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Wednesday, March 17, 2010


We decided to go to Vaishno Devi [which is perched on top of the TRIKUTA mountains at the height of 5200 ft, 61 km north of Jammu]. We planned [husband and self] to avail LTC to Jammu and back to Bangalore via Anand in Nov, 2001.

I had been to madras to attend an important wedding and later to Bangalore. On Diwali day only we two could carry on with the trip as my daughter was busy with her BBA final year and son busy with his OCP course. 

We boarded the Rajdhani from Bangalore and we reached Delhi by morning, took rest in the RLY rest room. In the evening took the Jammu Tawi express train to Jammu. The next day we reached Jammu and  even those days we could hardly see civilians on the platform. Security outnumbered them everywhere , there were fully armed Jawans. The atmosphere was tense.

We went by bus to Katra -the foot hill for the darshan. Katra is 52 kms from Jammu and it took 2 hrs to reach. It was a picturesque landscape with some rivers running over.  All the hotels serve strictly vegetarian food. 

First we went and registered at the Yatri Registration Centre and got the slip. This slip helps the govt to know the number of pilgrims who visit everyday.

I should mention that we felt we had taken a wrong season to visit. Those who visited advised us that it would be very cold and we better be prepared for the bitter cold so we carry enough warm clothes. Hence we had over coat, sweaters, cardigans, socks, gloves, scarves and muffler and shawl. 
 This itself had occupied more space in the suitcases.  The problem was carrying them. Though it was around ten in the morning we could feel it was quite warm. Since we were advised we carried all and started on the journey by foot, thinking that by evening we would reach the hill.

Once we reached the temple on the hill, we got the numbers for our turn to stand in the queue. After regular rituals we left for climbing from Banganga. From here one can start journey by walking or by horse covering the 12 km. We decided to walk and lo just we would have walked for some 20 min- I started gasping.

My palpitation started and I just could not move ahead whereas my husband could. I explained to him my plight and he suggested that I use the pony, he would climb and join me up the hill! I clearly put my foot down and said that both go by pony and not separately. Who would know what would happen to whom ? I did not want to die like an orphan in some place where no one knows you, ditto for him.

After a lot of thinking, he agreed but the issue came when we had to pay for the pony. He felt 100/ Rs per person was too much, I felt -when you have no option and considering the charges and the risk -it is nothing. So we climbed and I made sure he went first but I had to scream in between for my pony to wait or vice versa. 

There is a technique in sitting on the pony while climbing up and down. First you stretch your leg and next is to tuck them. Otherwise your back is not yours.

You also have the provision of using the palki, carried by two and for tiny frame bodies and kids .People are there to physically carry on their back the entire stretch. One can hire them and sticks and shoes are also available on request for rent. 

It was a harrowing experience, the jolt and so many ponies overtaking and pilgrims criss crossing in between and it was like you are never out of danger, with thin line between death and life. The small boys who handle the ponies are quite at ease, but how do they know what is our fear!  

My mind started thinking all impossibles like if I die, what would my husband do there though we have informed the travel details to both the kids who were in two different locations. 

Somehow it took an hour for us to reach the place andfrom here  we cannot use the ponies. Come the difficulty, it took a full two and half hour to cover the 5 km to reach the top of the hill. 

I would ask whoever was coming back from the darshan, how much distance was left to reach, and all together said I should not ask but rather say, 'Bolo, Jai Mata di'.
 All were saying,''Zor se bolo, Jai Mata di, aagewale Jai Mata Di, peeche wale Jai Mata Di''.
I, after every 50 steps  would look up to see how much was left to climb. It was surprising to see so many in groups singing and joking enjoying the trip. Here we two with no company and aged {!!] chosen a wrong time.

We were cursing people who said it would be severe cold. Did they ever anticipate that we would encounter problem in carrying the warm clothes which were literally heavy like a dead body!!! We were blaming and avoiding the other. Thanks to Gulshan kumar who has done the entire stretch of the trek with many coffee shops, snacks and cold drinks apart from a place for those who need to inhale oxygen.

Finally, we reached and there we had to deposit our footwear and all leather items, hair pins, safety pins, wrist watches, batteries , walk man set, except cash and medicines anything sharp, were not allowed.

Once we reached the temple on the hill, we got the numbers for our turn to stand in the queue. We waited for our numbers to be flashed on the gate entrance. Since my husband was in his safari suit [those days it was not the attire of commandos or security personnel] the people at the gate mistook him for some VIP thanks to his personality, allowed us even before our turn. It is God’s will. 

