Vaishno Devi Temple is a pre-eminent dedication to Goddess Shakti (Sati or Adi Parashakti). The shrine sits comfortably among the Trikuta Mountains in Jammu and Kashmir.
Tribes of pilgrims flock to the beloved shrine battling harsh weather and a steep climb with zeal and admiration to shower themselves with her blessings.
This cave-structured temple is a place of worshipping the Goddess in the form of a five feet rock with a three-headed peak. Furthermore, the three heads locally go by the name Pindies, which are a reflection of the three holy forms of Goddess Shakti. The Pindi on the right peak represents Goddess Mahakali, the central Pindi represents Goddess Mahalakshmi and the Pindi to the left is an avatar of Goddess Saraswati.
Facts About Vaishno Devi Temple
|Location||Katra, Jammu and Kashmir|
|Opening and Closing Dates||Open 365 days in a year|
|Darshan Timings||5:00 am – 12:00 pm|
4:00 pm – 9:00 pm
|Pooja||Aarti before sunrise and after sunset|
|Nearest Airport||Jammu Airport|
|Entry Fee||No Entry Fee|
|Photography in the temple||Not allowed|
What are the timings of Vaishno Devi Temple?
|Time of the Day||Duration|
|Morning||5:00 am – 12:00 pm|
|Evening||4:00 pm – 9:00 pm|
Temple Poojas and Rituals
“Atma Pooja” meaning self-cleansing by the priests marks the start of the Pooja. The Goddess is then bathed with water, ghee, milk, honey and sugar. Amidst several chants and shlokas, the Goddess dresses up in a saree, chola and chuni.
The Morning and the Evening Aarti – The Aarti dedicated to the Goddess happens twice a day. Similar rituals take place once just before sunrise and once immediately after the sunset.
The whole process lasts up to two hours. Each Aarti is done once inside the main shrine or the sanctum and then outside the cave where devotees gather to witness the divine procedure.
Hereafter she is adorned with several ornaments like bangles and sindoor (kumkum). The offering of the Naivedyam is then made to the Goddess. Hereafter, the Aarti makes its way outside the cave where all the other Gods and Goddesses are worshipped.
|Individual Pooja||‘Yagyashaala’ in the main Bhawan||Before 8:00 am at Room No.8|
|Shraddha Suman Vishesh Pooja||In front of the old cage of Mata’s Darbar||Before 8:00 am at Room No.8|
Vaishno Devi Temple Routes – Old and New
Vaishno Devi Temple stands at one of the three peaks of the Trikuta Mountains. The 13 km Trek to the peak of the mountain starts in Katra, passes through Banganga and then diverges into two different pathways.
One route goes via the Adhkuwari Temple and is the old one to reach the Bhawan. Moreover, this route is steep and narrow but beliefs are that it is built along the original route that the Goddess took to reach the Holy Cave at the top.
However, Considering the convenience of the devotees, the administration of the temple constructed a new route. The new route is via Himkoti. This track is wide enough with an ascendable gradient. Also, most pilgrims accompanied by senior citizens and young ones prefer this route.
Banganga makes the first stop for the pilgrims on their way to the Bhawan. However, the next stops are Charan Paduka and Adhkuwari. The Adhkuwari shrine is a mark that denotes that the pilgrims are halfway through the Bhawan.
Management of Vaishno Devi Temple is quite well. And fulfils all necessary and modern requirements of its visiting pilgrims such as food, shelter, resting places, viewing points, blankets, toilets, hot water facilities and medical facilities.
Significance of Vaishno Devi Temple
- The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is both popularly and controversially the most important Shakti Peetha of Goddess Sati. According to a belief, the skull or the head of the Goddess fell here after the Daksha Yagna episode. However, the other belief says it was the right arm of Goddess Sati that fell here. To support this belief, there are remains of a human hand which can still be found in the holy cave. It is popular as “Varad Hast” which means “The Hand that grants blessings”.
