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About Mata Vaishno Devi Ji
As per the legend, during the period when the Adishakti was busy in annihilating the Asuras, Her three main manifestations “TRIDEVI” viz. Mata Maha Kali, 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 out of 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. Sometimes later a very beautiful girl child was born to Ratankar and his wife. The couple named the child Vaishnavi. 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 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 the time passed, Mahayogi Guru Gorakshnath ( who made lord Rama free from the sin of brahma-hatya which he acquired by killing Ravana) came to make words of lord Rama true for Vaishnavi. 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 Bhairavnath were invited. Mahayogi Guru Gorakshnath accepted Shridhar’s invitation, which surprised bhairavnath. Bhairavnath decided to find out the secret of the bhandara, as he knew no worldy man can feed Mahayogi Guru Gorakshnath and his followers including him. Bhairavnath also wanted to know why his master Mahayogi Guru Gorakshnath accepted the invitation. So, Bhairavnath decided to find out all this on his own. BhairavNath 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. Mahayogi Guru Gorakshnath went to bhandara with his 300 disciples including Bhairavnath. During the course of Bhandara BhairavNath 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.r 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 her self 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
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.