A pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine of Maa 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, Maa 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. In fact, the number of Yatris visiting the Holy Shrine annually now exceeds one crore. This is due to the unflinching faith of the devotees who throng the Shrine from all parts of India and abroad. The Holy Cave of the Mother is situated at an altitude of 5200 ft. The Yatris have to undertake a trek of nearly 12 km from the base camp at Katra. At the culmination of their pilgrimage, the yatries are blessed with the Darshans of the Mother Goddess inside the Sanctum Sanctorum- the Holy Cave. These Darshans are in the shape of three natural rock formations called the Pindies. There are no statues or idols inside the Cave.
Darshans are open round the clock throughout the year. Since the year 1986, when the Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (commonly called Shrine Board) was formed, the management of the Shrine and regulation of the Yatra has been vested in the Board. The Board has undertaken a number of developmental activities aimed at making the Yatra a comfortable and satisfying experience for the Yatris. The Board continues to reinvest the offerings and donations received in carying out improvements in various kinds of Yatri facilities.
The Call of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji
The journey to the Holy Shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji starts with the Call of Mata. It is not only a belief but also a strong experience of one and all that the Divine Mother sends a call to her children. And once a person receives it, wherever he is, is bound to visit the Mother to receive Her unbounded love and blessings. A popular slogan in the local folklore beautifully expresses it- Maan Aap Bulandi - which means that The Mother Herself Calls! It is also a matter of experience by almost all those who visit the Holy Shrine that upon the Call of Mata, a person needs to just take one step and leave the rest to Her and his journey gets completed with Her divine blessings. Simultaneously, it is also believed that unless there is a call or Bulawa no one can visit the Shrine or have Her blessings, howsoever high or mighty one may be.
History of the Maa Vaishno Devi Ji temple
Like with most old Shrines, it is not possible to ascertain when exactly the pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine started. A geological study of the Holy Cave has indicated its age to be nearly a million years. Vedic literature gives no reference to the worship of any female deity, although the mountain Trikuta does find its mention in Rigveda, the oldest of the four Vedas The practice of worshipping Shakti, largely started in the Puranic period.
The first mention of the Mother Goddess is in the epic Mahabharat. When the armies of Pandavs and Kaurvas were arrayed in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjun, the chief warrior of Pandavs upon advice of Sri Krishna; meditated upon the Mother Goddess and sought Her blessings for victory. This is when Arjun addresses the Mother Goddess as ‘Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye’, which means ‘you who always dwell in the temple on the slope of the mountain in Jamboo’ (probably referring to the present day Jammu). It is also generally believed that the Pandavs were the first to build the temples at Kol Kandoli and Bhawan in reverence and gratitude for the Mother Goddess. On a mountain, just adjacent to the Trikuta Mountain and overlooking the Holy Cave are five stone structures, which are believed to be the rock symbols of the five Pandavs. Perhaps the oldest reference of the visit of a historical figure to the Holy Cave is that of Guru Gobind Singh who is said to have gone there via Purmandal. The old foot track to the Holy Cave passed through this well-known pilgrimage centre.
Some traditions believe this Shrine to be the holiest of all Shaktipeeths (a place where the Mother Goddess, the Eternal Energy has Her abode) since the skull of Mata Sati fell here. Others believe that her right arm had fallen here. But some scriptures do not agree with it. They do agree that at a place called Gandarbal in Kashmir, the right arm of Sati had fallen. Nevertheless, in the Holy Cave of Maa Vaishno Deviji, one does find stone remains of a human hand, popularly known as Varad Hast (the hand that grants boons and blessings).
Discovery of The Shrine Maa Vaishno Devi Ji
There are various versions of the origin of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji. However there is unanimity on the discovery of Shrine around 700 years back by the same Pandit Shridhar, at whose place Mata had helped organize a Bhandaara. When she left amidst the Bhandaara to escape Bhairavnath, Pandit Shridhar is said to have felt as if he had lost everything in his life. He felt immense grief and gave up the intake of food or even water and closed himself in a room of his house, fervently praying for Vaishnavi to reappear.
