Vaishno Devi

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Not to be confused with Vaishnavi (Matrika goddess).
माता वैष्णोदेवी मंदिर
Vaishno devi.jpg
Name
Proper name Vaishno Devi Temple
Geography
Coordinates 33°01′48″N 74°56′54″E / 33.0299°N 74.9482°E / 33.0299; 74.9482Coordinates: 33°01′48″N 74°56′54″E / 33.0299°N 74.9482°E / 33.0299; 74.9482
Country  India
State Jammu and Kashmir
Location Vaishno Devi
Culture
Primary deity Vaishno Devi (Shakti)
Important festivals Navratri, Durga Puja
Architecture
Architectural styles Cave Temple
History and governance
Website http://www.maavaishnodevi.org/

Vaishno Devi, also known as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi, is a manifestation of the Hindu Mother Goddess or Durga. The words "maa" and "mata" are commonly used in India for "mother", and thus are often used in connection with Vaishno Devi. Vaishno Devi Mandir (Hindi: वैष्णोदेवी मन्दिर) is a very popular Hindu temple dedicated to the Hindu Goddess, located at the Trikuta Mountains within the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. More than 10 million pilgrims visit this shrine every year.

Iconography[edit]

Mata is form of Shakti or Parvati. She is depicted as very beautiful and dressed in red. Her eight arms hold trident, bow, arrow, lotus, mace and sword and a hand in abhaya gesture. She rides on a tiger.

Holy Shrine[edit]

Source: https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/mata_vaishno_devi_ji.aspx

A pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimages of our times. Popular the world over as Moonh Maangi Muradein Poori Karne Wali Mata, which means, the Mother who fulfills whatever Her children wish for, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji resides in a Holy Cave located in the folds of the three peaked mountain named Trikuta (pronounced as Trikoot). The Holy Cave attracts millions of devotees every year - the number of Yatris visiting the Holy Shrine annually now exceeds ten million. This is due to the unflinching faith of the devotees who throng the Shrine from all parts of India and abroad.

The Holy Cave of the Mother is situated at an altitude of 5200 ft. The Yatris have to undertake a trek of nearly 12 km from the base camp at Katra. Darshans are open round the clock throughout the year. At the culmination of their pilgrimage, the yatries are blessed with the Darshans of the Mother Goddess inside the Sanctum Sanctorum- the Holy Cave. These Darshans are in the shape of three natural rock formations called the Pindies. There are no statues or idols inside the Cave.

The journey to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji starts with the "Call of Mata". It is not only a belief but also a strong experience of one and all that the Divine Mother sends a call to her children. And once a person receives it, wherever he is, is bound to visit the Mother to receive Her unbounded love and blessings. A popular slogan in the local folklore beautifully expresses it- Maan Aap Bulandi - which means that The Mother Herself Calls! 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 to just take one step and leave the rest to Her and his journey gets completed with Her divine blessings. Simultaneously, it is also believed that unless there is a call or Bulawa no one can visit the Shrine or have Her blessings, howsoever high or mighty one may be.

Since the year 1986, when the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (commonly called Shrine Board) was formed, the management of the Shrine and regulation of the Yatra has been vested in the Board. The Board has undertaken a number of developmental activities aimed at making the Yatra a comfortable and satisfying experience for the Yatris. The Board continues to reinvest the offerings and donations received in carrying out improvements in various kinds of Yatri facilities.

Currently Shri (Narinder Nath Vohra in his capacity as Governor of Jammu & Kashmir is the Chairman of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. Members of the Board are Shri E. Sreedharan, Smt. Sudha Murty, Dr. Sudhir S.Bloeria, IAS (Retd.), Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Dr. Ashok Bhan, IPS (Retd.) and Shri H. L. Maini[1]

History of the Holy Shrine[edit]

Like with most old Shrines, it is not possible to ascertain when exactly the pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine started. A geological study of the Holy Cave has indicated its age to be nearly a million years. Vedic literature gives no reference to the worship of any female deity, although the mountain Trikuta does find its mention in Rigveda, the oldest of the four Vedas The practice of worshipping Shakti, largely started in the Puranic period.

