Throughout the path to Vaishnodevi a hoarding that is prominently displayed at all strategic points is one that is difficult to avoid! This hoarding tells or prepares the pilgrims about what to expect at the Bhawan!
It is human psychology that we have to have a concrete shape of someone we love, admire and adore and in all possible manner we try to invent one shape or form where we don’t have any. In the same manner whenever we think of Mata Vaishnodevi it is the image of a goddess in all its opulence, strength and valor! Where red saree, sindoor would complete the picture of Goddess who, astride a lion, would annihilate all the demons from the world.
The boards displayed at many places make the pilgrims wait for the dharshana of Ma Vaishnodevi in Pindi form. A form which is unique for it represents the Devi!
On reaching the entrance, my heart sank to see the number of devotees standing in queues which were as long as half a kilometer! And the worst was that we had lost contact with the group that we had come with. The registration slip was with another friend in the group. We just could not do anything without the slip. You have to show this slip at the counter and your group is assigned a number. You are allowed in the Bhawan as per your number.
Without this slip we had no other option but to wait. And the surging crowds around me made me frantic about what if he would not be able to find us. But luckily we spotted the other members of our group and walked towards the counter. We were advised to deposit all our belongings like purse, shoes, mobile, camera, leather belt etc. in the lockers provided for this specific purpose. There were still longer queues at the lockers as well!
You are allowed to take only money to the Vaishnodevi Bhawan and nothing else. Other offerings like coconut, and Chunri for Mata have to offered at a specified place. Nothing is to be taken beyond a point. People can be seen searching for a place to keep their belongings when they are not able have access to a locker. At one stage even I thought of putting off my shoes in a corner and putting my small camera in the shoes! 🙂 I was glad that I was not carrying my DSLR that takes lots of space.
But luckily as our friend had arranged VIP passes so we got a locker easily and were permitted to join the long queue at a place where from the distance to the Bhawan and the wait was manageable! Once again this was an awkward moment for me when I overheard someone standing in the queue comment rather sarcastically, “Here come the back door entries!” And another realization dawned on me that people who get things done in a easier manner need to have thick skins so as to remain unruffled by public outcries!
While standing in a queue I was surprisingly happy to note that there was no display of frenzied outcries by the devotees the way one has in many other places. The boards put here, there and everywhere directed the devotees to mentally concentrate on the Shakti and not to chant her name and praise to her loudly!
Gradually the queue was moving and with abated heart I was waiting to meet Maa Vaishnodevi. I thought of my dream of coming to this temple since childhood and today when I was 55 years of age I was able to realize it. My heart filled with all those emotions that in the innocent years of my childhood had made me crave for Her blessings and even today I felt like a child seeking Her blessings. It seemed as if time had stopped and nothing had changed.
Like a small child I conveyed to Maa all that I had suffered and how I wanted her to teach a lesson to all those who had been instrumental in causing undue sufferings and pains to me. At this point I thought of how Maa Vaishnodevi, too, had to fight and struggle against Bhairav and realized that one has to go through all that one is destined for. I was grateful to Her for making me come out of my sufferings and herein lay her blessings.
I was almost at the entrance to the tunnel leading to Her abode. Somethign touched my feet, it was water beneath my feet. I entered the cave having washed myself of all that was unworthy of carrying to Her presence. Symbolically I had become clean and pure worthy to have an audience with Her. I entered the cave. It was long and having low lying roof. Water was seeping from the walls. I could feel that i was inside the womb of the mountains, Going deeper and deeper inside to have an audience with Maa!
It is difficult to put in words the feeling that I had when I was before her. Three Pindis denoting Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Saraswati were staring hard at me, The Pindis had come alive and so had my connection with Her! I could feel how different parts of my persona which had baffled me at times were in fact Her manifestation in all human beings.
I had depicted my Kali form to my enemies when I had faced them fearlessly, my Lakshmi form in my home where I was the caretaker, and my Saraswati form to my students with whom I learnt more than I taught.
I felt free. I felt enlightened, I felt empowered!