Goddess Mata Vaishno Devi resides  within the snowpeaked sacred cave of the Mountain Himalaya. From this high  peaked, cave She always has a blessed look on Her children and Universe, and  thus protects us all. It is not only a tradition in the 'Purana' that Mata  Durga is the daughter of Himalayas, but is actually a reality.

To go there you take a train or  flight to Jammu from where you take a taxi/bus to the mountain base Katra,  about an hour’s drive. From Katra it is app a 12 km trek to reach the cave. The  road is well maintained and has excellent facilities enroute.

This Holy Cave is situated within  the three peaks of Trikuta mountain. It is at a height of 5200 feet. The pilgrims  pay their worship in this cave. There is no statue or icon here. There are  three stones known as 'Pinda'. First one is white in colour, represents 'Maha  Saraswati', the goddess of learning. Second greenish, represents Maha Lakshmi,  Goddess of wealth pleasure and abundance. The third one is black, represents,  Mahakali, the goddess of darkness and annihilation. Saraswati, the symbol of  knowledge, honesty, truthfulnes, kind-heartedness, termed as Sattwarupa.  Lakshmi, the symbol of luxury, wealth, is termed as Rajorupa and Kali, the  symbol of darkness is termed as Tamorupa. In this cave Mata resides as combined  three Shaktis, as Maha Durga, Ma Serawali and is known as Vaishno Devi.

As combined three forces, Ma  Durga has Sattwaki, Rajoshi and Tamashi natures called 'Triguna Shakti.' Tri  means three, guna means nature, Shakti means spirit. Ma Durga can foresee past,  present, future called 'Trikal Darshi'. (tri-three; Kal-time i.e past, present,  future; Darshi - forsee). Creation maintenance and annihilation of the Universe  is performed at Her will. In this cave Mata resides as 'Vaishnobi', i.e. a  strength of Lord Vishnu, to protect the Universe and save the mankind. From  Katra it is about 12 k.m. mountainous road to reach the cave.

On way to the cave through this  stiff mountainous journey every and every one chants the holy name 'Jai Mata  Di', a great inspiration and strength for the strenuous journey, with stick in  hand and an emblem for mother 'Jai Mata Di' binds on forehead. How surprising,  this chanting of the Mother gives such great strength, spirit and will force,  that a lame person can climb up the mountain.

For a long time, I had a dream to  visit Vaishno Devi. I am over 70 years. If divine Mother does not send a call  to Her children none can go there. Once a person receives it he is bound to  visit the Mother to receive Her unbound love and blessings. It is also a matter  of experience by almost all those who visit the Holy Shrine, that upon the call  of Mata, a person needs just to take one step and leave the rest to Her. The journey  gets completed with Her Divine blessings.

It is not only a saying, but a  great truth in reality. 'Maan Aaap Bulandi' means Mother calls Herself. My  nephew has gone Vaishno Devi twice. As prefixed by the Almighty, while gossiping  with him, I expressed my desire to visit Vaishno Devi. He assured me that he  will fulfill my desire. Accordingly we decided that on 9th November, 2007, i.e.  on auspicious newmoon night of Kalipuja/ Diwali, we will visit the Mata. With  this holy whim we started for Katra by Kalka Mail on 7th November, 2007.

At the very beginning of the  journey we felt and realised the blessing, divine favour and grace of Mata,  Kalka Mail starts at 7.40 P.M. I started from my Salt Lake residence at 5 P.M.  As I entered Harrison Road from Amherst Street, I faced a great jam. Very  slowly I reached Central Avenue crossing at 6P.M. I contacted my nephew over  phone. He assured me that I would reach on time. The taxi driver advised me to take  the Central Avenue - Dalhousie route. I reached the Dalhousie Church at about 7  P.M. By then all of us had lost all hope of reaching Howrah in time. Miracle  happened. From Dalhousie via Strand Road, we reached near the big clock of  Howrah Station at 7.20 P.M. All were waiting there. We caught the train running  'Jai Mata Di'.

To avail of the Puja Express for  Jammu Tawai, we got down at Delhi. The train was late for about 5 hours. We  reached Katra at about 1ish. Normally we would be tired after a two day  journey. Surprisingly all of us were very fresh and raring to start the Yatra.  We decided to visit Mata, as scheduled before, on newmoon night of Kalipuja /  Diwali.

