Virtues of Guru

The Hindu scriptures are invariably
cryptic. One has to know the proper way of analysing the scriptures by the
following means: 

  • Vyakarana (Grammer)- which gives the meaning of word viz. Pada artha
  • Mimamsa- which gives the meaning of sentence viz. Vakya artha
  • Tarka- Logic

Even after following the above means,
if the primary meaning (vaachyartha) does not give proper meaning, then
secondary meaning (lakshyaartha) or implied meaning is considered. Even for implied
meaning, three special methods are prescribed:

Jahal lakshana- literal meaning is
rejected and some other meaning is adopted. Ex: Hamlet on Ganga means
Hamlet on the banks of river Ganga.

Ajahal lakshana- without giving up
literal meaning, what is implied is adopted. Ex: Red is running means
Red horse is running.

Jahadajahal lakshana- Bhaagatyaaga
lakshana, Part is rejected and part is retained. 
Ex: This is that Devadatta- this Devadatta is the same person whom we had seen
in last village. With the help of all the above methods, a Guru extracts the
essence of scriptures supported by his wisdom. That is the reason why one
should learn our scriptures from a qualified guru, who would have used all the
above methods and his wisdom to analyze the shastra. So it is believed that
Guru enlivens in shastra.

The present Guru would have learnt from his guru and that guru from his guru, finally to Shankaracharya, Guru Govinda pada, Gaudapada Acharya, Shuka, Shaunaka, Sanatkumara to finally Sadashiva or Dakshina Murthy for Shaivites and Hayagriva for Vaishnavites.

The meaning of Dakshina murthy can be
derived in two ways: 

  • Murthy (deity) facing the southern direction. Usually no deity faces
    south as Yama the God of mrityu (death) is found in southern direction. Since
    Dakshina murthy faces south and is unafraid of Yama, he is also called
    Mrithyunj
  • The Word Dakshina murthy is divided as Dakshin and Amurthy. In sanskrit
    dakshin means expert and amurthy is formless. So he is a formless expert.

On the day of Guru poornima, Sanyasis
perform special poojas to entire guru parampara beginning with the lord to
one’s own guru, and commence their Chaturmasa vratam. During this period, a
Sanyasi resides in one place for four months as it coincides with rainy season.
Now with some the period is reduced to two months viz. Chatushpaksha (four
fortnights).

In a Guru parampara, Vyasacharya is
looked upon as the most revered Guru. He is considered to be an avatara of lord
Vishnu. The word Vyasa means compiler of Vedas. He has compiled, classified and
elaborated vedas. So even though entire Guru parampara is worshipped on Guru
poornima, it is also known as Vyasa puja day. Guru poornima is important not
only for Sanyasis but also for spiritual seekers who seriously study vedanta. The
importance of paying salutations to Guru on this day is to invoke grace:

  • To consistently practise Sravanam, Mananam and Nidhidhyasanam viz.
    scriptural study under a guru, doubt removal and assimilation of knowledge.
  • To acquire qualifications mentioned in the Vedas needed for Sravanam, Mananam and Nidhidhyasanam. The qualifications are four fold known as Sadhana chatushtaya sampatti, denoted by 4D’s. They are Viveka (Discrimination), Vairagya (Dispassion), Samadhi Shatsampatti (six fold Disciplines) and Mumukshutvam (Desire for liberation).

However much one reads by himself,
will not be able to know the subject correctly. Hence one has to learn from
Guru alone to understand the subject properly. Self reading is like reading a
map and while guru is like a compass. So similar to compass, Guru shows the
direction. It is the responsibility of the student to grasp the knowledge if
not it would be like blaming the map and compass for not reaching a
destination.

A Guru is like a farmer who sows the
seeds, applies manure and waters the field uniformly, but only few seeds
germinate. Here the problem is in seed and not the farmer for not germinating.
Similarly only few students flourish and rest may not, for which a Guru cannot
be blamed. 
Hence the Vedic phrase Tamasomaa Jyothirgamaya (darkness to light) is
attributed to the wisdom of Guru.


