Vaishnodevi temple in Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most sacred pilgrimage centres in India. The temple, located in a cave, is dedicated to goddess Vaishnodevi. An estimated 8 million pilgrims visit the temple every year and it is the second most visited religious place in India, after Tirumala Venkateswara Temple.
The sanctum is situated at a height of 5,300 feet above sea level on the hills of Trikuta mountain range and is 48 km away from Jammu city.
The idol of the main deity is found in the form of natural Pindies (stone structure), representing Goddes Saraswathi, Kali and Lakshmi. These three structures symbolize the creative, preservative and destructive characters of the Mother. While one takes a journey up the hill to the temple, one can enjoy natural beauty at its best.
The popular folklore is that the Pandavas built the temple and is one of the oldest shrines in India. It depicts almost all the deities of the Hindu pantheon.
Various legends are associated with the origin of the shrine and Mother Goddess. It is said that Vaishnodevi, while meditating in the jungles, was confronted by a demon named Bhairavnath, who was smitten by her beauty.
In order to get away from him, Vaishnodevi went to Trikoota mountain and meditated there in a cave. The demon followed her and when her meditation was disturbed, she killed him. As Bhairavnath atoned for his sins before his death, the goddess forgave him and promised that anyone who visits her will also visit him.
A Brahmin, who went to the mountain in search of Vaishnodevi, discovered the transmuted statue of the goddess with eight arms, sitting on a lion. Since then the cave has become an important place of worship.