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Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu - one of the holiest Hindu pilgrim centres

The deity at Vaishno Devi temple situated near Katra in Jammu represents the Hindu Goddess Mata Adi Shakti. Millions of pilgrims throng the temple round the year. There are several mythological sites around relating to Shiv-Parvati. Bhairavnath temple, dedicated to saint Bhairavnath, and Nau Devi temple of nine deities are also nearby.

Vaishno Devi cave temple, one of the holiest Hindu pilgrim centres, is 13.5 km from Katra in Trikuta Mountains in Jammu. Devotees have to trek, take ponies, palkhis or the ropeway. Helicopter can cover only partial distance. It takes 5 to 8 hrs to climb and 3 to 6 hrs to descend by trekking from Katra. Katra railway station is 43 km from Jammu. One must avoid rainy season as there can be landslides, and winter because of extreme cold.

The deity at the Vaishno Devi cave temple is a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Mata Adi Shakti. The temple is one of the 108 Shakti Peethas dedicated to Durga. There is a continuous stream of millions of Hindu pilgrims to Vaishno Devi temple round the year, although Navratri period is the most auspicious. A Government-nominated committee administers the temple.

Those visiting Vaishno Devi also go to Bhairavnath temple, dedicated to saint Bhairavnath, and Nau Devi temple near Katra, also a cave temple housing nine deities representing nine incarnations of Goddess Durga.

There are also several places around that illustrate the Shiv-Parvati legends. A little away is the Gauri Kund spring where Parvati used to take bath before worshipping at the Sudh Mahadev temple. Sudh Mahadev is the place where the Shiva Trishul fell, it is said. The temple is built on the spot and a piece of the trishul is preserved inside the temple, the story goes. Mantalai is the place where Shiva and Parvati got married.

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