The shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is one of the most visited pilgrim sites in India. Situated at a height of 5, 300 ft., the site is located inside a cave in a hill. One of the most visited pilgrim sites in India, the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is located in a cave, amidst the folds of the Trikuta Bhagwati hill at a height of 5, 300 ft., in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K). This cave temple is at a distance of 61 kms from Jammu and the last 13 kms of the way have to be negotiated on foot by the yatris, as the devotees are called. Once at the entrance to the cave, the path turns into a narrow tunnel with a cold stream named the Charan Ganga running through it. The pilgrim has to wade through this to reach the sanctum sanctorum.
The holy cave shrine of Vaishno Devi is nestled in a beautiful recess of
Mountains forming a part of the lower Himalayas. It is located 61 km north of Jammu at a height of 5,200 feet above the sea level in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the cave there are images of three deities viz. the Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati.
The Vaishno Devi shrine is nestled in the Trikuta Mountain. It lies 61 km north of Jammu in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. Perched at a height of 5,200 feet above the sea level, Vaishno Devi is a cave in the lower Himalayas. Katra, the town at the foot of the Trikuta hills is the base camp for the Vaishno Devi shrine. Katra is 48 km from Jammu, 650 km from Delhi (via Una), 520 km from Udhampur, 410 km from Chandigarh and 80 km from Patnitop The shrine is visited all through the year, but the path is difficult during the winters when the route is often blocked by snowfall.
The temple of Vaishno Devi is dedicated to Vaishnavi, the human manifestation of Goddess Shakti. Within the temple is the deity in the form of a five and half feet tall rock with three Pindies or heads. It is written that the goddess to achieve her destiny of finally merging with Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a human and was born as Vaishnavi, in the household of one Ratnakar. Even as a young girl, Vaishnavi displayed an immense thirst for knowledge that soon out thought her teachers. Soon she started to search within herself for the answers that she couldn't find elsewhere and learnt the art of meditation. Realizing the importance of Tapasya (meditation) Vaishnavi renounced all worldly comforts and betook herself to the forest to meditate in peace.
Legend has it that while Vaishnavi was in the forest she encountered Lord Rama, prince of Ayodhya, who was in exile. Recognizing him immediately as an avatar of Lord Vishnu she begged him to merge with her, but Lord Rama, knowing that the time was not ripe promised her that on the completion of his exile he would again pass that way. If she recognized him then he would fulfill her wishes. True to his word he returned in the guise of an old man, but Vaishnavi failed to recognize him. Rama consoled her and advised her to set up an ashram at the base of the Trikuta Hills and continue with her penance.