We started moving in the queue; security check was done in two places to rule out any untoward incidents. We did not take any coconuts for offering and we decided to contribute money at the shrine. Till a particular point coconuts are allowed.

At last we were asked to enter a cave like structure to have the darshan, we bent down and came to the place. The Goddesses, Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati are in the form of rock ‘pindies’. They are placed on an elevated platform and the pundits who sit there offer you the Prasad. It is another Tirupati where one sees the pushing by the guards who hurry you to move from the place soon after darshan. Only thing is they do not say,’ jargandi’

Once the darshan over, we could feel the relief. But I pitied the Jawans who perched on top of the hill guarding the nation , as by evening it became chill and poor people they are physically and emotionally away from their family and they do not have any entertainment, or company to kill their time there, . They have to protect themselves from the biting cold as well protect the border. 

We started looking for the Tiffin house, all we could get after push and pull was Rajma and pulao, these are the regular food item, if you are lucky you get puris and sabji. It was ‘amrutham’ for us because we ate dosa at 9.30 am and by 6.15 we were like beggars frantically looking for refreshment stalls. 

Having fulfilled our pilgrimage, we went in search of the ponies to drop us down at Katra.

Again usual of my husband after bargaining, we hired two ponies, which were sisters, owners again two young brothers. The funny thing was if one stopped the other also stopped, if one ran, the other followed. I was more worried about tracking my husband since it became dark.

[Though the lights were there all thro' the road] The path was narrow with very less space for pilgrims and dolis, and ponies. In that pitch dark and chill weather, the unknown place everything put together, apart from the deep valley just by the side of us made the return journey terrifying and nerve wracking! It was like if you give a miss, you just fall thumping down and not even a single bone could be found.
These two ponies would walk side by side,I ,in between, would scream at the boys to take them apart but instead he would address me ,’ amma ‘ [south Indian]’ maji’, ‘didi’, etc and would say, ‘darrna nahi’,’ye tho bahen hai’.

It was jerking trip down and by the time we reached the hotel, it was all over. We had broken our back, however costly it was we ordered food to the room, and by the time it came we had a tough time to decide as to who would open the door. 

We took bath and had dinner, and applied’ Iodex’, swallowed Metacin and fell on the bed, did not even move for the fear of breaking our backs. It was a horrible experience, and we were new to this pony ride and did not know the tricks, and waited for the first bus to reach Jammu station for Delhi. 

By morning we felt somewhat better, purchased two Kashmiri dress material for our daughter, and a carpet. We reached the station by noon. Reached Delhi on Sunday. The same night boarded the train to Vadodara.

I am writing this to inform people who intend to go to Vaishnodevi to do it when you are young, have energy and also try to go in groups so that you do not feel the tiredness.
I can be proud of saying that I have covered the north and south of India!
this piece is from a mail 

The story of Goddess Vaishno Devi is about seven hundred years old. Two kilometers away from present Katra town, is a village named Hansali. This picturesque-place surrounded on all sides by trees and brooks,pre­sents a thrilling view of nature. One day, in the midst of this
atmosphere a sound was reverberating in the mountains of Trikuta....
“I don't know hymns; I don't know how to adore thee; I don't know formal  worship; I don't know even your shape; neither have I known the method of meditation nor the postures of meditation story all my sins and help to attain, whatever I deserve,” said Pan­dit Shri-Dhar.

His throat choked, tears rolled down the cheeks, sweat drops appeared over his forehead; lips quivered. Shri-Dhar asked the Goddes, “You are the greatest of great. You are knower of known and unknown. Why don't
you accept my prayers? What are the short-comings in my wor­ship?”
Pan­dit Shri-Dhar was talking as if to him with emo­tion and devotion. His whole body was shivering and suddenly a murmuring sound came beneath the fallen dry leaves.

This sound was of an anklet that filled the air. Shri-Dhar was aghast to see six small girls sitting in line with folded legs. Suddenly Panditji's eyes fell on a ravishing face, full of beauty and splendor.
he was amazed and bewitched. It seemed as if hundreds of suns were
blazing on her face. This girl had never been spotted in the village
earlier. Her clothes were red in color and she was wearing an anklet.
Who was this young girl and what happened with Pandit Shri Dhar? Know the entire story in the next few slides…

The girl looked at Pandit who was staring her and she put her feet in the front of him. He started to wash her feet. Then he wor­shipped all the seven girls and served flowers. Later he served food and gave
'Dakshina' (offering in cash) to them. All the girls, except the divine
shaped girl, left.