It is then that Mata Vaishnavi appeared in his vision (dream) and told him to search for her at the Holy Cave situated amidst the folds of the Trikuta Mountain. She showed him the way to the Holy Cave and insisted him to break his fast. Pandit Shridhar then went on to discover the Holy Cave in the mountains. Every time he seemed to lose the way, the vision of his dreams reappeared before his eyes and finally he reached his destination. Upon entering the Cave he found a rock form with three heads atop it. At that moment Mata Vaishno Devi appeared before him in all her glory (another version says that the Supreme Energies of Mata Maha Saraswati, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Kali appeared in the Holy Cave) and introduced him to the three heads (now known as the Holy Pindies) of the rock form along with various other identification marks in the Holy Cave. She blessed him with a boon of four sons and a right to worship her manifestation and asked him to spread the glory of the Holy Shrine all over. Pandit Shridhar then spent his remaining life in the service of Mata at the Holy Cave.
Legends of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji
As per the legend, during the period when the Goddess was busy in annihiliting the Asuras, Her three main manifestations viz. Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha Lakshmi and Mata Maha Saraswati got together one day and pooled their collective Tejas or spiritual strength. A stunningly bright light emanated from the place where the Tejas of the three manifestations coalesced and a beautiful young girl emerged out of this Tejas. The young girl asked them, "Why have I been created?'' The Devis explained to her that they had created her so that she would live on earth and spend her time in upholding righteousness.
The Devis added, "Now, go and take birth in the house of Ratankar and his wife who reside in the southern part of India, and who are great devotees of ours. Live on earth. Uphold righteousness and evolve yourself spiritually so that you reach higher levels of consciousness. Once you have attained the appropriate level of consciousness you will merge into Vishnu and become one with him.'' So saying they blessed the girl. Sometimes later a very beautiful girl child was born to Ratankar and his wife. The couple named the child Vaishnavi. The girl right from her childhood displayed a hunger for knowledge which was like a vortex and which no amount of teaching and learning could sufficiently satiate. Subsequently, Vaishnavi started looking into her inner self for knowledge, and soon learned the art of meditation and realized that meditation and penance only could bring her close to her greater objective. Vaishnavi thus relinquished all household comforts and went deep into the forest for Tapasaya (meditation). Meanwhile, Lord Rama, during his fourteen years of exile happened to visit Vaishnavi who recognized him immediately as no ordinary being but the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and immediately asked him to merge her into himself so that she could become one with the supreme creator.
However Lord Rama, knowing that it was not the appropriate time, dissuaded her by saying that he would visit her again after the end of his exile, and at that time if she succeeded in recognizing him, he would fulfill her wish. True to his words, Rama visited her again after being victorious in the battle, but this time he did so in the disguise of an old man. Unfortunately, Vaishnavi was unable to recognize him this time and was distraught. Upon this, Lord Rama consoled her that the appropriate time for her being one with the creator had not come, and that time would come eventually in 'Kaliyug' when He (Rama) would be in his incarnation of 'Kalki'. Rama also directed her to meditate, and set up an Ashram at the base of Trikuta hills, to elevate her level of spirituality so as to bless mankind and rid the poor and destitute of their sufferings.Only then would 'Vishnu' merge her into himself. Vaishnavi, immediately set off for the northern part and after immense hardships, reached the foot of the Trikuta Hills. After reaching there she set up her ashram there and began to meditate.