- Moreover, it is a strong belief of most of the devotees that they usually receive an inner spiritual call or pull from the Mata or the Goddess to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine. Belief says that only the one who receives the call receives her blessings. Once the call comes, nothing on Earth can stop the devotee from reaching Vaishno Devi Temple.
- The three holy Pindies here are manifestations of Goddess Shakti and arise from a single rock at the base. However, they differ from each other in aspects of colour and texture of the rock. The Pindi of Goddess Mahakali is black representing the unknown energy. Goddess Mahalakshmi’s Pindi exhibits golden yellow shade representing wealth, prosperity, and quality of life. The Pindi of Goddess Saraswati has a whitish tinge representing purity and wisdom of life.
- Vaishno Devi Temple is the most visited pilgrimage site in the Northern half of India and it ranks second as the most visited shrine in the Tirumala Sri Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.
- It is a local belief that any devotee who passes through the Garbha Joon (Womb shaped cave at Adhkuwari) with pure devotion ends up with his or her wish fulfilment.
- As per the Hindu tradition, there are four Purusharth or the objectives of a good human life – Dharm (righteousness or justice), Arth (Material pursuits), Kaam (Contentment) and Moksha (Enlightenment). Beliefs are that ones who undertake the Vaishno Devi Temple pilgrimage attain all four of these. Moreover, no one goes back empty-handed from this shrine.
History of Vaishno Devi Temple
The exact date or the year of the beginning of the worship of the Goddess in the caves cannot be traced. However, several references are there in Mahabharata which hint towards the holy goddess of Jamboo Mountains.
Jamboo is the ancient name of the present-day Jammu. Beliefs are that Pandavas were the original worshipers of the Goddess in the holy cave. Five stone figures probably representing the Pandavas found in a nearby mountain range giving some credibility to the association of Pandavas to Vaishno Devi Temple.
Legends Associated with Vaishno Devi Temple
There are many legends about the temple such as –
Legend of Vaishno Devi as Trikuta
According to the legend, in the Treta Yuga, Mata Vaishno Devi was born as Trikuta to Ratnakar Sagar in South India. She later became popular as Vaishnavi as she was born from the lineage of Lord Vishnu.
At the age of 9 years, she performed penance on the seashore and met Lord Rama. She threw a marriage proposal before him. But he gave her a promise that Lord Vishnu’s tenth avatar in the Kaliyuga, Kalki will marry her.
Lord Rama gave her instructions to meditate in a cave present in the Trikuta Mountains of Jammu. He instructed her to set up an Ashram at the base of the mountains. He also gave her a bow and an arrow, a lion and a small army of monkeys for her protection.
Legend of Mata Vaishnavi and Bhairavnath
A devotee of Mata Vaishnodevi, Sridhar organized a Bhandara (Community meal) in which the villagers and Mahayogi Guru GorakshNathJi along with all his followers including Bhairavnath were sent invitations as per the goddess’s wishes. Guru Gorakshnath visited the Bhandara along with his 300 disciples including Bhairavnath.
Goddess Vaishno surprised Bhairavnath with her powers. And then he wanted to test her powers. For this, he took Shiv Avatar Guru GorakshNathJi’s permission. However, Guru Gorakshnath did not recommend it but he let Bhairavnath go ahead with his plans.
Guru Gorakshnath and all his disciples enjoyed pure vaishnav food and went off. But Bhairavnath stayed back to test her powers. Then he attempted to grab Mata Vaishnodevi and she tried her best to daunt him. On failing to do so, Mata Vaishno decided to flee away into the mountains to continue her Tapasaya undisturbed. But BhairavNath chased her to her destination.
Vaishno Devi halted at Charan Paduka, Banganga, and Adhkuwari, but she observed much to her distaste that Bhairav Nath followed her everywhere. Finally, she lost her patience and beheaded him outside the holy cave. The head of Bhairon Nath fell 1.5 km away and the site became popular as Bhairon Nath Temple today.
