16. February 2011 09:52
Vaishno Devi Mandir is situated in the hills of Jammu and Kashmir, in the northern part of India. It is one of the most popular temples devoted to Shakti or Vaishnavi, as this deity is known. Vaishno Devi is a manifestation of the Mother Goddess and Her temple near the town of Katra, Jammu is one of the most popular places of worship in India. The Vaishno temple is built at an elevation of 5200 feet above sea level and about eight million devotees travel to the shrine every year. It is the second most popular temple after the Tirupati Lord Venkateswara temple of Andhra Pradesh.
Maa Vaishno Devi’s childhood name was Trikuta. She was born in south Indian parents who were regular people trying to raise a child of their own. However, as the girl grew up, they noticed that she was very spiritual and always wanted to pray by the seashore. She had immense affinity for nature and found everyything about the Earth exquisite and magical. This alerted the parents to the fact that she was not a simple human incarnation, but the divine itself. Trikuta decided to become a devotee of Lord Rama (incarnation of Lord Vishnu), took up the name Vaishno Devi and began meditating in the Trikuta Range of Manik Mountains which are located in north India. There, worshippers gather to pray to Maa Vaishno Devi especially during the Navarathri celebrations which are celebrations of all nine forms of Shakti Devi.
Durga Navaratri is one of the biggest and most popular celebrations dedicated to the Goddess Durga. The Hindu communities in Kashmir celebrate these nine days with pomp and splendour. This celebration is also dedicated to Goddess Kheer Bhawani. During these days, people fast and perform special rituals at home before they go to the temple and offer their prayers to the two Goddesses. During the fast, only fruits and water are partaken by the pilgrims who spend their time changing prayers or in deep meditation. On the ninth and last day of the celebrations, Maha Aarti is conducted at the Kheer Bhawani temple. Also, large number of worshippers visit Maa Vaishno Devi at the mountain cave where she has spent years on meditation and solitude.