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Jai Mata Di! The Legend

The temple of Mata Vaishno Devi lies at a height of 3500 feet in the Trikuta Mountains, in the state of Jammu, and each year millions of pilgrims make this journey by foot, to pay homage to the Divine Goddess. It is believed that if you ask for something with a true heart and devotion, your wish will come true. Many of these devotees come to pray to their Mata every year, unfailingly, no matter what their caste or religion. 

Vaishno Devi is one of the shaktis (forms) of the Goddess Parvati. According to legend, the three main forms of Parvati are Laxmi, Kali and Saraswati. One day, the three of them combined their spiritual strength and created a beautiful young girl. She was commanded to take birth in the house of Ratankar, a good, honest and devout man, and to evolve herself spiritually until she became one with Lord Vishnu. Thus it happened that Ratankar's wife gave birth to a girl, who grew up to be as religious, devout and learned as she was beautiful. As Vaishnavi grew older, she decided to renounce the world and to live a life of penance in the forests. During this time she came across Lord Rama, whom she recognized to be a form of Vishnu, and begged him to let her merge herself with him, so she would be encompassed by her Lord. But he felt that the time wasn't right. He said that he would return after a few years, and if she recognized him again, he would grant her wish. However when he returned in the guise of an old man, Vaishnavi failed to recognize him. She was devastated, and Lord Rama consoled her. He set up and ashram for her at the foothills of the Trikuta Hills, and encouraged her to continue with her meditation. Thus, she took a vow of celibacy and resumed meditating with renewed devotion. 

Vaishnavi's fame spread far and wide, until it reached the ears of Gorakh Nath, a tantrik. Gorakh Nath sent his disciple, Bhairon Nath to spy on her and find out if she had attainted a high level of spirituality. However, Bhairon Nath fell in love with her, and started harassing her, by pleading with her to marry him. She refused, and journeyed up into the Trikuta Mountains to continue her penance in peace. Bhairon Nath followed her up the mountain, past Banganga. At Banganga, Mata Vaishnavi felt thirsty and shot an arrow into the ground. Water gushed out from this spot, and Mata drank some of this water and rested here. The 'Charan Paduka' marks the place where she rested.

Mata entered a cave at Adhkawari and stayed inside for nine months, during which time she mediated and prayed. The cave is thus symbolic of a womb and is called Garbh Joon. When Bhairon Nath finally located her, Mata raised her trident and lashed it against the opposite wall of the cave, creating a tiny opening, from which she crawled out. The chase continued up to the Holy Cave at Darbar. Mata was then forced to assume the form of Kali. She appeared before Bhairon Nath, and cut off his head. After his death he prayed to her for forgiveness, and she granted it to him, along with the boon that every devotee who comes to her shrine to seek her blessings would have to pay homage to Bhairon Nath afterwards, or his pilgrimage will remain incomplete. 

However, legend goes that if anyone visits the Bhairon Nath cave first, he will be unable to do Mata's darshan. Stories have trickled down through the ages about various devotees who tried visiting Bhairon Nath first and then continued to pay homage to Mata, but they never made it because they fell sick, met with an accident or died on the way. One devotee even reported seeing a tiger appear before him preventing his entrance to Mata's temple.
 

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