07-Nov-2009 -- This CP was just an impulse conquest. I have been going to the shrine of Vaishno Devi every year since the last 35 years. Out of curiosity, I looked up at the nearest CP and discovered that there was one right nearby just 3 miles from Katra.
I and my wife were to make the trip from New Delhi. We took the morning flight from Delhi and reached Jammu from where we took a taxi the Katra. I had forgotten my jacket in the overhead bin of the aircraft, and the ground crew could not retrieve it for me in time. However the weather was fine and I decided against buying one.
The one hour drive to Katra was pleasant, and the first sight of the holy Trikuta hills, the abode of the goddess Vaishno Devi filled us with eager anticipation.
Katra Town , lying in the foot of Trikuta Mountains , 48 kms. from Jammu and serves as the base camp for visiting the famous holy shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, which is approachable on foot along a 13 kms long well laid footpath. Every year, more than 4.5 million pilgrims pass through Katra on their holy pilgrimage to the shrine.
The cave shrine of Mata Vasihnodevi ji or Trikuta Bhagwati (alt: 5,200 ft.) has been a beacon of faith and fulfillment to millions of devotees from all over the world. The pilgrimage to the Shrine holds great significance for the pilgrims.
Popular belief holds that anybody who walks the Himalayan trail to the goddesses abode to ask for a boon rarely goes back disappointed. Whatever is it, a new enterprise or a forthcoming examination, marriage or birth, the devout look up to the Mata Vaishnodevi for blessings and guidance. There are many who journey year after year to pay obeisance regardless of their faith or belief, creed or class, caste or religion.
The pilgrimage to the holy temple of Mata Vaishno Devi is as fascinating as the legend associated with it. It goes that thousands of years ago, a comely maiden called "Vaishnavi" have been created by the three lords attained human form and was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Having taken a vow of celibacy, she spent almost all her life in meditation and prayers. In time she attained enormous spiritual powers and is believed to have extracted an assurance from Lord Rama that he will marry her in Kali Yug if she persisted in her spiritual quest.
This is why she is also known as Adh Kanwari or the "eternal virgin". Mata Vaishno Devi established an ashram in the foothills of the Trikuta Mountain and began to meditate. As predicted by Lord Rama, her glory started spreading and people began to flock to her ashram to seek her blessings. As time passed, a Tantrik called Gorakh Nath (Demon God), who had a vision of the episode between Lord Rama and Mata Vaishno Devi, became curious and wanted to know more about her. Accordingly, he sent his most able disciple `Bhairon Nath' to find out. Bhairon Nath started observing her secretly and realized that despite being a `Sadhvi', she always carried a bow and arrows and was always surrounded by black faced monkeys and a ferocious looking lion. Bhairon, the demon God took a fancy to her. But the Mata spurned his advances and fled to the Himalayas to continue her spiritual quest.
On the way the goddess felt thirsty at Banganga and shot an arrow into the earth from where water gushed out. Charan Paduka, which is marked by the imprints of her feet, is the place where she rested.
The Goddess then meditated in the cave at Adh Kanwari. It took Bhairon nine months to locate her, which is why the cave is known as Garbh Joon. When the demon found her, Mata Vaishno Devi blasted an opening at the other end of the cave with her trident and fled to the Holy cave which is the present day sanctum sanctorum.
However, Bhairon was persistent and followed her there to harass her. Then the goddess became very angry and assuming the form of Mata Kali, beheaded Bhairon outside the cave with the aid of the flying disc, called the Sudarshan Chakra that had been gifted to her by Lord Krishna.
The severed head of Bhairon fell at a distant hilltop. In his dying moments, Bhairon begged and received divine forgiveness from the goddess. Today, it is believed that the Yatra is not complete unless the pilgrim has been to Bhairon ka Mandir (2.6 km from the main sanctum) as well, after the darshan of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi.
The goddess herself took up permanent abode in a cave in the Trikuta Mountains by metamorphosing herself in to three small rocka which are known as the pindis. This holy temple of Mata Vaishno Devi is unique as it contains the holiest of holy Pindis manifesting the Mata in her three forms - Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati - each form representing a particular attribute. Maha Kali represents Tamas Guna, Tamas meaning darkness. In her manifestation of Kali the omnipotent, absolute and all pervasive, she is said to be beyond fear and finite existence and is therefore able to protect her devotees against fear and to give them limitless peace. Maha Lakshmi represents Rajas Guna, Rajas meaning prosperity. In this manifestation, the goddess blesses her devotees with wealth and prosperity for living a better life. Maha Saraswati represents Sattav Guna, Sattav meaning wisdom and knowledge. This manifestation enables her devotees to distinguish between good and bad and helps them to adopt the right path in life. The combination of these three attributes in a single Shakti is a unique combination, which is what makes it, revered all over the world. This is the story of the goddess.
We checked into a hotel and soon were on our way to the holy cave. Halfway, the climb seemed too much, and we got ourselves two ponies and reached the cave in the evening. After a quick bath in the icy cold mountain spring, we had darshan of the goddess. The experience is very fulfilling.
We spend a very uncomfortable night shivering beneath three blankets courtesy the shrine board. The return trip was to be by the helicopter which makes the four minutes flight to Katra compared to the six hours it takes on foot. The helipad was a good four kilometers from the Bhavan area, and we were both foot and saddle sore after the previous days rushed trek.
We reached the helipad before anyone else was there. The sun was just rising on the horizon and cast a wondrous glow on the hills. The ground staff soon started trickling in, and very soon we could hear the chukka-chukka of the helicopter reverberating in the hills. Soon the chopper appeared and as we were the only two passengers, the ground staff hand held us and guided us to our places inside. The rotors and the anti torque blades seemed so close. I was given the rear seat, my wife sat in the co-pilot’s seat. From my strapped down position. I could see the GPS fixed just below the windshield bubble. I am sure we flew over 35N 72 E, I tried catching the moment on the GPS but the rapid descent that we were making made the minutes and seconds just whirr away.
I was determined to get this CP, and tired as I was, I knew that once I had hit the sack, then it would be impossible to go forth. I sent my wife to the hotel from the helipad itself, and armed with my trusty Garmin and camera ventured forth to bag another CP. I took a Auto rickshaw, the trusted three wheeler, as I was sure that it would be able to get me to a nearest point to the CP.
A half hours drive got me to the village of Muttal. I had tried to follow the Garmin Nav but had it given it up half way, as in the twists and turns of the mountain roads the needle swayed crazily. We stopped for tea and some savories in a small village tea shop. After making a detour from the highway, we traversed a bridge beyond which we could see the aftereffects of a massive landslide. I had got the 75 degree parallel , but my aptitude for the latitude was lacking. The closest I could get to the east bearing was 32.97692. The CP was a good thousand metres away, but over hill and dale. I made the auto driver stop, and vacillated on the approaches that could be taken. I had a few of the Google earth maps with me, but I soon realized that this visit had come as a cropper.
Crossing the hill looming right in front of me would have been an impossible task singularly. This was another time I wished that Kasinath should have been along, together we would have conquered the CP in three four hours come what may.
Surprisingly there was not much disappointment on this failed attempt.
I came back to Katra as I had catch the return flight. Maybe next year Mata Vaishno Devi would guide me to the CP.