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I am an ardent blogger and a web enthusiast. My blogs include varied topics from the picturesque details of my travelogue to theology and worldly facts. My passions are reading English and Tamil classics, Management Topics, Playing Tennis and taking long walks. I live with my wife in Bangalore. Visit regularly my children in Michigan and Colorado to spend time with them and three grandsons. Please brief your opinions there in when you read my blog :- http://divinenotes.blogspot.com.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Vaishno Devi Yatra - March 2017 ( Day 1 - Part 1 )


                                                  
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Vaishno Devi Yatra 2017 ( Day 1 -  Part 1 )


Vaishno Devi Yatra ranks as very important in a pilgrim’s life and we are fortunate to join when Bhaktivedanta Academy for Spiritual Education announced the programme starting from 28th February to 7th March 2017. This is our third association with the Academy after ‘Sri Lanka Ramayana Trail ‘( Sep 2015 ) and ‘ Dwaraka Dham Yatra ‘ ( (Feb 2016).  Sri Vaishnavi Mata Yatra is very important to us as it is our prayer for a long time to visit this holy place. Our Tripadvisor Sri Madhavananda Dasa had briefed us well before the commencement of the yatra.  We were 50 in number as pilgrims who made the Vaishno Devi Yatra - 45 from Bangalore, 2 from Chennai, 1 from Mumbai and 2 from Gujarat. We were booked in  Air India and INDIGO flights and thus all got a firm booking in advance..


Tuesday, 28th February, 2017-- Day 1


It was as early as 3 am  when we left home for the Bangalore Airport, 4:15 am being the reporting time. We greeted our group leader Mr. Madhavananda Das  and other  members‘  ‘Hare Krishna ‘ . We collected our breakfast packets and 2 boarding passes - one for sector Bangalore -  N. Delhi and another for N. Delhi - Jammu . Our checkin baggages were booked up to Jammu..


6:00 am : INDIGO 6E 132 left for N.Delhi and landed at 8.40 am. After getting new tags for hand luggage, went through the security check and  boarded INDIGO  6E 4062 to Jammu at 9:45 am  Landed at Jammu airport by 11:05 am.. The airport is very small guarded by military. The walls all around the airport  are painted in army  colour., We realised what a sensitive area this must be. We thanked and prayed for the security personnel  who are guarding  our borders alertly.. Jai Jawan!!!


Photo from Parvati Natarajan (1).jpg ( at Jammu Airport ))


We collected our baggage and waited for an hour and half for a few more to join us who arrived by other flights. In the meanwhile we  recited ‘ Lalitha Sahasranama Stotram ‘  together - an auspicious start for a  spiritual journey.. By 1:30 pm 30 of us  left in Innova cabs and proceeded to Katra  (55kms) where our stay for 3 days had been arranged..The roads were narrow, besides undergoing repairs after incessant and heavy rainfall in the region..    
The cab drivers were quite adept in driving through mountain terrains.. We crossed a few villages - passed through 4 tunnels when we sensed some thrill. The Himalayan Mountain formed a long stretch on the right side.


As we were nearing Katra we could sight  a part of the mountain with three peaks .. Our hearts were filled with veneration when we came to know that they formed the Trikuta  Parvata, one of the most sacred hills  in the whole Universe, where Vaishnavi Mata is residing. We chanted loudly  ‘Jai Mata Di ‘,  ‘Vaishno Mata Ki Jai’ in chorus. .


download (3).jpg ( A View of Trikuta Parvat )


We reached Ginger Hotel. The hotel has a nice view facing the Trikuta Parvata on one side. We could see the path going up the hill from the corridors. It was quite chill  at 2:30 pm.  We
had hot  rotis, mixed vegetable sabji, rice, dal, curds, salad and pickles for lunch. The service was most attentive.  
Photo from Parvati Natarajan.jpg ( Reception - Ginger Hotel, Katra )


After lunch we occupied our room on the ground floor which proved to be convenient. The rooms are quite spacious, tidy and air conditioned. We could get WiFi service. We had a nap for an hour and looked forward to meeting the other friends who had arrived in the subsequent flights..


7:00 pm --we assembled at the dining hall and  greeted one another ‘Hare Krishna’ and waited  for the first lecture by Sri Madhavananda Das, our guide..After a short prayer Sri M. Das talked about  the significance and the practicalities of visiting Vaishno Mata the next day.. The Vaishno Devi Mandir is located close to the town of Katra in the Reasi district of J & K state..It is one of the most sacred places  of worship in India, It is believed to be the second most visited shrine by pilgrims in India , the first being the Tirumala Balaji temple..                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    


Legend:-- During the Daksha Yagna, Dakshayani (Sati ) the daughter of Daksha Prajapati and the consort of Lord Shiva immolated herself . Lord Shiva unable to bear his grief carried Sati’s body and wandered all over the world for a year and started his Pralaya Nritya.. To put an end to this Lord Vishnu cut Sati’s body into 108 parts with his  Sudarshana Chakra;, 52 body parts fell on earth and the rest fell on other planets.The ‘Varada Hasta’ or the blessing or boon giving hand of Goddess Sati fell on Planet Shukra ( Venus) in Trikuta Parvata..


