Katra Town, lying in the foot of Trikuta Mountains, 48 kms. from Jammu, serves as the base camp for visiting the famous 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 way to the holy shrine.

The cave shrine of Mata Vasihnodeviji or Trikuta Bhagwati (alt: 5,200 ft.) has been a beacon of faith and fulfilment to millions of devotees from all over the world. The pilgrimage to the Shrine holds great significance for the pilgrims.

Everyday of the year throngs of people surge up the steep pathways that cut across the Trikuta hillsides for mile after mile. This show of faith is finely interwoven with the cultural strands of the Indian subcontinent, and these pathways have been trod on for many centuries now. Popular belief holds that anybody who walks the Himalayan trail to the goddesses’s abode to ask for a boon rarely goes back disappointed. Whatever be it, a new enterprise or a forthcoming examination, marriage or birth, the devout look up to the Mata 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 Yatra to the holy shrine 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.

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 (Demo 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 langoor (apes) 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.

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