Muni Yajnavalkya (Vaajasaneya)

Muni Yajnavalkya is a well known Acharya in
Vedas. He was bestowed with great wisdom right from his childhood. When he was
learning Krishna Yajurveda in acharya Vaishampayana’s Gurukula, his questions
would corner the guru himself most of the times. Once, after getting cornered
by Yajnavalkya, Guru Vaishampayana got so enraged that he ordered the shishya
to leave his Gurukula at once and return all the Krishna Yajur Veda he had
taught. Poor Yajnavalkya had no choice and obediently vomited out in bits and
pieces all the Krishna Yajur Veda he had learnt. The classmates knew the great
wisdom of Yajnavalkya and they thought the vomited bits of Krishna Yajur Veda
will have highly assimilated knowledge and if they consume it, they could
easily get wisdom of Krishna Yajur Veda instantaneously. But as humans, one
cannot eat vomitus, hence they turned themselves into Partridge or Baka Pakshi
or Tittiria bird, which is known to eat everything, and consumed all the bits
and pieces of vomitus. After that they turned back as humans. In course of
time, they propagated Krishna Yajur Veda, since they got the knowledge by
converting themselves to the bird Tittiria, it is known to be called as Krishna
Yajur Veda Tittiria Samhita.

Poor Yajnavalkya, after losing all the
knowledge, goes and prays to Surya Bhagavan. Pleased by his devotion, Sun God
himself imparts knowledge of Yajur Veda. That was known as Shukla Yajur Veda.
It is also known as Vaajasaneya Samhita. Vaaja means rice or food, vaajasa
means provider of food (Surya) and Vaajasaneya means son of Surya Bhagavan.
Yajnavalkya was considered as Son of Surya Bhagavan as he was the direct
student of sun god.

The most popular and vast Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad belongs to Shukla Yajur Veda. It is known to contain whatever other
Upanishads have. It has 3 sections – Madhu Kandam, Muni Kandam and Khila
Kandam. The mid section is called Muni Kandam, because it contains mainly
Yajnavalkya’s teachings. Ishavasya Upanishad also belongs to Shukla Yajur Veda.

One can get to know the depth of
Yajnavalkya’s knowledge by studying Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.


Vaikunta Dwaram – Vedantic Perspective

Vedas and Upanishads (especially
Prashna and Aithireya) mentions about Shukla Patha (pure or bright path) and
Krishna Patha (dark path). Shukla patha leads to Indra yoni (gat)e at Solar
disc (vaikunta dwaram), through which Vaikunta Loka could be reached. There is
a special Naadi (channel) from the base of soft palate in the mouth from the
center of Uvula going upto Brahmarandra (at vortex of skull). From this Brahma
randra, the shukla patha starts. All these paths and channels are at subtle
(shukshma) level and are not visible anatomically. Whereas the Krishna patha
(dark path) leads to Hiranya Gharba and this path can be reached by any channel
in the body.

So when a Gnyani dies, his Jiva
(soul) leaves his body through this subtle channel from Uvula to Brahmarandra,
which opens automatically into shukla patha. His Soul passes through Indra yoni
at solar disc and enters Vaikunta. From there gnyani’s soul goes to Brahma loka
and gets the final Brahma gnanam from Brahmaji himself and attains moksha.

When an Agnyani or a common man dies,
his soul would leave his body from any one of the channels of the body and
enters Krishna patha and goes to Hiranyagharbha only to return back to next
birth, depending on his prarabda karma. 
All the above channels mentioned are at subtle levels and nobody can open it
manually. Most popular Vaikunta dwara opening on Vaikunta ekadashi is based on
this vedantic / philosophical basis


Uddhava Gita / Hamsa Gita

Srimad Bhagavatha, in its 11th
chapter (Ekadasha skanda) depicts Lord Krishna’s last days. From 6th to 29th
chapters there is a narration of Uddhava Gita which is taught by Lord Krishna
himself to Uddhava. 
During the end of Krishnaavatara, Yadavas had become very arrogant and
egoistic. Once sage Agastya along with his followers came to Dwaraka to visit
Krishna. Yadavas driven by arrogance and ignorance, planned to humiliate the
sages. So they said Saamba (Krishna’s son) to pretend as a pregnant woman and
came to the Sages to seek their blessings and requested them to predict the sex
of the child. The enlightened sages visualized the reality and cursed the
Yadavas that this person would deliver an iron bolt which would destroy the
entire Yadava dynasty and went away.

