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Vaishno Devi Temple, Katra, Jammu & Kashmi - Famous Hindu Temples
127    Dibyendu Banerjee    20/03/2024

Apart from the amazing Amarnath cave, a famous Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir and dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Vaishno Devi Temple, located on the slopes of Trikuta Hills in Katra, about 61 km from Jammu City, is also an important Hindu pilgrimage destination in India.

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As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to Vaishno Devi, one of the major forms of the supreme goddess or Aadishakti, an incarnation of Shakti, the primordial cosmic energy, representing the eternal potent force that is thought to move through the entire universe. The Vaishno Devi Temple is revered by the Hindus as one of the 51 Shakti Peeths, where the manifestation of Shakti or the Primordial Mother and Bhairava or Lord Shiva is worshipped with great respect. It is believed that, Vaishno Devi, popularly known as Mata Rani, Vaishnavi and Trikuta, is a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Durga.

vaishno devi temple katra jammu kashmi

Legend says, Goddess Vaishnavi appeared in the dream of a priest named Pandit Sridhar and instructed him how to find her abode in a cave on Trikuta Hills. Following her instruction, the priest started his journey to find the cave and ultimately found it.

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The goddess, located in a cave, known as Mata Vaishno, is in the form of a five and a half feet tall rock which has three heads or the Pindies, the manifestation of the three forms of the goddess namely Maha Kali, Maha Saraswati and Maha Lakshmi, whose feet are washed by the water brought from the perennial flowing river Banganga. However, it is also maintained by many that, according to Hindu mythology the original abode of Vaishno Devi was Ardh Kunwari, a place about halfway between Katra town and the cave.

vaishno devi temple katra jammu kashmi

According to legend, while the goddess was staying in the Trikuta Hills, Bhairon Nath, a famous Hindu Tantric, intended to test whether she had attained the highest level of spirituality. But when he met the young Vaishno Devi, he lost the sense of his basic purpose, helplessly fell in love with her and started to annoy her with his prayer for her hands.

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To escape his amorous advances, Vaishno Devi fled into Trikuta hills, but when Bhairon Nath also chased her there, she turned into her original form of Durga and killed him with her sword in a cave. But before his death, Bhairon Nath realised his mistake and asked for forgiveness, when the goddess granted him a boon, assuring him that, Vaishno Devi Yatra will be not be completed without the Darshan of Bhairon.

vaishno devi temple katra jammu kashmi
Mata Vaishno Devi

The exact date or the year of the beginning of the worship of the Goddess in the cave is unknown, but it has reference in the Mahabharata, where Lord Krishna advised Arjuna to go up in the hills of Jambhu and seek the blessings of Vaishno Devi before taking up arms in the battlefield of Kurukhestra. While Jambhu can be identified with present-day Jammu, the Pandavas are believed to be the first worshippers of the Goddess in the Holy Cave and on a mountain, just adjacent to the Trikuta Mountain and overlooking the Holy Cave are five stone structures, which are believed to be the rock symbols of the five Pandava brothers.

vaishno devi temple katra jammu kashmi
The paved and wire mesh fencing along the yatra track

Today, there are two tracks from Katra to Adhkuwari which is midway of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, the old route via Charanpaduka and the new route via Tarakote Marg. Although the old 13 km tedious trek from Katra town to Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrimage site is tough and tiring, it offers the stunning views of the valleys and foggy mountains, along with several viewpoints, equipped with places to sit, rest, toilets and eat to make the journey is as comfortable as possible. On the contrary, the new route is less crowded and devoid of horses, which is a big hindrance for the pedestrians in the old route. But the completely paved, fenced and partly shaded route is perhaps a hindrance to enjoy the beauty of nature, apart from missing the Gita Mandir.

vaishno devi temple katra jammu kashmi
An illuminated view of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine

While most of the devotees prefer to make the journey on foot, ponies and sedan chairs are available for those who want to avail of the opportunity. .A helicopter service is also available from Katra to Sanjhichatt, from where the shrine is just 2.5 km away. However, it has limitations like being prone to cancellation due to climatic changes, low availability, price hike and unwanted delay. Apart from that, a ropeway is also available between Mata Vaishno Devi Cave and Bhairon Ghati.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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