The holy cave can be approached through  two routes. The first one is for horses, is stiff with steps at intervals. The  second is for walking, which has a gradual slope like a ramp. We hired five  horses and started the yatra chanting 'Jai Mata Di'. At about 12 mid night we  reached the cave. We deposited our belongings in the locker and stood in queue  to visit the Divine Shrine. Suddenly a monk came, put some evening prayer  prasadam in my hand and ran away. We felt it was Almighty's blessing. After  completing the Holy visit, a family member arranged for puja. It was past 3 a.m.  now and time to return to Katra.  

We went searching for our horses  but came to know that the horses had already returned to Katra with other  yatris. We had no option but to wait. Suddenly it got very cold. It was  impossible to sit. We hired blankets and relaxed on the 2nd floor verandah of  the cave. What a terrible cold -! Bones are getting bending. With permission of  the locker room employee, I laid down inside the room. No improvement. We sat  down all night waiting for sunrise.  

At about 7 a.m. the horses  returned. The stiff horse riding up the mountain road is painful, but the down  slope ride is far more. We realised it as we got down. We also realised, if we  had started at 4A.M. it would not have been possible for us to sit on the horse  because of the piercing cold. We might have then fallen from the horses. Being  very prone to falling I was happy we started at 7am. All Mighty Mother stopped  our journey by sending the horses for a trip and thus saved us from injury and  death. She not only saved our lives, but made us to stay at Her Lotus Feet in  the cave, all the night waking in the auspicious newmoon night of Kalipuja /  Diwali. Mata, we feel your blessing and love, always protect all in life, 'Jai  Mata Di'.

I am an old Bengali woman.  I can count the horses I have seen but no  question of riding. In riding both 12 k.m up and down mountain slopes, I had great  difficulty and pain. I felt the magnitude of the injury only after I returned  to the hotel. My buttocks were injured and bled profusely.

IN 1986, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi  Shrine Board was formed under the Jammu and Kashmir Shri Mata Vaishno Devi  Shrine Act 1986. The management of Shrine, regulation of the Yatra from Katra  is done by the Board. They have undertaken a number of development activities  aimed at making yatra comfortable, safe with excellent facilities enroute. A  hospital treats sick pilgrims. They have started Vaishno Devi University also.

Western countries think Hinduism  to be the worshiper of idols. Hinduism believes in a Great Divine Strength /  Force, which has created the Universe, maintains it and if needed, can annihilate  it. Sanatan Dharam is a worshipper of that Great Strength. The emotion, love to  pray for and serve the Almighty can best be manifested if we pray on a definite  form, may be in the form of idols, stones or pindas. It is very difficult to  think and get adhered to vacant or vacuum. It needs positive impression. By  calling ma/mom, a child enters the heart of the mother. Similarly Hinduism,  depending upon individual taste, opinion, and region worship the form that he  loves, relies upon and relishes more. In Sanatan Dharam it is said 'Bhinna  Ruchi Hi Naras', i.e. there are people of different opinions and tastes. Sri  Ramkrishna Paramhansa Dev, the founder of the Ramkrishna Mission said “JATA MAT  TATA PATH" but the destiny or aim is the same, i.e. to pray and serve the  Almighty!". It means individuals have different opinion and tastes and  follow different paths, but the aim of all is the same i.e. to worship the All  Mighty Strength. Thus while praying some impression of the object of worship is  an absolute necessity, may be idols, stones, pindas or prophets.

It is not the idols, stones or  pindas; it is the Maha Shakti / Strength, in that form, which is Hinduism.

The Holy Shrine is at a height of  5200 feet, where there is a Great Empire. It is a matter of great surprise, how  this big Shrine establishment was built at such a high mountain peak over  coming various difficulties. Thanks to the Board and former Governor Shri  Jagmohan the yatra is much easier now days. Building infrastructure for the  Yatra was possible because of the Divine Will of the Mata Shakti, Ma Vaishno  Devi.

'Jai Mata Di' Mata I pray to your  Lotus Feet again and again.

It is a saying that Mata Vaishno  Devi, Mata Chint Purni of Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh and Mata Rajeswari  of Kangra Valley are three sisters. After visiting Mata Vaishno Devi visiting  the sisters is also recommended.

I am a simple practical Doctor,  am not a writer who has a flair for language for literature. Writing about the  Great Almighty Mata Shakti, has only been possible at Her Divine grace and  inspiration. My second inspiration is from my nephew Anjan Bhattacharya.

Also read
1. Worship  of God as Mother in Indian Tradition.
2. Pictures  of Vaishnudevi Yatra

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