Frightened by the curse they went to
king Akrura and Lord Krishna, who in turn told them to cut the iron bolt into
tiny pieces and throw it in the ocean. Then Krishna advised Yadavas to go to Prabhas
(in Gujarat) and spend rest of their short lives with Bhajans and Satsang. So
they all left for Prabhas. While walking on the grass grown on beach, they
started fighting among themselves. They hit each other with the grass which
they plucked from its root. It so happened that the iron filings thrown into
the sea by Yadavas had drifted to the shore at Prabhas and had got stuck to the
roots of the grass. Obviously once Yadavas hit each other with grass, the iron
filings got stuck to their bodies and all of them died on the spot.

Lord Krishna in Dwaraka came to know
about the death of Yadavas and realized that his time also came to an end. So
when he got prepared to leave, Uddhava, Krishna’s childhood friend and also his
charioteer at times was deeply in sorrow. Looking at his best friend in grief,
Krishna started preaching Vedanta to him. This was called Uddhava Gita. Krishna
mentioned that he had taught this earlier in his previous avataras. Immediately
Uddhava asked about Krishna’s previous avataras and to whom he had taught.
Krishna replied that "once Brahma’s children- Sanat kumaras, who were born
first, went to their father and asked about a doubt which they had in
Philosophy. They were believed to be born Sanyasis. Unfortunately even Brahma did
not know the answer, so he meditated upon Lord Vishnu and after some time,
Vishnu appeared in the form of a Hamsa or white Swan and asked Brahma and Sanat
Kumaras about their problem. Then Sanat Kumaras said that we know mind is made
of three gunas – satvika, Rajasika and Tamasika, and the world is also made up
of same three gunas, how dowe separate mind from the world. Lord Vishnu was
pleased to answer the question". Since Vishnu was in the form of Hamsa,
the teachings is also called Hamsa Gita.


Master the subject

Every student wants to study and get
expertise in the field of a subject which he or she is studying. Unfortunately
only one or two students get to become masters in the said subject but rest
would only get to become a mediocre. So it is obvious that even though a
student is interested in the subject but fail to become expert, then the
problem would lie in the student himself and not with the subject or the
teacher. To enhance the learning and retention abilities in a student and
acquire excellent knowledge in the subject, our scriptures have prescribed five
criteria:

Belief in self and self effort
Knowledge is highly dependent on self effort. Hence one should have belief in
self effort as nothing other than self effort is required to obtain knowledge.
Similarly self confidence is a must for the student. If the student lacks
confidence and looses faith in self, then no amount of teaching by a guru would
be beneficial. So the student has to pray god for a blessing with self effort
and self confidence to obtain knowledge.

Medha shakti or absorbing power
Receiving, absorbing or grasping and retaining power of mind is Medha shakti.
One who has this faculty is called Medhavi. Memory power or Medha shakti can be
improved only by serious and sincere study of the subject, similar to
increasing running or swimming power by repeated practice. So a student has to
be an active participant in class and try to assimilate the knowledge. No
amount of teacher’s efficiency would work, if the student has no absorbing
power. To enhance the Medha shakti in students our scriptures have prescribed
Sammidhadanam in Sandhyavandana, where he prays lord to bless him with Medha
shakti. A special sooktam called Medha sooktham is also presribed, where in Goddess
Saraswati is invoked to bless with Medha shakti.

Healthy relationship with guru
Relationship of a student and guru should be specially marked with shraddha and
bhakti as well as Love and respect- Love on the part of teacher and respect on
the part of student. If a student cannot understand the teaching, it is because
the student does not have the capacity to understand. It is the deficiency in
student’s grasping power and not the guru’s incapability of teaching. So a
student has to come back and repeat the study.

Gnanam or Knowledge
Finally all the above points culminate in knowledge, provided the student has
sincerely studied the subject following the above criteria.