The first mention of the Mother Goddess is in the epic Mahabharat. When the armies of Pandavs and Kaurvas were arrayed in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjun, the chief warrior of Pandavs upon advice of Sri Krishna; meditated upon the Mother Goddess and sought Her blessings for victory. This is when Arjun addresses the Mother Goddess as ‘Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye’, which means ‘you who always dwell in the temple on the slope of the mountain in Jamboo’ (probably referring to the present day Jammu).

It is also generally believed that the Pandavs were the first to build the temples at Kol Kandoli and Bhawan in reverence and gratitude for the Mother Goddess. On a mountain, just adjacent to the Trikuta Mountain and overlooking the Holy Cave are five stone structures, which are believed to be the rock symbols of the five Pandavs.

Perhaps the oldest reference of the visit of a historical figure to the Holy Cave is that of Guru Gobind Singh who is said to have gone there via Purmandal. The old foot track to the Holy Cave passed through this well-known pilgrimage centre

Discovery of The Shrine[edit]

While various versions of the origin and legend of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji are prevalent, there seems to be unanimity on the discovery of Shrine around 700 years back by the same Pandit Shridhar, at whose place Mata had helped organize a Bhandaara. When she left amidst the Bhandaara to escape Bhairon Nath, Pandit Shridhar is said to have felt as if he had lost everything in his life. He felt immense grief and gave up the intake of food or even water and closed himself in a room of his house, fervently praying for Vaishnavi to reappear.

It is then that Mata Vaishnavi appeared in his vision (dream) and told him to search for her at the Holy Cave situated amidst the folds of the Trikuta Mountain. She also saved hanuman from Bharo baba showed him the way to the Holy Cave and insisted him to break his fast. Pandit Shridhar then went on to discover the Holy Cave in the mountains. Every time he seemed to lose the way, the vision of his dreams reappeared before his eyes and finally he reached his destination. Upon entering the Cave he found a rock form with three heads atop it. At that moment Mata Vaishno Devi appeared before him in all her glory (another version says that the Supreme Energies of Mata Maha Saraswati, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Kali appeared in the Holy Cave) and introduced him to the three heads (now known as the Holy Pindies) of the rock form along with various other identification marks in the Holy Cave. She blessed him with a boon of four sons and a right to worship her manifestation and asked him to spread the glory of the Holy Shrine all over. Pandit Shridhar then spent his remaining life in the service of Mata at the Holy Cave.

Mythology and Legends[edit]

Some traditions believe this Shrine to be the holiest of all Shaktipeeths (a place where the Mother Goddess, the Eternal Energy has Her abode) since the skull of Mata Sati fell here. Others believe that her right arm had fallen here. But some scriptures do not agree with it. They do agree that at a place called Gandarbal in Kashmir, the right arm of Sati had fallen. Nevertheless, in the Holy Cave of Shri Mata Vaishno Deviji, one does find stone remains of a human hand, popularly known as Varad Hast (the hand that grants boons and blessings).

Mata Vaishno Devi Ji[edit]

As per the legend, during the period when the Goddess was busy in annihilating the Asuras, Her three main manifestations viz. Mata Maha Kali [Shakti or Parvati], Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Saraswati got together one day and pooled their collective Tejas or spiritual strength. A stunningly bright light emanated from the place where the Tejas of the three manifestations coalesced and a beautiful young girl emerged from this Tejas. The young girl asked them, "Why have I been created? The Devis explained to her that they had created her so that she would live on earth and spend her time in upholding righteousness. The Devis added, "Now, go and take birth in the house of Ratankar and his wife who reside in the southern part of India, and who are great devotees of ours. Live on earth. Uphold righteousness and evolve yourself spiritually so that you reach higher levels of consciousness. Once you have attained the appropriate level of consciousness you will merge into Vishnu and become one with him. So saying, they blessed the girl.

Sometime later a very beautiful girl child was born to Ratankar and his wife. The couple named the child Vaishnavi [aka Kumari]. The girl right from her childhood displayed a hunger for knowledge which was like a vortex and which no amount of teaching and learning could sufficiently satiate. Subsequently, Vaishnavi started looking into her inner-self for knowledge, and soon learned the art of meditation and realized that meditation and penance only could bring her close to her greater objective. Vaishnavi thus relinquished all household comforts and went deep into the forest for Tapasaya (meditation).

