My heart went palpitating from the very planning stage itself of the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage. Hailing from South India, I had never imagined that I would be going to such a dream location Jammu, where the shrine is located. Just like all the major events in my life, this pilgrimage was also the eventful chapter of fate. But this time fate blessed me. Such was the beauty of the trip.
The fascinating journey begun from New Delhi, when we boarded on the Kashi Vishwanath train to Katra, Jammu. I have always been astonished about Jammu and its scenic beauty and also a bit cautious on the rise of terrorism activities. This was the reason which forced my family to advice me not to go for Jammu. But the traveler in me along with Mata’s blessings had already made up the mind.
I become more interested towards the journey when my colleague told me about a belief regarding the pilgrimage and Lord Mahalakshmi. Without the call of Mata no one can successfully conclude a journey to the temple. With prayers in my mind and the endless happiness of visiting Jammu, I decided to challenge Mata and being her obedient devotee, I was able to conclude the journey blissfully.
My adrenaline levels were already notched as we departed. After a dull night, the dawn welcomed us with scenic beauties of endless paddy fields and occasional hills. The nature begun to inject us with its sheer beauty and pamper as we advanced towards Jammu. I just gasped my breath and said to myself that within a short time I will be reaching the nature’s own Jammu.
Vaishno Devi Mandir is situated in Trikuta Mountains. We will be covering a tentative 15 km by foot through the mountain before reaching the temple. From the Jammu town we can see lit up pathways in the mountains that leads to the Mata’s Bhavan. The pathway is concrete laid and numerous shops with pilgrimage utilities, hotels and refreshment facilities are provided in both sides.
Kacchar (a cross breed of horse and donkey) is widely used to transport old age people and the essential raw materials to the temple. Artificially made Palki’s are also relayed to commute pilgrims. Besides this, helicopter service can also be pre-booked to reach the temple. Since we are a group of youngsters and possess good health conditions, we decided to travel by foot.
At the entry gate I witnessed a group of people returning back after the ‘darshan’ of Mata and those faces revealed how hectic the journey can be. They were tired and some even had blisters on their foot. But my colleague had a solution to curb the issue and boost the mind set. On his advice, we begun to recite ‘Jai Mata Di’ throughout the journey and astonishingly it was my strength to pursue the journey.
During our journey, we fueled our body by water, mango drinks and specially made sugarcane juice, mixed by pudina and lime. As we advanced energetically, the illuminated canvas of Jammu town became more elaborating and beautified. Jai Mata Di was echoing throughout the pathways chanted by the devotees. I slowly imbibed the ethnic and unique spirituality of Vaishno Devi.
We also witnessed Ardhkuwari temple in the middle of the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage. According to the tradition, Goddess Durga is said to have hidden in the ‘Gufa’ (cave) here. Devotees also pay their visit to this temple to complete the pilgrimage. There are several other myths associated with Mata and after enlightening all the stories from my friend, we reached our destination.
After gathering our offerings for deity from the counter, we took the serene bath to purify ourselves. I felt the cold to the bone while I poured the mighty cold water to my body, post to which we wore new clothes. Fortunately, the main cave was opened during our visit and we had the opportunity to visit Mata closer to our heart. We also had the sacred Amrut from inside the cave and collected Prasad.
We also visited the temple of Bhairo Mandir situated further above the Bhavan. Tradition says that Goddess Durga had killed the demon and thrown his head where the present temple is built. Those who visit Vaishno Devi are also supposed to visit Bhairo so that the pilgrimage is complete in its very sense. We can also have a unique and illustrious view of Vaishno Devi temple from Bhairo Mandir.
Vaishno Devi will remain as the most sacred canvas of my life. Never before have had I felt a sacred vibe in my life like this in Jammu. The temple is open throughout the year, but March to October can be regarded as the ideal and pleasant time to visit. For those who want to view the snow covered view can also go on November to January. Navratras are also preferred time to visit Vaishno Devi shrine.