Vaishnodevi , Jammu
Situated at an altitude of 5,200 feet above sea level, the Holy Cave Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi or Trikuta Bhagwati has been a beacon of faith and fulfillment to millions of devotees from all over the world.
The journey to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji starts with a call from the mother It is the general belief that the Divine Mother sends a call to her devotees. And once a person receives it, wherever he is, the visit to the Holy Shrine is bound to materialize to receive her unbounded love and blessings.
A popular slogan in the local folklore beautifully expresses it- Maan Aap Bulandi - which means that The Mother Herself Calls! It is also a matter of experience by almost all those who visit the Holy Shrine that upon the Call of Mata, a person needs to just take one step and leave the rest to Her and his journey gets completed with Her divine blessings. Simultaneously, it is also believed that unless there is a call or Bulawa no one can visit the Shrine or have Her blessings, irrespective of his position.
A geological study of the Holy Cave has indicated its age to be nearly a million years. As per belief the practice of worshipping Shakti, largely started in the Puranic period and the first mention of the Mother Goddess is in the epic Mahabharat. When the armies of Pandavs and Kaurvas were arrayed in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjun, the chief warrior of Pandavs upon advice of Sri Krishna; meditated upon the Mother Goddess and sought Her blessings for victory. This is when Arjun addresses the Mother Goddess as 'Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye', which means 'you who always dwell in the temple on the slope of the mountain in Jamboo' (probably referring to the present day Jammu). It is also generally believed that the Pandavs were the first to build the temples at Kol Kandoli and Bhawan in reverence and gratitude for the Mother Goddess.
On a mountain, just adjacent to the Trikuta Mountain and overlooking the Holy Cave are five stone structures, which are believed to be the rock symbols of the five Pandavs. Perhaps the oldest reference of the visit of a historical figure to the Holy Cave is that of Guru Gobind Singh who is said to have gone there via Purmandal. The old foot track to the Holy Cave passed through this well-known pilgrimage centre. Some traditions believe this shrine to be the holiest of all Shaktipeeths (a place where the Mother Goddess, the Eternal Energy has Her abode) since the skull of Mata Sati fell here.
Others believe that her right arm had fallen here. But some scriptures do not agree with it. They do agree that at a place called Gandarbal in Kashmir, the right arm of Sati had fallen. Nevertheless, in the Holy Cave of Shri Mata Vaishno Deviji, one does find stone remains of a human hand, popularly known as Varad Hast (the hand that grants boons and blessings).
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