Saturday, February 11, 2012

Memoirs of Maa Vaishno Devi Trip

Our life’s four main objectives are—Dharm (righteousness), Kaam (Pleasure), Moksh (Knowledge) and Arth (Wealth). All four blessings are conferred on us when we do the right karma and visit Maa Vaishno Devi shrine. No one goes empty handed from the great pilgrimage of Maa Vaishno Devi .This place is quest and expression of one’s faith. There is an invisible force which compels so many people year after year.

Maa Vaishno Devi shrine is a must see place before one die! For a Mata ka bhagat this place is where the deity truly stays. Worshipping VAISHNO DEVI shrine means offering Puja to tri Maha shakti (Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati) at a time. Every one of us is aware of this holy place; many of us have earlier visited and many will visit it for the first time in future. I visited the shrine for the second time; I was 6 month old when I visited there with my parent for first time. Before I get into the travelogue I will shortly describe about Maa Vaishno Devi legend and the Shrine.

As the legend goes, more than 700 years ago, Vaishno Devi, a devotes of Lord Vishnu used to pray to Lord Ram had taken vow of celibacy.BhaironNath , a tantrick (demon-God) tried to behold her and gave a chase. The Goddess felt thirsty at Banganga and shot an arrow into the earth from where water gushed out. The Goddess then meditated in the cave at Adhkawari. It took Bairon Nath nine month to locate her, the reason why the cave is known as 'Garbh Joon' Mata Vaishno Devi blasted an opening at the other end of the cave with Her Trident when the demon -God located her. On arriving at the holy cave at Darbar, she assumed the form of Maha Kali and cut of Bhairon Nath's head which was flung up the mountain by the force of blow and fell at the place where the Bhairon Temple is now located . The boulder at the mouth of the holy cave according to the legend is petrified torso of Bhairon nath who was granted divine forgiveness by the benevolent Mata in his dying moments.

The Shrine is located in udhampur district in the northern most state of india, Jammu and Kashmir. Mata Vaishno devi ji resides in a holy cave located in the mountain called trikoot or trikuta. The holy cave is situated at an altitude of 5200 ft. One has to undertake a trek of around 12 KM from the base camp at katara. A visit to the temple of Bhairon baba (additional 2KM trek) is an obligatory part of the pilgrimage.

From past one year I was planning this trip. But as they say you can reach Darbar only when Maa wishes and I personally experienced this (more on that later). I was keen to visit Maa vaisno devi in Chaitra Navratras (April) but things turned out unfavorable for the trip. Then I planned for the same in July but again I could not make the trip plan successful.Finally after long wait the plan materialised in October.  Someone has rightly said that unless her bulawa comes, a visit there is virtually impossible.

After reaching Jammu we picked up an auto for Jammu bus depot for 100 rupees. The auto rickshaw charges are very high. 100 rupees for a 5 KM journey was pinch on pocket. After reaching the Jammu bus stand we took the so called ‘Delux’ bus for Katara. The charges are anywhere around 35-40 rupees depending upon individual bus operator. Don’t get fooled by the ‘ABS’, ‘Air suspension’, ’DVD’ and ‘Volvo’ stickers on these buses. These are just normal buses. One thing which I should write about Jammu is that it is very polluted city. The prime reason for this is that all buses run on diesel unlike in Delhi/NCR where we have CNG. Same goes for the autos; they run on petrol and not on CNG. On the route to Katara we faced a massive traffic jam for around 2 hour. The reason for the jam was because of the repair work going near one of the two tunnels en route to katara and only one tunnel was operational. It took 4.5 hours for us to reach katara. Just before reaching katara all buses were  stopped near a police check post and every passenger has to get the security checked.I don’t know what is the need of this formality as there was no x-ray machines/metal detectors.

The bus dropped us at ‘Asia Chowk’ and we found a decent hotel – “Hotel Basera”. We checked in for 1500 INR per night (A/C room though the weather was quite cold). The room was OK considering the budget. The good thing for the hotel is that the hotel car dropped us to Banganga next morning and then back to Katara bus stand the other day for free. The bad thing is that the room service is poor. The guys took more than 1.5 hours to bring us the food we ordered.

Most hotels (including ours) provide Yatra parchi for free. So there is no need to get the parchi from the airport and waste 100 rupees. We planned to start our trek early morning around 4-5 AM and we were successful in doing that. The Hotel car (read Maruti Omni) dropped us near banganga at 4.30 AM and we were set to go. We started our trek around 4.45 AM after security check and Parchi registration.

There are large numbers of food joints along the track till ardhkuwari, but not after that. Washrooms are also in plenty numbers en route. The trek is difficult for sure. The ascent and descent are sometimes painful. We were in no hurry and walked casually in relaxed manner. It took us complete six hours to complete the trek and do the darshan. The rush was very less and it hardly took us 15 minutes to bow our heads in front of Maa. After this we had some lunch from the food court near the shrine and started our trek to Bhairo baba. The route to bhaironath is even more difficult. The bhaironath temple is very small with less security. After Bhaironath visit we started return journey. While returning we preferred stairs as it saves lot of time. In about three hours we reached our hotel. The trip was memorable and full of adventures.

We returned back to Delhi with the promise to come again soon.

Some Stats -

Now let the pictures do the talking!

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