Panditji was about to ask her some questions, when the girl, said to him, “I have come to you for an important job. You convey to people in the vil­lage and around, that you are holding a feast in the name of
god.” Before Panditji could ask her any­thing, the girl disappeared.
Shri-Dhar was perplexed. Who was that girl? She should have been a
divine girl. Shri-Dhar was now anxious about holding of 'Bhandara', the feast in the wor­ship of god.

He thought that he could invite everyone, but who would arrange the eatables and other material required for it? However, he left his home to invite people from the village and near-by places. His guest list
also included ‘Bhairav Nath’.

After inviting a lot of people, Shri-Dhar was very tired and fell asleep at night. In the morning, he got worried about the arrangements for 'Bhandara' and people started to pour in. Shri Dhar was worried as
nothing had been arranged.Suddenly, the same divine girl, wearing red apparel and a trident in hand, appeared in front of Shri-Dhar and said, “Panditji, leave your wor­ries. Everything will be arranged. You get up and ask the holy men to get into your hut and eat food.” Shri-Dhar got up and requested the  saints to grace his hut.
People of the village sat outside his hut and the Bhandara started. The
divine girl started to distribute food from a mystic pot (Kamandal).
Panditji was happy, while others were surprised as everyone was servedfood of their choice. 

On seeing this, Bhairav-Nath admitted that the girl had some supernatural powers. He decided to confront her and when the girl reached near him, he said to the girl, “You have served food to
everybody as per their choice. Now serve me also food of my choice —
meat and drinks (wine).”

The girl replied, “Sir, please do not forget that you are sitting in a Brahmins hut and this au­spicious feast is vegetarian. So, please ask only those foods which are vegetarian.” Bhairav, however, stood by his
choice. He wanted to test the powers of this amazing girl. Discussions
started over this issue and Bhairav lost temper. He tried to catch hold
of the hand of girl. The girl disappeared. Bhairav, too, was not an
ordinary human-being. He went into samadhi (Intense meditation) and saw by his spiritual powers that the girl is moving towards Trikuta
He followed her. 
Meanwhile, Pandit Shri-Dhar became restless just like a fish out of water. The divine girl had left the hut since last two days. He was continuously gazing towards the unknown. He stopped eating, drinking and

talking. It seemed as if the jug of water had been snatched from the
hands of a thirsty man. The day passed in this way and night set in. He
fell asleep.
While sleeping, he felt, as if, someone is pressing his hand on his
head. The soft touch of hand gave him relief and he opened his eyes. To his astonishment, he found Durga goddess riding a lion, adorned with ornaments, trident in her hand and many other-weapons gracing her dazzling and sparkling personality. Panditji reverently bowed down his head and sang hymns in the worship of mother. The goddess asked, Why did you stop eating and drinking? How can you worship with an empty belly? Come, I will show you my abode.”

Shri-Dhar followed mother with folded hands and they reached a cave. Seeing the cave, the home of the goddess, tears rolled down his cheeks in reverence. He bowed down his head and worshipped the god­dess mother.
Then they came out of the cave. The moment he ejected-out of cave the
bright light fell on his eyes and Shri-Dhar awoke from his sleep.
Panditji was very happy. He remembered every bit of path, place, the
goddess in 'Pindi' shape, the beautiful cave, the mountains falling on
the way, etc.
Nine months passed by. Bhairav Nath was loit­ering on the mountains in search of mystic girl. He sat in meditation several times and tried to know the whereabouts of the girl through mystic pur­suits but he

failed. Although he knew that the di­vine girl is hidden somewhere on
the same moun­tain yet he could not locate her. The path, she fol­lowed,
was not clear. Earlier, he had seen a monkey with a red flag in hand
with the girl. Then he saw the girl hitting a stone with an arrow and
water gushed out of that stone.

