One of the most popular pilgrim centres in the world, the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is set in the foothills of the Trikuta Mountains in Jammu and Kashmir. Here, the Bhawan houses the sanctum sanctorum or the holy cave where the goddess manifested herself in the form of natural rock formations, known as the three Holy Pindies. Visited by millions of pilgrims every year, the Mother Goddess is believed to fulfil whatever her devotees wish for.
The Spiritual Yatra
To reach the shrine, one has to obtain a Yatra Parchi from one of the registration counters and embark on a trek of about 13km from Katra. Most devotees walk both ways, some prefer to ride a pony, while palanquins are also available for the sick and elderly. A helicopter service operates from Katra to Sanjhichatt, from where the shrine is just 2.5 kilometers.
Trekking uphill to the holy cave, amidst reverberating chants of ‘Jai Mata Di’ and beautiful views of the entire valley, the yatra to Mata Vaishno Devi’s temple is a spiritual journey like no other. Upon reaching the main shrine after the long arduous trek, the spirit of devotion and vibrant positivity around is truly mesmerizing, easing out all the fatigue and exhaustion of the journey.
Here is devotion and vibrant positivity around is truly mesmerizing, easing out all the fatigue and exhaustion of the journey.
Things to Do
- Visit the Ardh Kuwari Cave, located midway on the old route to the Bhawan. This narrow cave is popular not only for its religious significance, but also as a pitstop for devotees undertaking the yatra. One has to crawl on the knees to get to the other side where the main shrine dedicated to the goddesses is located. According to belief, Mata Vaishno devi took refuge here while she was hiding from Bhairav Nath for 9 months.
- Upon reaching the Bhawan, a bath in the holy water of the bathing ghat is considered the ideal cleansing before the holy darshan.
- Experience the famed aarti held at the Bhawan before sunrise and after sunset. This sacred aarti is performed by pujaris before the holy deity and then brought outside for the devotees. Darshan remains halted during this time. The temple also offers facilities for individual hawan/poojan for devotees, for which slots have to be booked in advance.
- Apart from the darshan of the three Pindies in the holy cave, there are a number of other holy darshans in the original cave, such as the symbols of Lord Ganesh, Lord Hanuman, Bhairon Nath, the five Pandavs etc. These darshans are only possible during lean season when the original cave is used. Also explore temples dedicated to Mata Durga, Lord Shiv and Lord Ram within the Bhawan complex.