Shakti is Sanskrit for power or empowerment, the aboriginal form of cosmic energy representing the dynamic forces and as per Hinduism the divine feminine creative power believed to be streaming through the entire Universe. Hindu mythology portrays Shakti in various forms of feminism; ‘the great divine mother’, sister, wife, lover. Vaishno Devi or Vaishanavi is a manifestation of the Mother Goddess Durga or Parvati. She is also referred to as Mata Rani and the temple dedicated to her is amongst the 108 Shakti Peeths formed at the places in India. Maa Vaishno Devi is shown riding on a tiger dressed in a bright crimson saree with seven of her eight arms holding a trident, a bow, an arrow, a lotus, a mace, a sword, the sudarshan chakra and the eighth one held in the abhaya gesture.
The legend has it that Vaishanavi; the divine light or tejas that emerged out of the collective powers of the trinity Maa Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati, was born to one Ratnakar and his wife living in South India. Vaishanavi is said to have been created to encourage human beings to uphold their virtues. Her hunger for knowledge made her dive down into her inner self, relinquish all comforts of life and proceed deep into the woods to perform Tapasya (meditation). In the forest she met Lord Rama, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Knowing that her destiny was to become one with Vishnu (supreme creator), she urged that she be united with him. However, Rama explained it was not the right time and promised to aid her union with the creator if she recognizes him during their next meeting. Sadly, Vaishanavi failed to identify her Lord, who had turned up in a disguise of an old man. Rama consoled her saying their incorporation would happen during his time as the Kalki – incarnation in the Kaliyuga. On Rama’s advice, Vaishanavi moved northwards and set up an ashram at the bottom of the Trikuta (three peaked) hills.
During her journey to ultimate spiritual supremacy, she had to overwhelm a number of disruptions including the one in the form of Bhairon Nath, a disciple of Guru Gorakh Nath. After a battle, that ensued, Vaishanavi beheaded Bhairon Nath at the mouth of the cave and renounced the human body forever, to be transformed into five and a half feet long rock with three heads (or Pindies) thus descending into eternal meditation (Samadhi). The pindies form the sanctum of the Vaishno Devi temple on the Trikuta Mountains in the Jammu and Kashmir state of India. It is believed the pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi temple would be incomplete if performed without worshiping Bhairon Nath at the temple built where his head had fallen.
Thus, acknowledging Shakti as the universal energy, capable of creating or procreating, people from all walks of life; men and women alike, throng the Mata Rani’s darbar (figuratively means place of worship) seeking her blessings and the spiritual communion with the mother Goddess by chanting the words ‘Jai Mata Di’!