Meanwhile, Lord Rama, during his fourteen years of exile happened to visit Vaishnavi who recognized him immediately as no ordinary being but the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and immediately asked him to merge her into himself so that she could become one with the supreme creator. However Lord Rama, knowing that it was not the appropriate time, dissuaded her by saying that he would visit her again after the end of his exile, and at that time if she succeeded in recognizing him, he would fulfill her wish.

True to his words, Rama visited her again after being victorious in the battle, but this time he did so in the disguise of an old man. Unfortunately, Vaishnavi was unable to recognize him this time and was distraught. Upon this, Lord Rama consoled her that the appropriate time for her being one with the creator had not come, and that time would come eventually in 'Kaliyug' when He (Rama) would be in his incarnation of 'Kalki'. Rama also directed her to meditate, and set up an Ashram at the base of Trikuta hills, to elevate her level of spirituality so as to bless mankind and rid the poor and destitute of their sufferings. Only then would 'Vishnu' merge her into himself. Vaishnavi, immediately set off for the northern part of India and after immense hardships, reached the foot of the Trikuta Hills. After reaching there she set up her ashram there and began to meditate.

As predicted by Lord Rama, her glory spread far and wide, and people began to flock to her Ashram to seek her blessings. As time passed, MahaYogi Guru Goraksh Nath ji who had a vision of the episode between Lord Rama and Vaishnavi in the retrospective time frame, became curious to find out whether Vaishnavi has been able to attain a high level of spirituality or not. He, therefore, sent his most able disciple 'Bhairon Nath' to find out the truth. Bhairon Nath on locating the ashram started observing Vaishnavi secretly, and realised that though a 'Sadhvi' she always carried bow and arrows with her, and was always surrounded by langoors (apes) and a ferocious looking lion. Bhairon Nath was enamored by Vaishnavi's extraordinary beauty, and losing all good sense he began to pester Vaishnavi to marry him. Meanwhile a staunch devotee of Vaishnavi, Mata Sridhar organised a Bhandara (Community meal) in which the whole village and MahaYogi Guru Goraksh Nath ji along with all his followers including Bhairon were invited. During the course of Bhandara Bhairon Nath attempted to grab Vaishnavi but she tried her best to daunt him. On failing to do so, Vaishnavi decided to flee away into the mountains to continue her Tapasaya undisturbed. Bhairon Nath however chased her to her destination.

The goddess after halting at (present day) Banganga, Charan Paduka, and Adhkwari, finally reached the holy cave Shrine. When Bhairon Nath continued to follow her despite the goddess trying to avoid a confrontation, the goddess was compelled to kill him. Bhairon Nath met his ultimate fate when the goddess, just outside the mouth of the cave, beheaded him. The severed head of Bhairon fell with a force at a distant hilltop. Bhairon Nath upon death realised the futility of his mission and prayed to the deity to forgive him. The almighty Mata (Mother Goddess) had mercy on Bhairon and gave him a boon that every devotee of the goddess would have to have the Darshans of Bhairon after having the Darshans of the Goddess and only then would the yatra of a devotee be complete.

Meanwhile, Vaishnavi decided to shed off her human form and assuming the face of a rock she immersed herself into meditation forever. Thus Vaishnavi, in the form of a five and a half feet tall rock with three heads or the Pindies on the top is the ultimate destination of a devotee. These Pindies constitute the Sanctum Sanctorum of the holy cave known as the shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, which is revered by one and all.

The Story of Pandit Sridhar[edit]

Amongst the many legends associated with the Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, is that of Lord Rama's encounter with Vaishnavi during the period of his exile when he (Lord Rama) directed the Goddess towards the holy cave situated in Trikoot Parbat. There are other legends too, like that of the Pandavas, who are said to have visited the holy abode and are also believed to have built a temple here. Prahalad, the legendary son of the atheist king Hirankashayap, is also believed to have undertaken a pilgrimage to the holy shrine. However, the most popular and well known legend is that of Sridhar Brahmin who used to live in village Hansali situated at the foot of Trikoot Parbat, adjacent to modern day Katra Town.

Shridhar was a staunch devotee of Shakti. Even though he was a very poor man, with the inspiration and assurance from Goddess Vaishanavi who appeared one day in his dream in Kanayaroop, Sridhar undertook the organizing of a grand Bhandara. An auspicious date for the Bhandhara was selected and Shridhar invited all the people living in nearby villages to the Bhandara. Thereafter, Sridhar went from door to door requesting his neighbours and acquaintances to give him raw provisions which could be cooked and served to the guests on the day of Bhandara. Though a few of them obliged but many others turned down his request. They in fact taunted him for having the audacity to hold a Bhandara without having the wherewithal for organizing. As the day of Bhandara drew nearer, Shridhar's worries about feeding the guests invited for Bhandhara also increased.