As predicted by Lord Rama, her glory spread far and wide, and people began to flock to her Ashram to seek her blessings. As time passed, Guru GorakhNath Ji, who had a vision of the episode between Lord Rama and Vaishnavi in the retrospective time frame, became curious to find out whether Vaishnavi has been able to attain a high level of spirituality or not. He, therefore, sent his most able disciple 'Bhairavnath' to find out the truth. Bhairavnath on locating the ashram started observing Vaishnavi secretly, and realised that though a 'Sadhvi' she always carried bow and arrows with her, and was always surrounded by langoors (apes) and a ferocious looking lion. Bhairavnath was enamored by Vaishnavi's extraordinary beauty, and losing all good sense he began to pester Vaishnavi to marry him. Meanwhile a staunch devotee of Vaiashnavi, Mata Sridhar organised a Bhandara (Community meal) in which the whole village and Guru Gorakh Nath along with all his followers including Bhairavnath were invited. During the course of Bhandara Bhairavnath attempted to grab Vaishnavi but she tried her best to daunt him. On failing to do so, Vaishnavi decided to flee away into the mountains to continue her Tapasaya undisturbed. Bhairavnath however chased her to her destination.
The goddess after halting at (present day) Banganga, Charan Paduka, and Adhkwari, finally reached the holy cave Shrine. When Bhairavnath continued to follow her despite the goddess trying to avoid a confrontation, the goddess was compelled to kill him. Bhairavnath met his ultimate fate when the goddess, just outside the mouth of the cave, beheaded him. The severed head of Bhairon fell with a force at a distant hilltop. Bhairavnath upon death realised the futility of his mission and prayed to the deity to forgive him. The almighty Mata ( Mother Goddess) had mercy on Bhairon and gave him a boon that every devotee of the goddess would have to have the Darshans of Bhairon after having the Darshans of the Goddess and only then would the yatra of a devotee be complete. Meanwhile, Vaishnavi decided to shed off her human form and assuming the face of a rock she immersed her self into meditation forever. Thus Vaishnavi, in the form of a five and a half feet tall rock with three heads or the Pindies on the top is the ultimate destination of a devotee. These Pindies constitute the Sanctum Sanctorum of the holy cave known as the shrine of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji, which is revered by one and all.
Darshan of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji at temple
The Trikuta Mountain where the Shrine is located and the Holy Cave are the gateway to the dimension of Super Consciousness. And just like the Trikuta Mountain, which is one at the base but has three peaks (hence the name Trikoot), the revelation of the Mother Goddess in the Holy Cave is in a natural rock form which is one at the base but has three heads at the top. These three heads in a natural rock form are known as the Holy Pindies and are worshipped as the revelation of the Mother Goddess. The entire rock body is immersed in water, and a marble platform has now been constructed all around. The main Darshans remain to be of the three heads called the Holy Pindies. The uniqueness of the Holy Pindies is that although they emanate from one single rock form, each one is distinctly different from the other two in colour and texture.
Towards the right of the devotee is the Holy Pindi of Mata Maha Kali (the Supreme Energy of Dissolution) in the colour associated with Her i.e. black. The Supreme Energy of dissolution is Mata Maha Kali. She represents the Tam Guna- the quality associated with the darker and unknown realms of life. Tam stands for darkness. Psychology and science state that only a very small per cent of the Universe is conscious. The remaining is still subconscious or unconscious. These unknown realms contain all the mysteries of life. Creation is a phenomenon, which exists within a specific time. However the Energy that transcends the barriers of time is the Eternal Time or Maha Kali. Since man’s knowledge about life is very limited and he remains in the dark about most of it, it is represented by the colour black which is associated with Mata Maha Kali. She is the basic source of all that is mystical and unknown to man. In her attribute of Maha Kali, the Mother Goddess constantly guides her devotees to conquer the forces of darkness.
In the centre is the Holy Pindi of Mata Maha Lakshmi (the Supreme Energy of Maintenance) with a yellowish-red tinge, the colour associated with Mata Maha Lakshmi. Mata Maha Lakshmi is the Supreme Energy of Maintenance. She represents Rajas Guna- the quality of inspiration and effort, and is considered to be the basic source of wealth, prosperity, material gains, quality of life etc. Wealth and prosperity are better represented by the colour of gold, which is yellow, and hence associated with Mata Maha Lakshmi.