Bhairav reached near that place and again sat in meditation. He saw the girl standing at the moun­tain top. Bhairav went to that place and found the foot-print (marks) on the stone. Then he could not locate the
girl for nine months. His innate desire for the search of girl,
increased to the extent of mad­ness.
One day his eyes fell on a hermit. Bhairav en­quired of hermit, “Sir, have you seen any girl here?” The hermit replied, "Perhaps you are not aware, that goddess Maha Devi lives here. The hermit stopped Bhairav,

but he was stubborn about en­tering the cave. He thought how a girl
could re­main hidden in cave for nine months. Mother goddess was
witnessing the mental agony and turbulence of Bhairav, but she wanted to continue the play a bit more.
On seeing Bhairav entering the cave, she tore open a path behind the
cave by her trident and came out. The goddess went ahead, while Bhairav followed her. At last the goddess reached near the beautiful cave on Trikut Mountains. Goddess asked Bhairav to return and stop following her, but Bhairav refused.

 So the goddess kept the monkey as a guard on cave-mouth and entered in the cave. Bhairav also started to enter the cave. However, the monkey stopped him. Bhairav threw him away and entered the cave. Goddess saw him entering and took the shape of fierce 'Chandi' god­dess and killed Bhairav by her sword.Since Bhairav Nath was not an ordinary human being, he was a spiritual saint, his head separated from the body, but the consciousness still remained. He felt sorry for his conduct. He repented and asked the goddess to pardon him. 

On listening to the prayers of Bhairav, the mother took pity on him. She gave him a boon and said, “After my worship, people will be worshipping you also. Your soul will be liberated. The devotees will
visit your shrine after pilgrimage to my abode. The devotees, who pay
obeisance to you, will also get their desires fulfilled.”
As per this boon, the pil­grims of holy Mata Vaishno Devi shrine later visit the temple of Bhairav Baba. The place, where the Bhairav's head fell, houses a temple in the name of Bhairav.
History of Mata Vaishno Devi

Whenever righteousness and virtue has been under pressure of demoniac forces, the cosmic mother has overpowered such forces by taking dif­ferent 'Rupas' • (Different supernatural forms or shapes) and saved her devotees. In the beginning of the universe, Maha-Shakti was created out of all supernatural forces (Tejas) of gods united into one. The same later took birth as Maha-kali, Maha­Laxmi and Maha-Saraswati. All the three 'Rupas' represent the human characteristics Viz Raj, Tam and Satva-gun.

In Treta-yug when Ravana, Kumb-Karan, Khar­Dooshan, Tadka and other demons tormented the virtuous men, the goddess decided to create a di­vine form for their protection. This gave birth to a beautiful divine girl. The divine girl enquired of Devas, the cause and reason of her birth. The di­vine forces told her that she had been created to protect Dharma and rekindle spirit of religion. She was asked to go to South India and take birth at the home of Ratnakar Sagar as a girl-child. Girl was named Trikuta. Later the same girl was cal­led Vaishno because of her taking birth from Lord Vishnu's lineage. The religion propogated by this goddess girl was called Vaishno-Dharm.

Within a short duration the goddess attracted the attention of gods, saints and holy persons. The fame of her divine power and miracle spread far and wide. People started visiting the abode of di­vine girl to get benediction. After some time Trikuta sought permission from her father for tak­ing penance on sea shore. She prayed to Lord Vis­hnu in the form of Rama and waited for Shri Ram Chander ji while meditating. When Lord Ram Chander ji reached the sea-shore along with his army in search of Sita, his eyes fell on this divine girl in deep meditation. Ram ji enquired of Trikuta ji, her name and reason for penance. Devi replied that she had accepted Sh. Ram Chander as her husband by mind and heart. On hearing this Ram Chander ji told her that he had vowed to be faith­ful to wife. However, Ram ji wished that penance of Trikuta should not go waste and unfruitful. Therefore he said to her, "I will definitely come to see you in a disguised form. If you can recognize me at that time then I will accept you."

It is said that on his return from Lanka, Lord Rama went to see the girl in the form of an old monk (Sadhu). Trikuta could not recognize god. However Lord assured the girl that in 'Kaliyuga' he will manifest himself as 'Kalki' god incarnate and will marry her. He asked Trikuta to meditate on god in the cave found in Trikuta range of Manik mountains, situated in north India. He said that Trikuta will become immortal for ever. The whole world will sing her praise and pray. Later Trikuta will become famous as 'Vaishno Devi'. Monkeys will be her body guards.

It is believed, that daughter of 'Ratnakar Sagar' Vaishno goddess, who was born by the benedic­tion of gods and goddesses, is adorning the holy cave since 'Treta Yug'.


1 comment:

  1. That was a superb write up..........

    We had broken our back, however costly it was we ordered food to the room, and by the time it came we had a tough time to decide who would open the door.

    This was hillarious
    from sweet 17