On the night preceding the day of Bhandara, Shridhar could not sleep a wink. He had spent the entire night grappling with the problem of how to feed his guests with the limited provisions and to accommodate them in the inadequate space that he had. When he was unable to come up with a satisfactory solution to his problems till morning, he resigned himself to fate and got up to face the day. He sat down for puja outside his hut. By midday, his guests started arriving. Finding him deeply involved in puja, they began to make themselves comfortable wherever they could find place. Strangely enough, a very large number of guests were able to comfortably have their space inside Sridhar's small hut and still a lot of space was unutilized. When the puja was over, Shridhar looked around and saw huge number of guests who had arrived. While he was wondering how to tell his guests that he would not be able feed them, he saw Vaishnavi coming out of his hut. With the grace of Goddess Vaishanvi, all guests were offered food of their own choice and the Bhandhara turned out to be very successful despite some problems raised by Bhairon, a disciple of Guru Gorakhnath who too was invited in the Bhandhara.

After the Bhandhara, Sridhar was curious to get to the bottom of the mystery shrouding the magical powers of Vaishanavi. He began asking young Vaishnavi for an explanation for the mysterious developments of the day. He called out to her but the Vaishanavi was not there to reply. He called out again and again but with the same result. Vaishnavi was no where to be seen. A feeling of emptiness engulfed Sridhar. Then one day, he had a dream of the same girl who told him that she was Vaishno Devi. The Goddess showed him the vision of her cave and also blessed him with the boon of four sons. Sridhar, happy once again, set out in search of the cave, and after finding it he decided to spend rest of his life in worship of the deity. Soon fame of the holy cave spread, and the devotees began to flock it to pay their homage to the mighty Goddess.

Darshan[edit]

The Trikuta Mountain where the Shrine is located and the Holy Cave are the gateway to the dimension of Super Consciousness. And just like the Trikuta Mountain, which is one at the base but has three peaks (hence the name Trikoot), the revelation of the Mother Goddess in the Holy Cave is in a natural rock form which is one at the base but has three heads at the top. These three heads in a natural rock form are known as the Holy Pindies and are worshipped as the revelation of the Mother Goddess. The entire rock body is immersed in water, and a marble platform has now been constructed all around. The main Darshans remain to be of the three heads called the Holy Pindies. The uniqueness of the Holy Pindies is that although they emanate from one single rock form, each one is distinctly different from the other two in colour and texture.

MAHA KALI

Towards the right of the devotee is the Holy Pindi of Mata Maha Kali (the Supreme Energy of Dissolution) in the colour associated with Her i.e. black. The Supreme Energy of dissolution is Mata Maha Kali. She represents the Tam Guna- the quality associated with the darker and unknown realms of life. Tam stands for darkness. Psychology and science state that only a very small per cent of the Universe is conscious. The remaining is still subconscious or unconscious. These unknown realms contain all the mysteries of life. Creation is a phenomenon, which exists within a specific time. However the Energy that transcends the barriers of time is the Eternal Time or Maha Kali. Since man’s knowledge about life is very limited and he remains in the dark about most of it, it is represented by the colour black which is associated with Mata Maha Kali. She is the basic source of all that is mystical and unknown to man. In her attribute of Maha Kali, the Mother Goddess constantly guides her devotees to conquer the forces of darkness.

MAHA LAKSHMI

In the centre is the Holy Pindi of Mata Maha Lakshmi (the Supreme Energy of Maintenance) with a yellowish-red tinge, the colour associated with Mata Maha Lakshmi. Mata Maha Lakshmi is the Supreme Energy of Maintenance. She represents Rajas Guna- the quality of inspiration and effort, and is considered to be the basic source of wealth, prosperity, material gains, quality of life etc. Wealth and prosperity are better represented by the colour of gold, which is yellow, and hence associated with Mata Maha Lakshmi.