Gnana Phalam or Benefit of knowledge
Benefit of knowledge should bring transformation in life but not mere
acquisition of qualifications. Between Gnanam and Gnana phalam, there are many
obstacles, so a student has to pray god to relieve him of obstacles. They are
in the form of emotional handicaps which are called Asuri sampatthi- kaama,
krodha, lobha, moha, mada and maathsarya. In the presence of asuri sampatahi,
though knowledge is present in the intellect, it is not available when needed.
This is because of the presence of subtle Raga and Dwesha (also known as
kashayam). A well known example is of Karna from the epic Mahabharatha. Karna
forgot the specific knowledge of combat, because he used his knowledge with
Dwesha and Mathsarya (hatred and jealousy), which are asuri sampatti, although
there is a story that he had a curse from his guru. So when a student cleanses
asuri sampatti from his mind, he can enjoy the benefit of knowledge when he
calls for. After all, what is the use of a knowledge which does not benefit a
student when it is needed!

Anyone who studies a subject by
adhering to the above criteria, he is sure to acquire the desired knowledge

The above ideology is from the most
popular Shanthi paata of Krishna Yajurveda:
Saha naavavatu saha nau bhunakthu saha veeryam karavaavahai
Tejasvi naavadheethamastu maa vidvishaavahai
Om shanthihi shanthihi shanthihi

In the above shanthi paata, a
seeker/student prays for 5 important requirements for obtaining knowledge. They
are swaprayatna- self effort, mananam- retention or memory power, gnanam or
knowledge, gnanaphalam or benefit from knowledge and a healthy relationship
with the guru.

Shanthi is chanted thrice. First
shanthi denotes peace within the mind of the student, second shanthi denotes
peace external or surrounding environment and the third shanthi denote peace
from divine forces like storms, earth quakes etc. Chanting of shanthi three
times is important because even if one of them is missing, then learning
becomes impossible.

(Extract from the talks on Shanthi
paata of Krishna Yajurveda by HH Swami Paramarthananda)


Guru Gaudapada Acharya

Guru Sri Gaudapada Acharya happens to be the Parama guru (Guru’s guru) of Sri Adi Shankara Acharya. It is believed that Gaudapada Acharya renounced his life at a very young age and went to forest in quest of spiritual knowledge. There he heard God’s voice through Nabho vaani (inner voice) advising him to go to North. So he went to Himalayas and by the grace of god, he received teachings from Shuka Muni at Badrikashrama. Details of his early life i.e exact name, parents and childhood are not very clear. He is known for writing commentary on Maandukya Upanishad. Even to this day it is known as Gaudapada Karika (commentary / Bhashya). His Maandukya Karika is known as Vedantamoola (root of philosophy). As a matter of fact, Maandukya Upanishad has only 12 verses but Gaudapada Acharya has written 215 verses commentary. He is known for elaborately explaining the illusionary nature of world (Maaya) and the reality of Brahman. Hence Gaudapada Acharya is highly revered even to this day. During his days also people revered him so much that nobody dared to call by his name, hence he was called Gaudapada Acharya – Gaudadesh means present day Bengal and Pada means feet, thus meaning Feet of a Bengali guru and hence his real name is not known at all. Around late 7th century, Guru Gaudapada Acharya along with his disciple Sri Govinda Bhagavatpada Acharya after visiting Varanasi stayed in a cave on the banks of Narmada River. During that time, an young boy named Shankara came to the entrance of the cave and Guru Govinda Bhagavatpada Acharya asked him who he was and for that young Shankara replied him through 10 Verses ending with – Shivakevaloham, which later became popular as Dasha sloki of Shankaracharya. Guru Gaudapada Acharya after listening to this comes to know that this young boy Shankara is none other than Lord Shiva himself, born to uplift Vedas and Sanatana dharma. So he instructs Govinda Bhagavatpada Acharya to accept him as his disciple and give him deeksha immediately, which he did and named him as Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada . After the completion of Vedantic studies with great teachers, Sri Shankaracharya wrote Commentary/ Bhashya on Upanishads, Srimad Bhagavat Gita and Brahmapuranas, which are popular even to this day.


