A pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji is considered to be one of the holiest pilgrimages of our times. Popular the world over as Moonh Maangi Muradein Poori Karne Wali Mata, which means, the Mother who fulfills whatever Her children wish for, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji resides in a Holy Cave located in the folds of the three peaked mountain named Trikuta (pronounced as Trikoot). The Holy Cave attracts millions of devotees every year.
While on the way to the Darshans of the Pindies inside the Cave, one crosses a small patio type of structure on the right hand side of which is a Cave opening. This is the original/Natural Cave leading to the Holy Pindies. In the olden days, the yatries used to reach the Sanctum Sanctorum through this cave only. Nowadays, this cave is kept closed for a large part of the year. Since this cave is quite narrow, it takes several minutes for a single person to cross it and reach the Sanctum Sanctorum, every year, the natural cave is opened for pilgrims after Makar Sankranti. Following are some Interesting things to know about Natural cave of Mata Vaishno Devi:
- The Holy Cave is around 98 feet long. Besides the main Darshans of the Pindies inside the Cave, there are various other Darshans, outside and inside the Holy Cave and around the Holy Pindies.
- It is believed that the Darshans of 33 crore (330 million) Gods and Goddesses are present in the Holy Cave. It is believed that at some given point of time, each of the 330 million gods and goddesses have worshipped the Mother Goddess in the Holy Cave and have left their symbolical marks inside.
- It is also believed that during Poojan and Aarti in the morning and evening, all these Gods and Goddesses arrive at the Holy Cave to pay their obeisance to the Mother.
- At the entry of the Holy Cave, towards the left hand side, is the symbol of Vakra Tund Ganesh. Adjacent to the symbol of Lord Ganesh are the symbols of Surya and Chandra Dev. Once inside the Holy Cave, one crosses over the Dadh (torso) of Bhairon Nath, which is around 14 feet long. Due to the impact of the mighty blow of the Divine Mother, while the head of Bhairon Nath fell atop an adjacent mountain a couple of kilometers away from the Holy Cave, his body lay lifeless at the entrance of the Holy Cave.
- After the Dadh (torso) of Bhairon is the symbol of Lord Hanuman known as Launkra Beer. Thereafter one comes across Charan Ganga, the legendary river flowing from the feet of Mata. Those having Darhans through the old Cave have to wade through water beyond this point.
- Around 23 feet beyond Launkra Beer, on the left upper hand side, the roof of the cave flares out and the entire weight of this cave appears to rest on the innumerable heads of Shesh Nag. Immediately below Shesh Nag is the Havan Kund of Mata and adjacent to it are the symbols of Shankh, Chakra, Gada and Padam.
- Above, almost touching the ceiling of the cave are the symbols of five Pandavs, Sapt rishis, Than (udders or breast) of the divine cow Kamdhenu, symbols of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh and Shiv-Parvati.
- 3 feet further ahead, on an elevation can be seen the Khamba that was gripped by the legendary worshipper Prahlad. Diagonally below this, at the water level is the Yantra with innumerable mystical signs and symbols inscribed on it.
- 22 feet beyond this point is located the Sher Ka Panja, symbolizing the lion which is the mount of the Mata Vaishno Devi Ji.
- The distance from the entry point to the Sher Ka Panja is 59 feet. 13 feet beyond this, immediately above the head of the worshipper, is located the symbol of the Primary Hood of Shesh Nag which appears to be bearing the weight of the roof of the Cave at this point. 6 feet further ahead, on the left hand side, are the symbols of Shankar and Gauri.
- 13 feet beyond this are the Holy Pindies of Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha Lakshmi Vaishno Devi and Mata Maha Saraswati.
- To the right of the Holy Pindies on the upper side can be seen the symbols of Lord Ganesh, Surya Dev, Chandra Dev and Goddess Annapurna. Slightly behind the Holy Pindies, on the right hand side can be seen the symbol of the seated Sinh Raj (Lion). A little ahead of it is the full hand of the Mother Goddess, raised in the Varad Hast mode, granting boons to the world.
- Immediately opposite the Holy Pindies is the natural symbol of Lord Pashupati Nath.
- After this can be seen the symbol of Lord Hanuman called Launkra. Water gushes out of the base of the holy Pindies and flows out of the holy Cave. This gush of Holy water is known as Charan Ganga and the water of this stream is collected in small containers by the devotees and taken home. The same water is also channelised to the bathing ghat and the devotees take a bath in this water before they join the queue for Darshan of the holy Pindies.
The original cave is opened during the lean periods or on traditional festivals or for ritualistic occasions. Obtaining Darshans through this Cave is a different experience altogether and pilgrims desirous of enjoying this Divine Bliss are well advised to plan their trip during the lean periods only.