His soul repented the incident and asked for forgiveness from the Goddess. The Goddess forgave him and granted him the boon that the devotees will have to pay a visit to Bhairav Nath’s shrine to complete her pilgrimage.
Beliefs say that the Goddess then shed her human form and took the form of a rock to continue uninterrupted meditation.
Legend of Shridhar Pandit and Mata Vaishno Devi
The cave was unknown until about 700 years ago. In a village named Hansali, near the Trikuta Mountains, lived a Brahmin Pandit named Shridhar. He was a loyal devotee of Goddess Shakti. Goddess Shakti was happy with his devotion and gave him darshan in the form of a Kanya (young girl).
Then on her request, Shridhar invited all the villagers to his humble abode for a Bhandara (a feast of food). But seeing the crowd for the Bhandara increase Shridhar was afraid if he could accommodate them all inside his hut. Also, he worried about the food availability for all his guests.
Miraculously, the girl that gave him darshan appeared and created abundant food and space so as to fulfil everyone’s hunger.
After the Bhandara, Shridhar wanted to thank the girl but she disappeared. Hence, he spent several sleepless nights. Eventually, the Goddess gave him darshan in his dreams directing him to proceed towards the cave that was her abode.
He followed the directions that he got in his dreams and eventually discovered the cave. According to the beliefs all the three Goddesses, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Saraswati gave him darshan there.
Other Legends related to Vaishno Devi
- The trek to the Bhawan begins at the Darshani Darwaza. As per beliefs, Mata Vaishno Devi met Pandit Sridhar in a child’s form right at this spot. One can also get a complete view of the Trikuta Mountain range from the Darwaza.
- The legend of Banganga states that Goddess Vaishno Devi created the River by shooting an arrow in the ground. Hence, the name “Ban” meaning Arrow in Hindi and Ganga signifying the holy River Ganga. Creation of Banganga was to quench the thirst of a langoor called Veer who accompanied her to the holy cave.
- The legend of the Charan Paduka states that it is where the Goddess Vaishno turned to check whether Bhairav Nath was following her or not. Her footprints got engraved on a stone at the location and are worshipped since then.
- The Adhkuwari cave is a place where Goddess Vaishno did meditation and observed a penance devoted to Lord Shiva for nine months. This cave was womb-like in shape and hence became popular as Garbha Joon. During the meditation, she realized the presence of Bhairav Nath and created an exit route from the back of the cave with a Trishul. Devotees can still visit the cave and the Garbha Joon.
Dress Code in Vaishno Devi Temple
- The Bhawan or the Holy Cave is 13 km away from Katra at an altitude of 5200 meters. Minimum temperatures of this region vary from -2 to 15 degree Celsius throughout the year. Hence, the region faces chilly winters almost throughout the whole year. Hence, devotees should dress in warm clothes. Jackets, scarves, socks, and shawls are a must. If travelling with children old people then take special care should be taken regarding their winter tolerance.
- Months of December and January face heavy snowfall in the higher reaches of the mountains. Hence, blankets and proper shoes are highly advisable.
- Also, one must carry a raincoat, especially during monsoons and winters. Walking sticks are helpful for the occasional steep climb. And devotees can avail them from the shops lining along the walking track.
Festivals celebrated at Vaishno Devi Temple
- Navaratri – This festival dedicated to the Mother Goddess Shakti calls for a celebration at the Bhawan with great excitement and religious fever. The festivities continue for nine days. The first three days are dedicated to Durga or Kali who signifies the destruction of evil. The next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and prosperity. The last three days are dedicated to the Goddess of wisdom, Saraswati. During this time the entire city of Katra is cleaned and decorated. Lightings of the main Vaishno Devi Complex and surrounding temples are done during Navratri. The Shobha Yatra of the Goddess is held during these nine days. Several cultural events like devotional singing competitions are held. The priests also conduct religious discourses throughout the nine days.
