Mata Vaishno Devi shrine is located near the Katra district at a height of 5200 ft. The Devi resides inside a cave on Trikuta, a three-peaked mountain. After reaching Katra, one has to undertake a trek of approximately 12 km to reach the cave of Mata Vaishno Devi. After the trek is over, the yatris (devotees) are blessed with the darshan (a view) of the goddess inside her holy cave. The cave does not contain any statues or photos. The cave houses three natural rock formations, called the Pindies that represent the three goddesses. The pindi in the middle represents Laxmi Mata, on the right is Kali Mata and on the left is Saraswati Mata. Vaishnodevi pilgrimage tour is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimages in India.
The Mahabharata epic was the first one to mention the Mother Goddess.
At the time when the armies of Pandavs and Kaurvas were ready to fight
in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna advised Arjun, the chief
warrior of Pandavas, to seek the blessings of the Mother Goddess for
victory. Another belief is that the Pandavs were the first to build the
temples of Devi at Kol Kandoli and her Bhawan as mark of their respect
and gratitude for her. Standing as the living proof of this belief are
five stone structures, assumed to be the rock symbols of the five
Pandavs, on a mountain adjacent to the Trikuta Mountain. There is also a
mention of Guru Gobind Singh, a Sikh Guru, visiting the shrine.
Legends of Mata Vaishno Devi
There are numerous legends associated with the Mata. It is believed
that the Goddess is a combination of Tejas or spiritual strength of her
three main manifestations, Mata Kali, Mata Lakshmi and Mata Saraswati.
From the union of the Tejas of the three Goddesses emerged a beautiful
girl. She was created to live on earth and uphold virtue and morality.
Later, she took birth in the house of a Ratnakar in the southern part of
India and named Vaishnavi. But, she was not supposed to be a common
human being. She renounced the world and went to forests to meditate and
lead an austere life.
During her stay in the forest, she met Lord Rama, who was undergoing
his exile. He advised her to meditate, and set up an Ashram at the base
of Trikuta hills, to elevate her level of spirituality. She followed
suit and solely and gradually her fame and glory spread far and wide. A
tantrik, Gorakhnath, out of his curiosity to find out about the Mata
sent his disciple, Bhairo Nath, for the purpose. He started harassing
Mata Vaishno Devi, forcing her to move to the mountains to continue her
meditation undisturbed. However, undaunted, he followed her there also.
Ultimately, Mata Vaishno Devi lost her patience and beheaded him outside
the mouth of the holy cave. Ultimately, Mata left her human form and
assuming the face of a rock went into meditation forever.