MAHA SARASWATI

The Pindi to the extreme left of the viewer is worshipped as the Holy Pindi of Mata Maha Saraswati (the Supreme Energy of Creation). It has a whitish tinge when looked at attentively. White has also been considered the colour associated with Mata Maha Saraswati. Being the Supreme force of Creation, Mata Maha Saraswati is considered to be the basic source of all Creation, Knowledge, Wisdom, Righteousness, Art, Spiritualism, Piousness etc. Since white is a colour that denotes piousness and purity, hence it is associated with Mata Maha Saraswati. She represents the Satva Guna- the quality of purity.

Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is considered to be an incarnation of the three Supreme Energies. All Human beings contain attributes of the three above mentioned Guns (qualities) and their behavior is determined by the Guna which is predominant in their nature. But, in order to lead a meaningful life, a proper balance among these three is necessary. The Holy Cave is charged with such energy that it helps in creating this vital but rare balance in a person. This is what makes the Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji unique in the entire world.

It is reiterated that Darshans inside the Holy Cave are in the form of natural rock formations called Pindies. There are no statues, pictures or idols inside. All along the track and at the Bhawan, there are many photographs explaining the nature of Darshans inside the Holy Cave. Yatries should observe these carefully since these are meant to guide them towards the final Darshans in the Holy Cave.

Other Darshans in the Holy Cave

While the main Darshans in the Holy Cave are those of the three Pindies, there are other Darshans too in the Cave. The Holy Cave is around 98 feet long. Besides the main Darshans of the Pindies inside the Cave, there are various other Darshans, outside and inside the Holy Cave and around the Holy Pindies. It is believed that the Darshans of 33 crore (330 million) Gods and Goddesses are present in the Holy Cave. It is believed that at some given point of time, each of the 330 million gods and goddesses have worshipped the Mother Goddess in the Holy Cave and have left their symbolical marks inside. It is also believed that during Poojan and Aarti in the morning and evening, all these Gods and Goddesses arrive at the Holy Cave to pay their obeisance to the Mother.

At the entry of the Holy Cave, towards the left hand side, is the symbol of Vakra Tund Ganesh. Adjacent to the symbol of Lord Ganesh are the symbols of Surya and Chandra Dev. Once inside the Holy Cave, one crosses over the Dadh (torso) of Bhairon Nath, which is around 14 feet long. Due to the impact of the mighty blow of the Divine Mother, while the head of Bhairon Nath fell atop an adjacent mountain a couple of kilometers away from the Holy Cave, his body lay lifeless at the entrance of the Holy Cave.

After the Dadh (torso) of Bhairon is the symbol of Lord Hanuman known as Launkra Beer. Thereafter one comes across Charan Ganga, the legendary river flowing from the feet of Mata. Those having Darhans through the old Cave have to wade through water beyond this point. Around 23 feet beyond Launkra Beer, on the left upper hand side, the roof of the cave flares out and the entire weight of this cave appears to rest on the innumerable heads of Shesh Nag. Immediately below Shesh Nag is the Havan Kund of Mata and adjacent to it are the symbols of Shankh, Chakra, Gada and Padam.

Above, almost touching the ceiling of the cave are the symbols of five Pandavs, Sapt rishis, Than (udders or breast) of the divine cow Kamdhenu, symbols of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh and Shiv-Parvati. 3 feet further ahead, on an elevation can be seen the Khamba that was gripped by the legendary worshipper Prahlad. Diagonally below this, at the water level is the Yantra with innumerable mystical signs and symbols inscribed on it. 22 feet beyond this point is located the Sher Ka Panja, symbolizing the lion which is the mount of the Mata Vaishno Devi Ji. The distance from the entry point to the Sher Ka Panja is 59 feet. 13 feet beyond this, immediately above the head of the worshipper, is located the symbol of the Primary Hood of Shesh Nag which appears to be bearing the weight of the roof of the Cave at this point. 6 feet further ahead, on the left hand side, are the symbols of Shankar and Gauri.

