The Vaishno Devi Temple is situated at an altitude of 5200ft above sea level in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This holy shrine is set in the mountains, which is about 650 kilometers from the National Capital, Delhi. Situated on the top of the Trikuta mountain, at a height of 1700mts is the cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi-the Mother Goddess.Vaishno Devi in India is regarded as one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites in India.
A must visit place for those on a north India pilgrimage, the Vaishno Devi upholds a sanctity that attracts thousands of devotees every year. For the Hindus, it is one of the holiest places of worship in India. The cave shrine is 61kms from Jammu and it is 30mts long and just one and a half mt high and is open round the year for people of any religion. Millions of Indians from all parts of India visit this shrine. Such, is the reverence this holy cave shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi, people swear by her ability to fulfill all their wishes.
At the end of the cave are the three stone idols dedicated to the three forms of the mother Goddess-Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. To reach this holy cave shrine pilgrims have to enter a narrow opening in small groups and walk through ice-cold water.
There are many legendary tales associated with the Vaishno Devi shrine. According to a legend, Mother Goddess hid in the cave, while trying to escape from a demon, whom she ultimately killed. It is said that, the devotees who visit the Mata or Mother for fulfilling their wishes, never go empty handed. But there are some who throng the holy shrine, only to see the Mata. Vaishno Devi, in India is a one of the sacred pilgrimage sites in India.
The route to reach the shrine of Mata Devi passes through Katra, which is 13kms from the shrine and is the base point for the pilgrimage to star their climb to the shrine. One can rent a horse or can be carried up or else walk up the mountain. From there, pilgrims climb 1km to Banganga, where the Goddess is believed, to have stopped to drink water. And 6kms away is the cave shrine of Ardhkuwari, where she is believed to have meditated for nine months. The final stop of the shrine is Bhawan, where arrangements are made for wash and change, accommodation and for depositing luggage and valuables.
The nearest airport base and the train station is Jammu that is 48kms from Katra. Regular buses and private car service is available between Jammu and Katra. The climb to Vaishno Devi is not easy. One can go up the cave and be back on the same day. It normally takes four hours to climb and 3 hours to descend. Pilgrims must get a yatra-slip from the tourist reception centre to pass BanGanga.
Regarded an accomplishment or sorts by the pilgrims, a trip to the holy shrine of Ma Vaishno Devi fulfils every pilgrim's aspiration of a holy pilgrimage.