As we had taken to stairs when we started from Charan Paduka so I had failed to notice how difficult it was to walk on the path meant for pilgrims. But the stairs were quite steep. But the real reason behind taking up the stairs and leaving the path was to save ourselves from the ponies, mules and horses of all sizes and colors that very proudly had the lion’s share on the pathway meant for us mortals! 🙂
To save ourselves from being trampled under the sturdy foot of an equestrian it was better to pant and huff on the stairs! Though the precautionary warning was written at the start of the stairs along with the number of stairs, fools as we were, we opted to take stairs. Midway we could feel our hearts pumping with extra effort to make us going!
Perhaps it was the expression on our face that some pilgrims going down taking pity on us handed us the sticks which had no use for them now. I was so thankful to them. We were waiting to reach Ardh Kumari, which could be pronounced as Ardh Kwari in Dogri or Pahari. As this is the point where half the ascent to the Bhawan is completed, I thought that the word “kwari” could be “kwali” which in Pahari means ascent! Ardh Kwali would mean half the ascent! Some thoughts to keep my mind occupied!
After Charan Paduka comes the temple of Ardh kumari. After running away from Bhairav, Mata hid herself in a cave at this place, which is known by the name of Garbhjoon, and rested. She stayed here for nine months. This cave is very narrow in structure but even fat people came out of it easily and sometimes even thinner people get stuck in it. It is said that the people coming to this place with faith and devotion do not have to take rebirth. The people have to get receipt to enter at this place and may have to wait for a long time for his number to come and enter at at this place.
Honestly speaking, I din’t know that there was any temple here at Ardh Kumari. All I could see was a surge of humanity! I was more eager to have a cup of tea than anything else.
A word of advice to all those would-be fellow pilgrims if they, too, would have an urge to have a cup of tea from the Vaishnodevi shrine Bhojnalayas that are situated at strategic points. Buy a token for whatever you have to buy and then stand in a long queue. Looking back it seems that all that I remember of the Vaishnodevi pilgrimage are the queues, long and meandering, everywhere en route till the very Bhawan!
But the scene at Ardh Kumari was different for a change. There were no queues on the open space but huge mass of humanity sitting and standing and roaming around in the most haphazard way it is humanly possible! 🙂