According to the legend in the beginning of Treta Yuga  when Mother Goddess was engaged in waging fierce wars to destroy and kill the demons, the gods and demigods were harassed by a demon by name Mura.  He had obtained a boon from Lord Brahma that he would not be killed by any human being, demigod or Trinity or anyone born on Earth. When the demigods prayed to Lord Vishnu for help He assured them that the demon would be killed by Mahalakshmi . Goddess Lakshmi incarnated in spiritual form, and the three manifestations viz.. Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi, Maha Saraswati got united into one single power creating a bright Tejas. A beautiful girl Kumari emerged from this Tejas.The three Devis told her  to manifest on the earth and uphold Dharma. Under this background,  the girl took birth in the household of a pious brahmin Ratnakar Sagar in  the Southern part of India. She was called Trikuta as she was the combined form of three Shaktis..


Lord Vishnu asked  Lord Shiva to bring Trikuta mountain and place it in this place which would become Vaishno Devi’s future abode  and to keep the demon in ignorance about the birth of the miracle Goddess.  Later Lord Vishnu led the demon to this place where he was killed by Kumari. Kumari  grew up and learned all the scriptures. She made a firm resolve that she would accept only Lord Vishnu as her husband. Being always absorbed in divine Krishna consciousness, she  got the name Vaishnavi..


Vaishnavi later relinquished all household comforts and went deep into the forest for tapasya. When she heard Lord Rama had gone to forest for exile, she also began to wander in the forest in search of Si Rama. Lord Rama in his fourteen years of exile happened to visit Vaishnavi who recognised him as no ordinary being but the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. She lost no time in asking him to accept her as His consort. However Lord Rama dissuaded her as the time was inappropriate, Rama assured her that he would visit her again at the end of his exile and at that time if she recognised him, he would fulfill her wish. True to his words Rama visited her in the disguise of an old man after conquering Ravana in the battle.. Unfortunately she could not recognise him. Lord Rama consoled her that the  time would eventually come in Kaliyuga when he (Rama) would be in his incarnation as Kalki, and would accept her. Lord Rama also asked her to set up an ashram at the base of Trikuta range of Manik mountains in North India.  He also gave her a bow and arrow, a small army of monkeys and also a lion for her protection. Vaishnavi carried out his wish and began to meditate. It is due to Lord Rama’s blessings that Mata Vaishno Devi attained immortality and attracts lakhs of pilgrims to her holy shrine every year.


Legend Of Bhairon Nath:- Once Sridhar a devotee of Vaishno Devi organised a bhandara or a community feast for the entire village. He had invited Mahayogi Guru Gorakhnath Ji who attended the bhandara along with his 300 disciples  including Bhairon Nath. The latter was attracted by the beauty of  Vaishno Devi  Mata who was assisting Sridhar. Bhairon Nath followed the Divine Mother who ran away into the mountains to continue her penance. On the way she halted at  Banganga. Charan Paduka and Adhkuwari and  finally reached the cave where she wanted to resume her penance. Bhairon Nath followed her everywhere. Finally Devi lost her patience and came out of the cave and beheaded him. Bhairon Nath’s body  lay down at her feet and his head flew on to the top of a hill (where a temple was built later for Bhairon Nath). Bhairon Nath realised that Vaishno Devi was not an ordinary immortal but a divine power and begged for her forgiveness. The  benevolent Mother  became  compassionate and granted a boon that whoever visited Her Shrine would also visit Bhairon ka Mandir as a package.


The Goddess then decided to shed her human form and take the form of a rock in order to continue her meditation.  Vaishnavi Mata took the form of  a five and half a feet tall rock with three pindies or heads on the top, each pindi representing the divine forms,  Maha Saraswati, Maha Lakshmi and  Maha Kali. The cave where she transformed herself is the  Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi and the three pindies form the sanctum sanctorum..


There are a few ancient temples on the way (walking path) from Katra to Bhawan the holy cave of Vaishno Devi which are :-
a) Banganga --the place where Vaishnavi Mata shot an arrow to get  holy water for  taking bath on her way to the holy cave when Bhairo Nath was chasing her.
b) Charan Paduka Temple -The Goddess rested here on her way to the Trikuta hills. Her footprints are found here.
c) Adhkuwari--This lies halfway to the shrine from the base.There is a temple called  ‘Garbha Joon’ in the ancient cave where Devi stayed for nine months when she was on the move escaping from Bhairon Nath. Hanumanji with his monkey troop was guarding the entrance to prevent Bhairon from entering the cave. After nine months Vaishno Devi opened the other end of the cave with the trident ( Trishul) and escaped to the holy cave..


Some thirty years before,  people used to walk  for seven days from Jammu to visit the shrine . But now the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has made a lot of facilities for the convenience of yatris like transport, water, sanitary facilities, food stalls and a host of promotional aspects including rest houses. We can make’ sankalpa’ but a firm belief prevails that the visit to the holy place can only occur with Divine Mother’s ‘krupa’.   


Mr. Madhavananda Das also briefed us about the practicalities of visiting the temple the next day . Travel by Helicopter had already been booked online  which would operate subject to good weather conditions.. He gave us instructions to carry our Govt.approved IDs,  travel light,  and always be in the group and make it a point to reach the helicopter booking office an hour earlier before schedule. He also outlined how to return to Ginger hotel after finishing darshan. We thanked him and had dinner by 8:30 pm, reviewing the guidelines for the next day’s program. Then retired to our rooms after an eventful  and long day when ‘nidra devi’ overpowered us..


Natarajans.


( to be continued in Part 2 ,  Day 2 )


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