As per the legend, during the period when the Goddess was busy in annihilating the Asuras, Her three main manifestations viz. Mata Maha Kali, Mata Maha Lakshmi, and Mata Maha Saraswati got together one day and pooled their collective Tejas or spiritual strength. A stunningly bright light emanated from the place where the Tejas of the three manifestations coalesced and a beautiful young girl emerged out of this Tejas. The young girl asked them, “Why have I been created?” The Devis explained to her that they had created her so that she would live on earth and spend her time in upholding righteousness.
The Devis added, “Now, go and take birth in the house of Ratnakar and his wife who reside in the southern part of India, and who are great devotees of ours. Live on earth. Uphold righteousness and evolve yourself spiritually so that you reach higher levels of consciousness. Once you have attained the appropriate level of consciousness you will merge into Vishnu and become one with him.” So saying they blessed the girl. Sometimes later a very beautiful girl child was born to Ratnakar and his wife. The couple named the child Vaishnavi. The girl right from her childhood displayed a hunger for knowledge which was like a vortex and which no amount of teaching and learning could sufficiently satiate. Subsequently, Vaishnavi started looking into her inner self for knowledge, and soon learned the art of meditation and realized that meditation and penance only could bring her close to her greater objective. Vaishnavi thus relinquished all household comforts and went deep into the forest for Tapasya (meditation). Meanwhile, Lord Rama, during his fourteen years of exile happened to visit Vaishnavi who recognized him immediately as no ordinary being but the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and immediately asked him to merge her into himself so that she could become one with the supreme creator.
However, Lord Rama, knowing that it was not the appropriate time, dissuaded her by saying that he would visit her again after the end of his exile, and at that time if she succeeded in recognizing him, he would fulfill her wish. True to his words, Rama visited her again after being victorious in the battle, but this time he did so in the disguise of an old man. Unfortunately, Vaishnavi was unable to recognize him this time and was distraught. Upon this, Lord Rama consoled her that the appropriate time for her being one with the creator had not come, and that time would come eventually in ‘Kaliyug’ when He (Rama) would be in his incarnation of ‘Kalki’. Rama also directed her to meditate and set up an Ashram at the base of Trikuta hills, to elevate her level of spirituality so as to bless mankind and rid the poor and destitute of their sufferings. Only then would ‘Vishnu’ merge her into himself. Vaishnavi immediately set off for the northern part and after immense hardships, reached the foot of the Trikuta Hills. After reaching there she set up her ashram there and began to meditate.
As predicted by Lord Rama, her glory spread far and wide, and people began to flock to her Ashram to seek her blessings. As time passed, MahaYogi Guru Goraksh Nath ji who had a vision of the episode between Lord Rama and Vaishnavi in the retrospective time frame, became curious to find out whether Vaishnavi has been able to attain a high level of spirituality or not. He, therefore, sent his most able disciple ‘Bhairon Nath’ to find out the truth. Bhairon Nath on locating the ashram started observing Vaishnavi secretly and realized that though a ‘Sadhvi’ she always carried bow and arrows with her, and was always surrounded by langoors (apes) and a ferocious looking lion. Bhairon Nath was enamored by Vaishnavi’s extraordinary beauty, and losing all good sense he began to pester Vaishnavi to marry him. Meanwhile a staunch devotee of Vaishnavi, Mata Sridhar organized a Bhandara (Community meal) in which the whole village and MahaYogi Guru Goraksh Nath ji along with all his followers including Bhairon were invited.
During the course of Bhandara Bhairon Nath attempted to grab Vaishnavi but she tried her best to daunt him. On failing to do so, Vaishnavi decided to fly away into the mountains to continue her Tapasaya undisturbed. Bhairon Nath, however, chased her to her destination. The goddess after halting at (present day) Banganga, Charan Paduka, and Adhkwari, finally reached the holy cave Shrine. When Bhairon Nath continued to follow her despite the goddess trying to avoid a confrontation, the goddess was compelled to kill him. Bhairon Nath met his ultimate fate when the goddess, just outside the mouth of the cave, beheaded him. The severed head of Bhairon fell with a force at a distant hilltop. Bhairon Nath upon death realized the futility of his mission and prayed to the deity to forgive him. The almighty Mata ( Mother Goddess) had mercy on Bhairon and gave him a boon that every devotee of the goddess would have to have the Darshans of Bhairon after having the Darshans of the Goddess and only then would the yatra of a devotee be complete.
Meanwhile, Vaishnavi decided to shed off her human form and assuming the face of a rock she immersed her self in meditation forever. Thus Vaishnavi, in the form of a five and a half feet tall rock with three heads or the Pindies on the top is the ultimate destination of a devotee. These Pindies constitute the Sanctum Sanctorum of the holy cave known as the shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, which is revered by one and all.
Linked With Mahabharat
Like with most old Shrines, it is not possible to ascertain when exactly the pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine started. A geological study of the Holy Cave has indicated its age to be nearly a million years. Vedic literature gives no reference to the worship of any female deity, although the mountain Trikuta does find its mention in Rigveda, the oldest of the four Vedas The practice of worshipping Shakti, largely started in the Puranic period.
The first mention of the Mother Goddess is in the epic Mahabharat. When the armies of Pandavas and Kauravas were arrayed in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjun, the chief warrior of Pandavs upon the advice of Sri Krishna; meditated upon the Mother Goddess and sought Her blessings for victory. This is when Arjun addresses the Mother Goddess as ‘Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam Sannihitalaye’, which means ‘you who always dwell in the temple on the slope of the mountain in Jamboo’ (probably referring to the present day Jammu).