13 feet beyond this are the Holy Pindies of Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Devi and Mata Maha Saraswati. To the right of the Holy Pindies on the upper side can be seen the symbols of Lord Ganesh, Surya Dev, Chandra Dev and Goddess Annapurna. Slightly behind the Holy Pindies, on the right hand side can be seen the symbol of the seated Sinh Raj (Lion). A little ahead of it is the full hand of the Mother Goddess, raised in the Varad Hast mode, granting boons to the world. An interesting corollary to the Varad Hast of Mata lies in the story of the sacrifice of Sati. The Scriptures say that the hand of Mother Sati fell in the region of Kashmir creating a Shaktipeeth. There are a few sources, however, which believe that it was at this place i.e. the Holy Cave at Trikuta Mountain that the hand of Sati fell and the Varad Hast in the Holy Cave provides some link to the tale of Sati. Immediately opposite the Holy Pindies is the natural symbol of Lord Pashupati Nath.

Yatris may however note that most of these Darshans are possible only if the original cave is used. However, owing to the heavy rush, usually the new tunnels are used and the original cave is opened only during the lean seasons. Yatries desirous of having all the Darshans are advised to formulate their programme to correspond with the lean seasons.

After this can be seen the symbol of Lord Hanuman called Launkra. Water gushes out of the base of the holy Pindies and flows out of the holy Cave. This gush of Holy water is known as Charan Ganga and the water of this stream is collected in small containers by the devotees and taken home. The same water is also channelised to the bathing ghat and the devotees take a bath in this water before they join the queue for Darshan of the holy Pindies.

Bhairon Temple

Every devotee of the goddess would have to have the Darshans of Bhairon after having the Darshans of the Goddess and only then would the yatra of a devotee be complete

Other Darshans at Bhawan

There are other Darshans in the Bhawan area as well. These include Darshans of Lord Shiva’s Shivling in a cave, Mata Durga, Lord Shiv, Shri Ram with Sita and Lakshman, Lord Hanuman etc. These Darshans are in temples situated at different point of the Bhawan complex. Signboards have been put up at Bhawan to guide the yatries as to the location of these temples. In addition, there are Yagyashalas in the Bhawan complex where Yagyas and Havans are preformed round the year and especially during the Navratras. The main Yagyashala is situated at Saraswati Bhawan

Aarti[edit]

The 'Aarti' of the Goddess is performed twice a day first time in the morning just before the sunrise and second time in the evening immediately after the sunset.

The procedure of 'Aarti' is a very sacred and lengthy one. The Pujaris perform 'Aarti' before the holy deity first inside the sanctum- sanctorum and than outside the cave. Before the commencement of 'Aarti', the Pujaris perform 'Aatam pujan' i,e self-purification. Then the Goddess is bathed in water, milk, ghee (Clarified butter), honey and sugar. Thereafter the goddess is dressed-up in a saree, chola and chuni and ornaments are endowed upon her. The whole process takes place amidst the enchantment of various shlokas and Mantras. Thereafter Tilak is placed on the forehead of the deity and Naived (prashad) is offered to her. The Pujaris perform puja of various Gods and Goddesses, as it is a believed that during the Aarti time, all the Gods and Goddesses are present inside the sanctum Sanctorum. The Jyoti (divine lamp) is lighted and then the 'Aarti' of the goddess is performed. After the whole procedure, the thaal which contains the lamp and various other items used in the 'Aarti', is brought outside the mouth of the holy cave, where 'Aarti' of the goddess is performed in the presence of yatris. The yatris who remain seated outside the holy cave during the time when the Aarti is performed inside the Sanctum Sanctorum, keep listening to the Pravachans of head Pandit. After the Aarti outside the holy cave is over, the pujari distributes Prasadam and the charanamrit ( the holy water) to the devotees.

This whole procedure of 'Aarti' takes nearly two hours during which time the darshans remain suspended. All the maintenance works required inside the cave are carried out during this time only.

Keeping in view the persistent demand and religious sentiments of the Yatries and taking into account the shraddha of the Yatries in the Individual Poojan started last year, another poojan facility named "SHRADHA SUMAN VISHESH POOJA" has been introduced for the devotees desirous of attending Aarti Darshan of the Holy Goddess. [ref: https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/shradha_suman_vishesh_pooja.aspx]

For Aarti Mantras and Stuti follow this link - https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/poojan1.aspx

Individual Poojan[edit]

On persistent demand from yatries and taking into consideration the sentiments involved, a system of individual Poojan has been introduced. This new Poojan system accommodates the religious sentiments associated with the pilgrimage and is in line with the system being followed at some other revered places of worship.

Under this Poojan Scheme, every morning, a Hawan/Poojan is performed in the Yagyashalla. Desirous Yatries are allowed to participate in this Havan and their name(s), gotra etc. are then chanted and prayers offered for their welfare and prosperity.

