Trikuta Mountain, State of Jammu and Kashmir.
62km from Jammu, 14km from Katra.
The next airport or railroad station is at Jammu. From here a road leads 48km to Katra. The last 14km to the cave must be walked. The route is Katra, Ban Ganga, Charan Paduka, Adhkunwari, Bhavan, Vaishno Devi.
|Open:||All year daily. Access may be impossible in winter because of snow.|
|Fee:||Tourists need a pass to enter the shrine. The pass is available at Katra and will be checked at Ban Ganga and at the shrine.|
|Classification:||Karst cave, cave church.|
|Dimension:||L=33m, H=1.80m, A=1,525m.|
|Guided tours:||self guided|
|Address:||Manager, Dharmasth Trust Durbar, Vaishno Devi, Tel: 23.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|~1000||discovered by Pandit Shridhar.|
The Holy Cave Shrine of Vaishno Devi is located in the north of India, in a part of the lower Himalayas called Tirkuta Hills. It is a rather small and narrow cave, which is used as a temple. It contains images of the three dieties Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati. The cave is a holy place and it is visited by pilgrims in groups. An artificial exit allows a big number of visitors.
There are numerous legends about the goddess, a Brahman named Shridhar and much more. They are told on the official website (see link below). But there is a strange and somewhat funny story about the shrine, which is not mentioned in official publications:
At the beginning of the 1990s the cave once was overcrowded with visitors. This situation is not new or special, as millions of pilgrims visit the shrine every year. However, on this day so many people tried to get into the cave, they absolutely blocked the cave entrance and twelve people in the cave died. Although the reason for their death were too many people in the same place, and they were most likely just tread on, the word spread that they suffocated. Since then every Indian thinks, that man is generally in danger of suffocating in caves. At Vaishno Devi a tunnel was built as an exit from the cave, which allows one way visits. But also ventilation shafts were built to prevent suffocation. And it seems that since this day every show cave in India is equipped with ventilation shafts.
A famous example for this mania are the newly developed Belum Caves which was equipped with three artificial shafts with electric fans!
The Vaishno Devi temple is acknowledged as one of the Shakti Peeths of goddess Durga. Inside the Sanctum Sanctorum, are three stones resembling the three magic stones of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This are the Darshans of the deity in her three manifestations as three Pindies.
The only way to reach the shrine is a 24km walk with an ascent of more than 1,000m. This walk is rather arduous but the necessary efforts, the extraordinary scenic beauty of the landscape and the constant chanting of Jai Mata Di, gives the devotees the right mood to enjoy the final visit of the cave temple.
This pilgrimage includes numerous other sight, for example Bhumika Temple, Kalika Temple, Shiva Goompha, and Ban Ganga Temple with the spring of the holy river Ban Ganga. Ban is the word for arrow and commemorates the legend, how the stream was created, and Ganga denotes the purity and the holiness of the water. There is a legend which explains this name.
The goddess Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, the eternal virgin, was on her way to the holy cave, accompanied by langoors (apes). Her company became thirsty, and so she shot an arrow into the ground, and immediately water came out of this hole, which has been flowing continuously since then.
The geologic explanation of the spring being a karst spring is rather prosaic...