Vyas Gufa- Maana Village, Badarinath, Uttarakhand, Himalayas

Maana is the last village of India,
on the border with Tibet and 3 kms from Holy Badarinath in Uttaranchal,
Himalayas. Maana is very small but beautiful. This was named after the Manasa
putras (sons) of Brahma. Maana village is inhabited by Indo- Mangolian tribes
called Bhotias. 
Maana village has many caves and among them is the famous Vyas gufa (cave). It
is believed that Vyasacharya dictated his most popular epic Mahabharata to Lord
Ganesh here. In addition to this, Vyasacharya classified Vedas into 4, namely
Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana Vedas. He has also written Brahma Sutras.

Inside the cave, there is an idol of Veda Vyasacharya and next to him is the idol of Ananda tirtha. The rock formation in the caves seems to resemble the orderly stacking of palm leaves manuscripts. 
Another popular cave is Ganesh gufa, which is about 100 meters below the Vyas gufa. Here Lord Ganesha believed to have written Mahabharatha dictated by Vyasacharya.

One km away from Vyas gufa is a small
shrine of Bala Tripurasundari, located amidst beautiful surrounding. There is a
natural bridge known as Bhim pul, where Bhima placed a huge boulder on the
river stream so that Draupadi could cross easily.

Near Bhim gufa river Saraswati,
appears only for 100 meters and disappears. It is supposed to meet rivers Ganga
and Yamuna in Sangam or confluence at Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Even there Saraswati
is not obviously seen as she meets the other two rivers underground and hence
called Gupta gamini.

Further 3 kms uphill from Vyas gufa
is the Muchakunda gufa. A 4 km trek from Maana village leads to beautiful
Vasudhara falls, which drops from 125 meters height. 

1 km trek from Vasudhara falls on Swargarohana trek route is Keshav prayag,
which is the sangam of the rivers Alakananda and Saraswati.


Vanadurga Temple - Sringeri, Karnataka

Sri Vanadurga temple is situated
about 5 kms from Sringeri temple. It is in the midst of forest hence the name
Vanadurga. One has to take a left turn at Sringeri bus stand and drive for 4
kms to reach this temple. Local autos are also available for commuting.

Sri Adi Shankaracharya himself
consecrated the temple of Sri Durgamba to the south of Sringeri.

When there was a Plague epidemic, Sri
Sri Sacchidananda Shiva Abhinava Narasimha Bharati prayed to Durga, it is
believed that there were no cases of Plague at all.

This temple is in typical style of
Malnad architecture with wood and tiles.

It has a Navaranga and Nandi facing
Sanctum. While in Antyarala, Idols of Ganesha and Subramanya are installed.

In the Sanctum santorum (garbha griha), the beautiful devi Vanadurga is
installed by Adi Shankaracharya. Behind the devi, there is a Shiva linga,
believed to be udbhava linga by name Mallikarjuna. Origin and period of this
linga is not known. It seems the linga was there before Adi Shankaracharya’ s
arrival.


Vajreshwari Temple Nagarkot, Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh

Sri Vajreshwari Devi temple is in
Nagarkot town, Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh and is 20 kms from
Dharamshala. This deity is also called Kangra devi by locals. This temple
dating back to 11th century is an example for Shikara type of architecture.

Vajreshwari is considered to be an
incarnation of Goddess Parvati. Her name literally means the lady of the
Thunder bolt. There are two legends, which depict the origin of this goddess.

In ancient times a rakshas (demon)
named Kalikala or Kalikut was tormenting humans and saints in the region of
Vadavali. He also waged war on gods. Unable to bear his torment, Gods and sages
headed by sage Vashista, performed Chandi yajna to please goddess Parvati.
During the Yajna, offering or ahuti was not given to Indra. So Indra was
enraged and hurled his Vajra Ayudha or thunderbolt weapon at the yajna. Gods
and sages were terrified and prayed to goddess. Devi appeared in all her glory,
swallowed Vajra- Indra’s weapon and also killed the demon. From then she was
called Vajreshwari Devi and the people requested her to stay back and protect
them. A temple was built for goddess Vajreshwari Devi.