The Pindi to the extreme left of the viewer is worshipped as the Holy Pindi of Mata Maha Saraswati (the Supreme Energy of Creation). It has a whitish tinge when looked at attentively. White has also been considered the colour associated with Mata Maha Saraswati. Being the Supreme force of Creation, Mata Maha Saraswati is considered to be the basic source of all Creation, Knowledge, Wisdom, Righteousness, Art, Spiritualism, Piousness etc. Since white is a colour that denotes piousness and purity, hence it is associated with Mata Maha Saraswati. She represents the Satva Guna- the quality of purity.
Maa Vaishno Devi Ji is considered to be an incarnation of the three Supreme Energies. All Human beings contain attributes of the three above mentioned Guns (qualities) and their behavior is determined by the Guna which is predominant in their nature. But, in order to lead a meaningful life, a proper balance among these three is necessary. The Holy Cave is charged with such energy that it helps in creating this vital but rare balance in a person. This is what makes the Holy Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi Ji unique in the entire world.
It is reiterated that Darshans inside the Holy Cave are in the form of natural rock formations called Pindies. There are no statues, pictures or idols inside. All along the track and at the Bhawan, there are many photographs explaining the nature of Darshans inside the Holy Cave. Yatries should observe these carefully since these are meant to guide them towards the final Darshans in the Holy Cave.
Other Darshans in the Holy Cave of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji
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 Bhairavnath, which is around 14 feet long. Due to the impact of the mighty blow of the Divine Mother, while the head of Bhairavnath 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. An interesting corollary to the Varad Hast of Mata lies in the story of the sacrifice of Sati. The Scriptures say that the hand of Mother Sati fell in the region of Kashmir creating a Shaktipeeth. There are a few sources, however, which believe that it was at this place i.e. the Holy Cave at Trikuta Mountain that the hand of Sati fell and the Varad Hast in the Holy Cave provides some link to the tale of Sati. Immediately opposite the Holy Pindies is the natural symbol of Lord Pashupati Nath.
Yatris may however note that most of these Darshans are possible only if the original cave is used. However, owing to the heavy rush, usually the new tunnels are used and the original cave is opened only during the lean seasons. Yatries desirous of having all the Darshans are advised to formulate their programme to correspond with the lean seasons.
Reaching holy Bhawan of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji
The Holy Bhawan of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji houses the Sanctum Sanctorum – the Holy cave which is the ultimate destination of the yatries. Inside the Holy Cave the Goddess has revealed herself in the form of Holy Pindies manifesting Mata in her three forms Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Mata Saraswati.
A pilgrim can get the first glimpse of Bhawan around 1.5 Kms before he actually reaches there. The first sight of the Holy Bhawan brings a sudden upsurge of energy and all the tiredness of the strenuous climb evaporates immediately as if by a magic wave of some mystic wand. The fact that the last 1.5 km of the Yatra are either level or gently sloping downwards is a big relief to those tired muscles. The feeling of having almost reached there fills the devotees with extra fervor and devotion. The last 1.5 kms. are then covered on wings, as it were, and in no time, the yatri reaches Bhawan.
Legend of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji
It is believed that after leaving the Garbh Joon cave at Adhkawari, where Bhairavnath had located her, Vaishnavi started ascending uphill till the time She reached the Holy Cave. Bhairavnath who was pursuing Her, located her again inside the cave and started challenging her. So, finally the Goddess assumed Her Divine Form and severed the head of Bhairavnath. There was so much power behind the blow of Her sword, that Bhairavnath's head flew away and fell on another spur of the mountain about One & a half Kilometer away, (the site of modern day Bhairon Temple) while his torso was left lying at the Mouth of the Holy Cave. The Goddess then immersed Herself into deep meditation inside the Sanctum Sanctorum where lies Her manifestation in the petrified form.
