A famous Hindu temple of Jammu and Kashmir, dedicated to Goddess Durga .
Two popular legends on the origin of the temple. First one is that after long prayers to Goddess Durga, Sri. Ratnakar Sagar got a girl child- named as Trikuta. The girl was an ardent devotee of Lord Sriram. At the age of nine, she started severe penance to get Lord Sriram as her husband. Pleased by her devotion Lord Sriram appeared to the girl. Lord Sriram promised to marry the girl in Kaliyuga as he already has Devi Sita as her wife during this incarnation.
Thereafter, Lord Sriram asked the girl to go to the Trikuta range in the Himalaya and do the meditation. The legend tells us that the girl came to Trikuta from South India and took abode here as Vaishnodevi.
The second legend, which is popular, tells us that there was an ardent Devi devotee known as Sri Dhar around this place. One day, to get the blessing of the Devi, he organized a Bhandara (a feast to feed the mendicants and devotees) at his home.
Then a demon called Bhairav Nath challenged this ritual as he declared he is superior to Devi in strength. A tussle between Devi and Bhairav Nath followed; to save his life, the demon flew to nearby Trikuta ranges; devi chased and killed him.
There is a shrine to Bhairavnath near this temple; tradition holds that a devotee has to visit this temple to complete his Vaishnodevi pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, at his home, Sri Dhar waited for Devi to come back after killing the demon. After a long wait he started searching for Devi. Then a divine voice directed him the path to the present day shrine of Vaishnodevi. He got the darshan of Devi at the spot where the present temple is. Sri Dhar became the priest of the temple and his descendants still worship Vaishno Devi as priests of the temple.
The ancient shrine also gets associated with Arjuna of Mahabharata; he said to have invoked the Goddess Vaishno Devi before the famous Mahabharata war.
The Goddess Vaisho Devi is known as a mother who fulfills whatever is prayed by her devotees.
This is a cave temple at an altitude of about 5200 feet’s above the sea level. The sanctum sanctorum is in a cave where Devi is represented by three natural rock formations. Known as “Pindies”. The three rocks are said to represent three forms of Devi as Maha lakshmi, Maha Saraswati and Goddess Durga.The temple is open to worship throughout the year.
Being a cave temple at a high altitude, the entry to the temple is regulated by the temple authorities.
The base camp for the Vaishnodevi pilgrimage is Katra, near Jammu. From Katra, one has to take a 12 kilometers long trek to reach the temple.
Before starting the trek the pilgrims have to register at the Yatri Registration Centre (YRC) offices at old and new bustands at Katri. On registration, the pilgrims shall get a certificate called ‘’yatra parchi” which has to be carried by hand during the pilgrimage.
As the support system for the pilgrims are limited at the temple complex, during rush days they were stopped at Katra to follow a queue system. So it is better to avoid holidays and week days or else be prepared to get stranded at Katra for a long time!!
Katra is 50 kilometers from Jammu.