Vaishno Devi Temple is 47 kilometres from Jammu and is tucked away in the Trikuta Mountains. Each year, millions of worshippers travel there to pay their respects. For Hindus in northern India, it is regarded as one of the holiest pilgrimage sites. Goddess Shakti is worshipped in the temple in the forms of Maha Kali, Maha Saraswati, and Maha Lakshmi, which is perched at a height of 5,200 feet.
The shrine is a cave temple that has three sacred “pindis,” which are stone sculptures of three different energy forms that are revered as the aforementioned goddesses. Interestingly, while having the same parent rock, every pindi has a different colour and texture. Goddess Saraswati is said to be symbolised by the pale white rock at the very left, Goddess Lakshmi is represented by the yellow-red rock in the centre, and Goddess Kali is symbolised by the black rock on the left. The Pandavas from the Mahabharata epic are credited with constructing the sacred cave sanctuary.
When the Pandavas and Kauravas were preparing for the battle at Kurukshetra, the Mahabharata contains the first mention of the deity. According to legend, Arjun sought the Mother Goddess’ blessings for the triumph by meditating on her on Lord Krishna’s counsel. According to a different tradition, Vaishno Devi, a follower of Lord Vishnu, took a vow of celibacy more than 700 years ago.
One day, Bhairon Nath, another god, spotted her and pursued her. During the pursuit, the goddess became thirsty and fired an arrow into the ground, where it struck a spring that burst out. She paused there and left her footprints at a location known as Charan Paduka. She later practised meditation at the Ardhkanwari cave. Nine months later, Bhairon Nath came across her, and the goddess blasted a hole in the cave’s opposite end. Later, she assumed the appearance of Maha Kali and executed Bhairon Nath.
At the spot where the severed head fell, there is a temple dedicated to Bhairon Nath. The petrified torso of Bhairon, who was pardoned by the Goddess in his final moments, is thought by many to represent the boulder at the entrance to the cave. Another legend claims that Vaishno Devi was formerly known as Trikuta and that, at the age of nine, she was conducting penance by worshipping to Lord Rama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, on a beach.
While searching for Goddess Sita, who had been kidnapped by the demon Ravana, Lord Rama passed the shore at that time. He gave her a blessing after observing the girl spending a lot of time in prayer and Trikuta informed him that she had accepted him as her husband. But Lord Rama was unable to marry someone else because he was committed to Goddess Sita. He was moved by the girl’s devotion and gave her the name Vaishnavi, promising to wed her in a Kalki avatar during the Kaliyuga. He also handed her a bow and arrow, a lion, and a small army of monkeys for protection, and instructed her to meditate in a cave in the Trikuta range.
The Mythological Reference:
Arjun first referenced “Goddess” in the Mahabharata while fighting on the battleground of Kurukshetra. Invoking Her blessings, he allegedly addressed Her as “you who constantly stays in the temple on the slope of the mountains in Jamboo,” or “Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye.” The Bhawan and Kol Kandoli temples are thought to have been built by the Pandavas as a way of expressing their thanks to the deity. According to legend, the five “stone constructions” in these locations stand in for the “five Pandavs.”
The Historical Reference:
As far as historical references go, Guru Gobind Singh’s account of his journey to this Holy Cave through Purmandal has the earliest mention. This pilgrimage site, which is well-known to all pilgrims, was on the historic “foot trail” that led to Vaishno Devi.
Some traditions regard this specific shrine as the holiest of all the others because they hold that Mata Sati’s skull is said to have fallen here. Others still hold the opinion that her “right arm” fell at this location. The precise location of where the “right arm” fell is said to have been in Gandarbal, a city in Kashmir. A relic of a “stone hand,” known as the “Varad Hast,” may be found inside the Holy Cave (meaning the hand granting blessing and boons).
The Story Behind the Origin:
The story goes such that the ‘Devisor ‘Mother Goddesses’ used all their powers together to create a girl, young and beautiful. The purpose of making her was to spend her life on earth in righteousness. This girl was to take birth in the southern part of India, to a couple (Ratnakar and his better half) who were highly devoted to these ‘Devis’. This girl was eventually born and from a very young age sought knowledge in high measure. Vaishnavi, as she was called, then introspected and used penance and mediation to increase her sphere of knowledge. Even as she immersed in meditation Lord Rama during exile learned of her and visited her. As soon as she recognized him, she asked him to allow her to merge into him.
At that time he could not allow that and many years after completing his exile, he went back to her but she could not recognize him so her wish remained unfulfilled. Lord Rama having predicted that her merger would take place in Kaliyug with the ‘Creator’ who would incarnate as ‘Kalki’, asked her to meditate at Trikuta base to become a blessing for all of mankind, redeeming them of their sufferings. Everything followed accordingly and her glory grew among men.
Soon Saint Goraknath wanted to know more about her interaction with Lord Rama and enquire if Vaishnavi had reached her peak of spirituality. His disciple, Bhairon Nath, was sent for this very purpose. However, Bhairon Nath instead grew fond of her beauty and decided to marry her. As soon as Vaishnavi learned of this thought of his, she ran away from her ashram to the mountains.
However, Bhairon Nath followed her into the mountains. Here, she stayed at (present-day) Charan Paduka, Adhkwari, and Banganga after which she entered the Holy Cave. She beheaded Bhairon Nath when he continued to follow her and only after his death did he realizes his mistake. As ‘Mata’ forgave Bhairon Nath, she also Left her form (human) and turned it into a rock for the purpose of meditation for eternity. Today, the rock which is a 5.5 ft tall form with three Pindies or heads is the center for worship by the Hindu deities.
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