnavi decided to shed off her human form and assuming the face of a rock she immersed her self into meditation forever.
Thus Vaishnavi, in the form of a five and a half feet tall rock with three heads or the Pindies on the top is the ultimate destination of a devotee. These Pindies constitute the Sanctum Sanctorum of the holy cave known as the shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, which is revered by one and all.