Another legend says that Indra and
other goddesses went to Devi Paravti and requested her to slay demon. She told
them to wage a war on the demon and she would come to help them on right time.
So Indra waged a war and during battle, Kalikala, destroyed all the weapons of
gods and finally Indra hurled his Vajra ayudha at him. He broke that into
pieces, and from those pieces Vajra Devi appeared and killed the demon. Hence
this name Vajreshwari Devi.

Another legend says that Sati Devi,
who got insulted in her father Daksha’s yajna, self immolated in the Yajna
fire. So Shiva destroyed Daksha yajna and in grief carried Sati’s corpse on his
shoulders and traveled across the universe. Then Lord Vishnu dismembered Sati’s
body into 51 pieces. Where ever parts of her body fell, it became Shakti Peeth.
In this place left breast of Sati fell thus making this place as Shakti peeth.

The original temple was built by
Pandavas during Mahabharata. The legend says Devi appeared to Pandavas in their
dream and told them that she was located in Nagarkot and asked them to build a
temple for her. So the legend says that Pandavas built this temple.

This temple was looted for five times
by Mohammed Ghazni. This temple was very rich and had tons of gold and silver.
In 1905 this temple was destroyed by a powerful earth quake, and was
subsequently rebuilt.

The temple has a stone wall all
around like a fort. Vajreshwari Devi is in the form of Pindi. There is a small
shrine of Bhairav. An idol of Dhayanu Bhagat, who had offered his head to
goddess during the days of Amber is there in front. The temple compound has
three tombs, which is unique by itself.

Jai Maatadi


Vaishno Devi Mandir- Reasi District, Jammu and Kashmir

Navaratri is a festival of nine days,
where in the three great mothers of the universe Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Durga
are worshipped. Vijayadashami, the tenth day is to commemorate the blessings
showered by these three goddesses.

Durga is worshipped to invoke
blessings for health, Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity and Saraswati to invoke
Knowledge. All the above goddesses and their blessings are equally important to
us, as everyone needs health, wealth and knowledge to enjoy a worthy life.

Hence all the three goddesses are
equally placed. But a samsari or a family person place goddess Lakshmi slightly
above than other two, as wealth is a must for his daily life. Infact the reason
behind Sri or Srimathi being prefixed before a family person’s name, is to
denote wealth. However a Sanyasi or a seer place goddess Saraswathi slightly
higher and hence their names are suffixed with Saraswathi or Bharati (eg:
Dayananda Saraswati, Chandrasekara bharati etc)

All the above three goddesses have
various attributes and obviously have different names but they are all one and
the same.

This can be observed in Maa Vaishno
Devi temple, wherein all the three goddesses are represented in the form of
Pindis (circular or ball). Each Pindi represents Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Durgaa
respectively.

Vaishno Devi Mandir is one of the
holiest temples dedicated to Shakti, located in the hills of Trikuta, Jammu and
Kashmir, India. In Hinduism, Vaishno Devi a manifestation of the Mother
goddess, is also known as Mata Rani and Vaishnavi.

Vaishno Devi temple is near the town
of Katra, Reasi district, Jammu and Kashmir. It is one of the most revered
places of worship in India. The shrine is at an altitude of 5300 feet and a
distance of approximately 12 kilometres from Katra. Approximately 8 million
pilgrims visit the temple every year. A rail link from Udhampur to Katra is
recently completed and the nearest airport is in Jammu.

According to Hindu epic, Maa Vaishno
Devi was born to Ratnakar Sagar who lived in south India. Sagar couple remained
childless for a long time. Ratnakar, just a night before the child’s birth took
an oath, that he would not interfere with latter’s desires. The divine child
was named Trikuta and later called Vaishnavi. When Trikuta was 9 years old, she
sought her father’s permission and went to for doing penance on lord Rama an
incarnation of Maha Vishnu. When Sri Rama with his army set out in search of
Sita, he passed by the seashore where the divine girl was in deep meditation.
When enquired, Trikuta told Sri Rama that she was doing penance to marry the
lord himself. Sri Rama told that during his present incarnation, he had vowed
to be married only to Sita viz Eka patni vratastha. However, pleased with her
devotion, Lord Rama called her Vaishnavi, the devotee of Maha Vishnu and
assured that in Kaliyuga he would be born as Kalki and would marry her.