- Besides Navaratri, Deepavali, Ram Navami, and Mahashivratri also call for a celebration here with great enthusiasm.
How to reach Katra?
- By Air – The nearest airport to the temple is the Jammu domestic airport. It is 75 km away from the temple. There are regular flights by several private airlines including Air India from cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai to Jammu.
- By Train – The Katra railway station was built for travellers in 2014. The station is titled ‘Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra’ and the IRCTC code for it is SVDK. This station is 18.9 km away from the temple. There are trains from all major cities like New Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Pathankot, Jalandhar, Mangalore, and Kalka to SVDK.
- By Road – Katra lies 50 km away from Jammu city. There are several luxury bus operators running regular buses between Jammu and Katra. Devotees can hire private taxies at reasonable costs. However, one can hire them outside Jammu Railway Station or the Airport.
- The trek to the Vaishno Devi shrine begins at the Banganga Checkpost in Katra. It is a journey of about 13 km to the Bhawan at the top. Devotees can take the journey n foot, on horses, on palki (palanquin) and in a helicopter.
- Notably, the helicopter services should be booked 60 days in advance. However, the booking can also be made at the Jagjivan Ghat near the Katra Bus Stand. Nevertheless, there are limitations to these services. And they are also subjected to cancellation due to climatic changes. Online bookings of the ticket are advised as they are subjected to easy cancellation.
Related Videos With Vaishno Devi Mandir
Obtaining “Yatra Parchi” or a “Travel Slip” at the Yatra Registration Counter near the Katra Bus Stand is a must for on-foot travellers. One can also do the booking of the slip on the temple website.
Where to stay?
- The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board overlooks the maintenance of several guest houses and Dhams located in Jammu, Katra, Adkuwari, Sanjichhat and Bhawan. Online bookings of clean and well-maintained rooms can be made via the official website of the Board. There are 3 Dhams operated by the Board in Jammu named Vaishnavi Dham, Saraswati Dham, and the Kalika Dham. Four options namely Niharika, Shakti Bhawan, Trikuta Bhawan and the Aashirwad Bhawan can be booked at Katra. The Main Bhawan provides options of both double bedded rooms as well as dormitories. One must make the bookings at least 60 days in advance. And these bookings are non-refundable.
- Besides these options, several halls have been built for the pilgrims to take rest before heading for darshan. Blankets and medical aid are also provided here.
Where to eat?
- Temple administration runs Bhojanalaya services both in the Main Bhawan and the Manokamana Bhawan Complex. The Bhojanalaya services are on the basis of no profit-making. Hence, they are cheap and affordable. Moreover, the food here is pure vegetarian and hygienic. Other than traditional food, pilgrims can avail mineral water, hot and cold beverages as well as milk at a fixed and nominal price.
- Bhairon Nath Temple – This temple is 2 km away from the Main Bhawan that houses the holy cave. The temple is a dedication to Bhairon Nath. Legend says that Bhairon Nath’s head fell at this spot after Vaishno Devi beheaded him.
- Raghunath Temple – This famous Temple holds the title of the largest Temple Complexes in India. It consists of seven individual shrines each of which has its own Shikhara or Tower. The Temple was built in 1860 by Maharaja Gulab Singh. And it is a dedication to Lord Rama.
- Ranbireshwar Temple – This temple shelters the biggest Linga of Lord Shiva. Moreover, the Linga is 8 feet tall and is made out of black shining stone. One can also view twelve Shiva Lingas made of crystal enshrined in this temple.
Other famous temples in Jammu and Kashmir are:
- Hemis Monastery: Hemis Monastery is a Himalayan Buddhist monastery of the Drukpa Lineage. The monastery was re-established by the Ladakhi King Sengge Namgya, in 1672. The monastery is situated 45 km from Leh City, Hemis. It is present on a mountain on the west bank of the River Indus.
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