A variant of this Poojan is also allowed whereby the devotee need not be physically present. The Poojan is performed in his name and the Prashad is sent to him by post.

For more information about poojas visit https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/poojan.aspx or email to dm_enquiry at maavaishnodevi.net

Bhaint,Prasad and offerings[edit]

The traditional offerings to Mata include Chunri (a red coloured drape), Saries, Cholas, Silver or Gold ornaments, Dry Fruits, Flowers etc. No sweets, sweet dishes, food stuffs etc. are allowed inside the Holy Cave and pilgrims should refrain from buying such offerings. Coconuts are also not permitted due to security considerations and hence no Coconuts are allowed to be broken anywhere near the Holy Cave, as is the practice at other temples. But being so intimately connected with the traditional offerings they are not refused either. Pilgrims are required to deposit the Coconuts at a counter in the Main Waiting Hall, before entering the Holy Cave and are given a token in return. They can reclaim their coconuts from a separate counter, once they are out of the Holy Cave after having Darshans.

Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has its own no profit no loss shops at Bhawan known as Bhaint Shops where Prashad/Bhaints offerings are available at a fair price. Hence the pilgrims are not required to buy offerings at Katra and carry them all the way to Bhawan.

One can always donate in cash or in kind and obtain a proper receipt for the same. The Shrine Board is a non profit organization and donations help to create more and better facilities for all the visitors and are used in larger public interest

All offerings in cash are required to be put into the sealed donation boxes kept at various places and no donations in cash or kind are allowed to be handed over to any temple priest or anyone else. Computerised donation counters have been set up at various points at Katra and at Bhawan and devotees can offer cach/cheques/drafts and obtain computerised receipts on the spot.

All ornaments and jewelry offerings are to be deposited in the jewelry boxes kept in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Saries, Cholas, Chunris, etc. are also accepted here. Devotees who wish to offer larger ornaments can also deposit the same at the Office of the Sub Divisional Magistrate, Room No.8, Kalika Bhawan at Bhawan or the Office of the Chief Executive Officer, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Central Office, Katra. The larger ornaments are preserved and offered at the feet of Holy Goddess on a rotational basis.

Souvenirs and mementos[edit]

For yatries who wish to carry with them mementos of the great pilgrimage, the Shrine Board operates Souvenir Shops at Bhawan, Sanjichhat, Adkuwari, Katra bus stand and at Vaishnavi Dham (Jammu). Chunris, Cholas, Saris, shawls which have been offered to the Holy Goddess are available at these Souvenir Shops at nominal prices. Pilgrims can obtain them and preserve them as souvenirs or can place them at the place of worship inside their houses.

Besides, other exclusive items available at the Souvenir Shops include, audio cassettes, CDs, various publications of Shrine Board, laminated photos of the Holy Pindies, Jute Bags, Bangle Chura etc. Yatries may take notice that all these items are exclusively available at the Souvenir Shops of Shrine Board and are not available at any of the private shops.

The Shrine Board has developed Gold and Silver coins of guaranteed purity. These coins carry an impression of the Holy Pindies and are made of Gold or Silver offered at the feet of the Goddess. These coins are available at the Prashad counter just outside the Holy Cave and at all the banks at Bhawan. The rates of the coins depend on the denomination chosen and the prevailing gold/silver rates.

Other useful links[edit]

Plan a Yatra: https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/planyatra-howtoreach.aspx

Facilities: https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/accomodations.aspx

Helpdesk: ..

Booking information: https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/booking-information.aspx

Shrine Board: https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/shrine-board.aspx

Other Places of interest: https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/around-katra.aspx

Online service: https://www.maavaishnodevi.org/OnlineServices/login.aspx

The Bhawan[edit]

   Reaching Bhawan [1] 
        Obtaining a Group Number [2]
        Facilities Available at Bhawan [3]
        Preparing for Darshans [4]
        Waiting in Queue [5]
        Coconut Prasad Counter [6]
        The Original Cave and New Tunnel [7] 
        Ornamentation [8] 
        Amrit Kund & Charan Ganga [9] 
        Prasad [10]
        Coconut Reclaim Counter [11]
        Other Darshans Inside Cave [12] 
        Other Darshans at Bhawan [13]

Picture Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]