He also told Vaishnavi to meditate in
the caves of Trikuta range of Manik Mountains situated in the northern part of
India. Rama gave her a set of bow and arrows, an army of monkeys and a lion for
protection. Ma observed the ‘Navaratri’ for the Victory of Sri Rama against
Ravana. Hence even to this day devotees read Ramayana during the nine days of
Navaratri, to commemorate the above episode. Sri Rama blessed her that the
whole world would sing in praise of Ma Vaishno Devi and she would become
immortal forever.

Pandit Shreedhar was an ardent
devotee of Ma Vaishno Devi. He resided in a village called Hansali, 2 km. from
the present Katra town. Once devi appeared to him in the form of a girl. The
girl asked the humble Pandit to hold a ‘Bhandara’ (a feast to feed the
mendicants and devotees). The Pandit set out to invite people from the village
and nearby places. He also invited ‘Bhairavnath’, a selfish tantrik.

With the blessings of the Devi in the
disguise of a girl, the Bhandara was a great success. Bhairavnath was under the
impression that the girl had mystic powers. So he followed her to Trikuta
Hills. For nine months Bhairavnath was searching for the mystic girl in the
mountains, who he believed was an incarnation of the Mother Goddess. While
running away from Bhairav, Devi shot an arrow into the Earth from which water
gushed out. The resultant river is known as Baanganga. It is believed that by
taking a bath in that river would wash away all his sins. The banks of the
river, known as Charan Paduka, are marked by Devi’s foot imprints, which remain
intact till date.

Devi then took shelter in a cave
known as Garbh Joon near Adhkawari where she meditated for nine months
attaining spiritual wisdom and powers. Her meditation was cut short when
Bhairav located her. Vaishno Devi was then compelled to take the form of Maha
Kali when Bhairav tried to kill her. The manifestation of the Mother Goddess
took place at the mouth of the Holy cave at Darbar. The Goddess then beheaded
Bhairav with such sheer force that his skull fell at a place known as Bhairav
Ghat, 2.5 km from the Holy Cave.

Meanwhile, Pandit Shreedhar became
impatient. He started to march towards Trikuta Mountain on the same path that
he had witnessed in a dream. He ultimately reached the cave mouth. He made a
daily routine of worshiping the ‘pindis’ in several ways. His worship pleased
the Goddess. She appeared in front of him and blessed him. Since that day,
Shreedhar and his descendants have been worshiping the Goddess Mother Vaishno
Devi.

Stay 
Mata Vaishnodevi shrine is 14 kms from Katra town. There are plenty of lodges available at Katra, right upto 3 star category. One can book the accommodations on web in advance. Some lodging facilities like guest houses and dharmashalas are available on the uphill also. But one has to explore various ways of booking them, well in advance to get an assured accommodation. 

How to reach the shrine 
Walk the 14 kms stretch from Katra to Vasihnodevi temple. It takes about 7 to 8 hours to walk up and 6 to 7 hours to descend. Travellers have to carry their photo identity card to pass through the entrance gate at the Katra town itself. 
The 14 kms stretch is well illuminated for facilitating piligrims to walk at any point of night. It is quite safe as the whole path is well guarded and always crowded. There are plenty of Shops and Restaurants on the way for pilgrim’s requirement. One can get Tea, coffee to snacks and lunch at any point of time. 
Horse or doli for people who cannot walk. They charge about Rs. 2500 to 3000 per horse and the rates are variable depending on the season but one can always negotiate the price. Horse takes about 5 hours to climb up and 4 hours to descend. 
Helicopter takes just 10 minutes to reach the top. But still one has to walk about 2 kms from helipad to the holy shrine. It is better to book helicopter through online, as the local tour operators charge about 8 times the actual cost of helicopter ride. But this service is subject to weather conditions. 
Once we reach the top, leather purse, belt, mobile phone, hand bags are not allowed from the entry of the shrine itself. Locker facilities are available at the entrance and one can keep their belongings there or can leave them in the hotel room and carry only cash so that entry to the temple would be fast and smooth. 
Jai Maata di