The Holy Bhawan, is the main centre of reverence for the devotees. It is also the key location in the entire Yatra circuit. Therefore adequate arrangements and facilities have been created by the Shrine Board for the convenience of the devotees. These include free & rented accommodation; Toilet Blocks; Bhojanalayas; Post Office; Banks; Communication (STD/PCO); Announcement Centres; Blanket Stores; Cloak Rooms; Medical Dispensary (with a ICU); General Stores; Bhaint Shops; Police Station, etc.
Rented Accommodations at Maa Vaishno Devi Ji Temple
For the benefit of the pilgrims, Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine Board provides clean, well maintained and very economical accommodation. This accommodation is available at Jammu (at Vaishnavi Dham and Saraswati Dham near Railway Station), at Katra (at Niharika Yatri Niwas and Shakti Bhawan situated at the Bus stand) Katra. Another dormitory accommodation, Trikuta Bhawan, Katra is available at near the 2nd Yatra counter (YRC II). Accommodation is available at Adkuwari, Sajichatt and at main Bhawan also.
The available accommodation is in the form of rooms of various types, huts , suites and beds (dormitory accommodation). Rooms, both air conditioned and Non air conditioned are available. Dormitory accommodation is available @ Rs. 90/- per bed at Katra and @ Rs.120/- per bed at Bhawan. In all the accommodation units provided by Shrine Board, there is an additional facility of a hygienic, no profit no loss Bhojanalaya besides a Souvenir Shop and a free cloak room. Free parking of private vehicles is also allowed.
Accommodation for all Shrine Board Guest houses/dormitories can be booked (subject to availability) at the reception of these guest houses or at the Enquiry and Reservation counter at Niharika complex. Online booking is also possible through this website. For maximum chances of obtaining confirmed room reservations at various locations devotees are advised to make the necessary bookings well in advance. In addition, since heavy rush is experienced on weekends and holidays, pilgrims are advised to plan their Yatra on weekdays.
Address for making accommodation reservations:
Officer Incharge (Enquiry and Reservation)
Shakti Bhawan, Niharika Complex (Near Bus Stand)
Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Katra - 182301 (J&K)
Phone: 01991- 234053,
Free accommodation at Maa Vaishno Devi Ji Temple
In addition to the facility of rented rooms, there are a number of large halls which are available for the yatries. This accommodation is free of cost and is made available on a first-come-first-served basis. No booking or permission is required for using these premises since they are kept open round the clock and yatries can just go and occupy them subject to availability.
Food and Refreshment at Maa Vaishno Devi Ji Temple
The Shrine Board runs Bhojanalyas at Main Bhawan complex and Manokamna Bhawan complex. These Bhojanalyas provide wholesome vegetarian food to the pilgrims on a no profit basis. Because of the Board’s policy of running all its units on a no profit basis, all the items are available here are not only cheap and affordable but also of excellent quality. The Bhojanalyas at Bhawan run round the clock and serve a varied but traditional menu. In addition to full meals, packed snacks, beverages, mineral water and milk etc. are also available here. For the convenience of the pilgrims, hot and cold beverage dispensers have been installed at various strategic locations .These units are operated through the respective companies and sell quality products at printed rates
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.
Medical facilities at Maa Vaishno Devi Ji temple
Medical facilities are available for the yatries at Bhawan. A medical unit run by the Shrine Board is located at the Bhawan complex. All these medical units are equipped with necessary medicines and emergency provisions including oxygen cylinders and are manned by trained staff and medical officers. An Intensive care Unit (ICU) is also functional at the Bhawan complex. Emergency equipment has also been made available. However sustained or advanced treatment can only be made available at Jammu.
Other Facilities at Maa Vaishno Devi Ji temple
In addition, various other facilities including free toilet facilities, drinking water, enquiry and announcement booths are available all through the Bhawan Complex. STD/PCOs, Bank branches, a Police Station and a post office is also functional. There is also a small market complex where toiletries, medicines, eatables and other utility items are available. Fair price Bhaint shops selling Prashad and Souvenir shops selling photographs and cassettes are also located inside this market complex. It is reiterated that all establishments of the Board are run on a no profit basis and yatries can be sure of the quality and prices of goods offered in these establishments.
