Goddess Mata Vaishno Devi resides within the snowpeaked sacred cave of the Mountain Himalaya. From this high peaked, cave She always has a blessed look on Her children and Universe, and thus protects us all. It is not only a tradition in the 'Purana' that Mata Durga is the daughter of Himalayas, but is actually a reality.
To go there you take a train or flight to Jammu from where you take a taxi/bus to the mountain base Katra, about an hour’s drive. From Katra it is app a 12 km trek to reach the cave. The road is well maintained and has excellent facilities enroute.
This Holy Cave is situated within the three peaks of Trikuta mountain. It is at a height of 5200 feet. The pilgrims pay their worship in this cave. There is no statue or icon here. There are three stones known as 'Pinda'. First one is white in colour, represents 'Maha Saraswati', the goddess of learning. Second greenish, represents Maha Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth pleasure and abundance. The third one is black, represents, Mahakali, the goddess of darkness and annihilation. Saraswati, the symbol of knowledge, honesty, truthfulnes, kind-heartedness, termed as Sattwarupa. Lakshmi, the symbol of luxury, wealth, is termed as Rajorupa and Kali, the symbol of darkness is termed as Tamorupa. In this cave Mata resides as combined three Shaktis, as Maha Durga, Ma Serawali and is known as Vaishno Devi.
As combined three forces, Ma Durga has Sattwaki, Rajoshi and Tamashi natures called 'Triguna Shakti.' Tri means three, guna means nature, Shakti means spirit. Ma Durga can foresee past, present, future called 'Trikal Darshi'. (tri-three; Kal-time i.e past, present, future; Darshi - forsee). Creation maintenance and annihilation of the Universe is performed at Her will. In this cave Mata resides as 'Vaishnobi', i.e. a strength of Lord Vishnu, to protect the Universe and save the mankind. From Katra it is about 12 k.m. mountainous road to reach the cave.
On way to the cave through this stiff mountainous journey every and every one chants the holy name 'Jai Mata Di', a great inspiration and strength for the strenuous journey, with stick in hand and an emblem for mother 'Jai Mata Di' binds on forehead. How surprising, this chanting of the Mother gives such great strength, spirit and will force, that a lame person can climb up the mountain.
For a long time, I had a dream to visit Vaishno Devi. I am over 70 years. If divine Mother does not send a call to Her children none can go there. Once a person receives it he is bound to visit the Mother to receive Her unbound love and blessings. It is also a matter of experience by almost all those who visit the Holy Shrine, that upon the call of Mata, a person needs just to take one step and leave the rest to Her. The journey gets completed with Her Divine blessings.
It is not only a saying, but a great truth in reality. 'Maan Aaap Bulandi' means Mother calls Herself. My nephew has gone Vaishno Devi twice. As prefixed by the Almighty, while gossiping with him, I expressed my desire to visit Vaishno Devi. He assured me that he will fulfill my desire. Accordingly we decided that on 9th November, 2007, i.e. on auspicious newmoon night of Kalipuja/ Diwali, we will visit the Mata. With this holy whim we started for Katra by Kalka Mail on 7th November, 2007.
At the very beginning of the journey we felt and realised the blessing, divine favour and grace of Mata, Kalka Mail starts at 7.40 P.M. I started from my Salt Lake residence at 5 P.M. As I entered Harrison Road from Amherst Street, I faced a great jam. Very slowly I reached Central Avenue crossing at 6P.M. I contacted my nephew over phone. He assured me that I would reach on time. The taxi driver advised me to take the Central Avenue - Dalhousie route. I reached the Dalhousie Church at about 7 P.M. By then all of us had lost all hope of reaching Howrah in time. Miracle happened. From Dalhousie via Strand Road, we reached near the big clock of Howrah Station at 7.20 P.M. All were waiting there. We caught the train running 'Jai Mata Di'.
To avail of the Puja Express for Jammu Tawai, we got down at Delhi. The train was late for about 5 hours. We reached Katra at about 1ish. Normally we would be tired after a two day journey. Surprisingly all of us were very fresh and raring to start the Yatra. We decided to visit Mata, as scheduled before, on newmoon night of Kalipuja / Diwali.
