Ever since my childhood the word Vaishno Mata would mean a lot to us kids. Anyone in the neighborhood who would accomplish this great yatra would have stories to relate about the most arduous journey of his/her life. While the elders would be envious of the fortunate ones and pray to Mata to grant them a chance to visit the Bhawan and pay homage, we the kids would wait for the Parsadi which would definitely include colorful strings of cheap stones and bangles in various hues and shades.
Being a girl would be greatly envied by all the boys of the neighborhood as it would be the sheer privilege and right of us, the girls, who would be worshiped by the faithfuls after accomplishment of Vaishno Mata Yatra. I could never understand how and why would my mother on one hand worship us, the two daughters she had, as Kanyas and on the other seek blessings of Mata to grant her a son! 🙂
I grew up listening to stories about the cave, rather the too narrow a cave entry where a pilgrim had to crawl on his stomach to get inside the main cave, the temple of the Mata. Someone would surely add mystically, while describing the darshana that only the faithfuls have access to the mata and they alone can successfully crawl to the main goofa! I would be so afraid as it would be a public disgrace for a person to be declared a sinner and unfaithful if he failed to crawl inside the goofa. Not to be one to take everything lying down, I would butt in my nose in the elderly discussion by asking some uncomfortable questions. I would name a few who I thought to be evil and if they could get inside the cave why can’t others. My Amma would hush me to keep quiet but my doubts always remained unanswered.
Even when I was on my own, which according to my Amma was to get married and go wherever I pleased, I could never muster enough courage to plan a visit to Vaishno Mata although whenever someone would come with Prasaad to our home, my desire to accomplish this Yatra would resurface with an added vigor.
But taking shelter behind the famous adage that you can go only when Mata sends for you, would comfort me! And finally I had “Mata ka Bulava” and on Saturday, 26 May, 2012 we started from our home in Hamirpur to Katra, the base from where one starts the pilgrimage to Vaishno Mata Bhawan.
I was still having my childhood fears about the cave entry which does not allow a sinner to pass through it and I would ask for forgiveness for all sins that I might have had committed in 55 years of my life span. With a prayer in heart and a smile on face, we started for the pilgrimage!
….to be continued.