Blanket Stores at Maa Vaishno Devi Ji temple
The Holy cave is situated at a height of 5200 ft above sea level. Even during summers, the nights are cool (for indicative maximum and minimum temperatures). Yatries would normally require the use of blankets at night. The Shrine Board has arranged for free blanket stores at various locations. For a nominal and refundable security deposit, yatries are issued blankets for the night. Blanket stores are located at various convenient locations and as already mentioned, the service is entirely free of charge. The security obtained from the yatri is refunded, once the blanket is returned. Pilgrims are advised to obtained proper receipts for every financial transaction.
Cloak Rooms at Maa Vaishno Devi Ji temple
Free cloak room facilities are available at Bhawan. These cloak rooms are functional round the clock. There is a cloak room located just opposite to the main queue complex (gate No.1). This cloak room can be used for depositing shoes, belts, combs and all other items that are not allowed in the Holy cave. In addition, another cloak room is functional in Sridhar Bhawan. Yatries can deposit their entire luggage here before proceeding for Darshans. However, yatries are advised not to keep their cash, jewellry, valuables or electronic items amongst the deposited luggage. All cloak room facilities are absolutely free of cost.
Officials present at Bhawan of Maa Vaishno Devi Ji temple
The Shrine Board has posted various levels of officers including senior officers at all important locations including Bhawan. Yatries are welcome to contact any of them for advice or assistance. While most of the issues can be resolved at the assistance or announcement booths, officers of the Board are readily available for help or aid. In particular, for the Bhawan area, assistance is available in the office of Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) or Sr. Manager or Assistant Manager situated at Room no. 4 or Room No.8, Kalika Bhawan.
Bhaint Shop at Maa Vaishno Devi Ji temple
As already mentioned, offerings to the Holy Goddess are restricted to a very few articles. This has been done in view of security constraints and limitation of the Darshan time inside the Sanctum Sanctorum. However, traditional offerings called Bhaints continue to be allowed. A Bhaint comprises of the traditional offerings which are offered to the Holy Goddess and include Prashad fullian, makhana, Chunni, mouli, coconut, Pooja samagri including Itra, Bangles and Sindoor.
However, one need not purchase and carry the Bhaint Prashad to be offered to the Holy Goddess from Katra itself. For convenience of the pilgrims, the Shrine Board operates a Bhaint shop at Bhawan where beautifully packed Bhaints in eco-friendly jute bags are available at reasonable rates.
The Shrine Board is currently trying to explore the possibility of providing yatries with pure silver chatters of various denominations of guaranteed purity. It is expected that these shall shortly become available at the Bhaint shop to facilitate such yatries as would like to offer chatters to Mother Goddess.
Souvenir Shop at Maa Vaishno Devi Ji temple
For yatries who wish to carry with them mementos of the great pilgrimage, the Shrine Board operates Souvenir Shops at Bhawan, Sanjichhat, Adkuwari, Katra bus stand, Trikuta Bhawan and at Vaishnavi Dham (Jammu). Chunris, Cholas, Saris, shawls which have been offered to the Holy Goddess are available for sale at these Souvenir Shops at nominal prices. Pilgrims can purchase them and preserve them as souvenirs or can place them at the place of worship inside their houses.
Besides, other exclusive items available at the Souvenir Shops include, audio cassettes, CDs, various publications of Shrine Board, laminated photos of the Holy Pindies, Jute Bags, Bangle Chura etc. Yatries may take notice that all these items are exclusively available at the Souvenir Shops of Shrine Board and are not available at any of the private shops.
The Shrine Board has developed Gold and Silver coins of guaranteed purity. These coins carry an impression of the Holy Pindies and are made of Gold or Silver offered at the feet of the Goddess. These coins are available on request from the local branch of J&K Bank. The rates of the coins depend on the denomination chosen and the prevailing gold/silver rates.