The holy cave can be approached through two routes. The first one is for horses, is stiff with steps at intervals. The second is for walking, which has a gradual slope like a ramp. We hired five horses and started the yatra chanting 'Jai Mata Di'. At about 12 mid night we reached the cave. We deposited our belongings in the locker and stood in queue to visit the Divine Shrine. Suddenly a monk came, put some evening prayer prasadam in my hand and ran away. We felt it was Almighty's blessing. After completing the Holy visit, a family member arranged for puja. It was past 3 a.m. now and time to return to Katra.
We went searching for our horses but came to know that the horses had already returned to Katra with other yatris. We had no option but to wait. Suddenly it got very cold. It was impossible to sit. We hired blankets and relaxed on the 2nd floor verandah of the cave. What a terrible cold -! Bones are getting bending. With permission of the locker room employee, I laid down inside the room. No improvement. We sat down all night waiting for sunrise.
At about 7 a.m. the horses returned. The stiff horse riding up the mountain road is painful, but the down slope ride is far more. We realised it as we got down. We also realised, if we had started at 4A.M. it would not have been possible for us to sit on the horse because of the piercing cold. We might have then fallen from the horses. Being very prone to falling I was happy we started at 7am. All Mighty Mother stopped our journey by sending the horses for a trip and thus saved us from injury and death. She not only saved our lives, but made us to stay at Her Lotus Feet in the cave, all the night waking in the auspicious newmoon night of Kalipuja / Diwali. Mata, we feel your blessing and love, always protect all in life, 'Jai Mata Di'.
I am an old Bengali woman. I can count the horses I have seen but no question of riding. In riding both 12 k.m up and down mountain slopes, I had great difficulty and pain. I felt the magnitude of the injury only after I returned to the hotel. My buttocks were injured and bled profusely.
IN 1986, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board was formed under the Jammu and Kashmir Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act 1986. The management of Shrine, regulation of the Yatra from Katra is done by the Board. They have undertaken a number of development activities aimed at making yatra comfortable, safe with excellent facilities enroute. A hospital treats sick pilgrims. They have started Vaishno Devi University also.
Western countries think Hinduism to be the worshiper of idols. Hinduism believes in a Great Divine Strength / Force, which has created the Universe, maintains it and if needed, can annihilate it. Sanatan Dharam is a worshipper of that Great Strength. The emotion, love to pray for and serve the Almighty can best be manifested if we pray on a definite form, may be in the form of idols, stones or pindas. It is very difficult to think and get adhered to vacant or vacuum. It needs positive impression. By calling ma/mom, a child enters the heart of the mother. Similarly Hinduism, depending upon individual taste, opinion, and region worship the form that he loves, relies upon and relishes more. In Sanatan Dharam it is said 'Bhinna Ruchi Hi Naras', i.e. there are people of different opinions and tastes. Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa Dev, the founder of the Ramkrishna Mission said “JATA MAT TATA PATH" but the destiny or aim is the same, i.e. to pray and serve the Almighty!". It means individuals have different opinion and tastes and follow different paths, but the aim of all is the same i.e. to worship the All Mighty Strength. Thus while praying some impression of the object of worship is an absolute necessity, may be idols, stones, pindas or prophets.
It is not the idols, stones or pindas; it is the Maha Shakti / Strength, in that form, which is Hinduism.
The Holy Shrine is at a height of 5200 feet, where there is a Great Empire. It is a matter of great surprise, how this big Shrine establishment was built at such a high mountain peak over coming various difficulties. Thanks to the Board and former Governor Shri Jagmohan the yatra is much easier now days. Building infrastructure for the Yatra was possible because of the Divine Will of the Mata Shakti, Ma Vaishno Devi.
'Jai Mata Di' Mata I pray to your Lotus Feet again and again.
It is a saying that Mata Vaishno Devi, Mata Chint Purni of Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh and Mata Rajeswari of Kangra Valley are three sisters. After visiting Mata Vaishno Devi visiting the sisters is also recommended.
I am a simple practical Doctor, am not a writer who has a flair for language for literature. Writing about the Great Almighty Mata Shakti, has only been possible at Her Divine grace and inspiration. My second inspiration is from my nephew Anjan Bhattacharya.
1. Worship of God as Mother in Indian Tradition.
2. Pictures of Vaishnudevi Yatra