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Monday, 20 May 2013

100) Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) – Silver Jubilee: Honouring Temples and Saints of India: A five rupee commemorative coin issued by Reserve Bank of India, in May 2013:




100) Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) – Silver Jubilee: Honouring Temples and Saints of India:

A five rupee commemorative coin issued by Reserve Bank of India, in May 2013:

The Vaishno Devi temple:
The Vaishno Devi temple is one of the holiest Hindu temples, dedicated to the Goddess “Shakti” and is located in the Vaishno Devi hills of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), India, about 12 km. from Katra town, in the Reasi district, at an altitude of about 5300 feet.

The temple is maintained by the Sri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. The shrine is the abode of the Goddess Vaishno Devi who is a manifestation of the Goddess “Sati”. The Goddess is represented in a five and a half feet tall structure and three “Pindis” or Heads.

The Trikuta Mountain, where the Shrine and the Holy Cave are situated is the “Gateway to the dimension of Super Consciousness”. Just like the Trikuta Mountain, which is one at the base but has three peaks or “Heads”, (hence the name “Trikoot”), the revelation of the Mother Goddess in the Holy Cave is in a natural rock form which is one at the base but has three heads at the top. These three heads in a natural rock form are known as the “Holy Pindies” and are worshipped as the revelation of the Mother Goddess.

The entire rock body is immersed in water and a marble platform has been constructed around it. The main Darshan remains of the three “Holy Pindies”. The uniqueness of the Pindies is that although they come out of a single rock formation, each one is distinctly different from the other two in texture and in colour. There are no statues or idols inside the Holy Cave.

It is the second most visited religious shrine in India, next to the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple. About 8 million “yatris” (pilgrims) visit the temple every year.

 The legend of Mata Vaishno Devi:

Legend has it that, Mata Vaishno Devi was born in the house of Ratnakar Sagar, in South India. She was called “Trikuta” as a child, but later on, she was called “Vaishnavi”.
 As a nine year old, she is said to have meditated on Lord “Rama” (an incarnation of The God Vishnu) and expressed a desire to be his wife. Lord Rama, who was at that time leading an army to Ravana’s Lanka seeking to free his wife Sita from Ravana’s captivity, declined her proposal, on the grounds that he was already married to Sita. However, moved by her devotion to him, he named her “Vaishnavi” (meaning a devotee of the God Vishnu) and promised to marry her only in his next incarnation in human form as “Kalki”.

In the meanwhile, he asked her to meditate in a cave in the “Trikuta Range” (Trikuta means the “Mountain with the three Heads”) of Manik Mountains, situated in Northern India. It is said that Lord Rama gave her a set of bow and arrows, a small “Vaanar Sena” (Army of Monkey warriors) and a lion for her protection. He also gave her a boon that she would become immortal and be remembered forever as “Maa Vaishno Devi”.

Later upon hearing the news of the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana and the freeing of Sita, Trikuta or “Ma Vaishnavi” observed a “Navratra” or “nine day’s fast” to celebrate this victory.

It is said that her abode has become the huge pilgrimage that it is today, due to Lord Rama’s Blessings.

The legend of Pandit Shreedhar:

It is said that Shreedhar was an ardent devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi living in a village near Katra town. Once the Goddess appeared before him and asked the “Pandit” (Brahmin) to throw a “Bhandara” (feast) to feed the mendicants and devotees. He accordingly invited about 375 guests from nearby villages, but was apprehensive that he may not have the resources to hold such a huge feast, but Ma Vaishno Devi allayed his fears and said that she had made the necessary arrangements and the programme went off very well.

One of the guests, “Bhairav” who was  a “tantric” (one practicing occult rites) suspecting that the Goddess had made the arrangements through her supernatural powers because she was an incarnation of the Mother Goddess “Shakti” decided to test her and chased her for about nine months. She hid from him in the Trikuta Ranges.
While hiding from him she once shot an arrow into the Earth with such force, that, water gushed out as a consequence forming a river which is now known as the “Baan Ganga” (meaning the “Ganga” River created by a “Baan” or “Arrow”). It is believed that when a devotee bathes in this river his/her sins are washed away. The Banks of the river also has a “Charan Paduka” (the Devi’s Foot imprints) which have remained intact over time.

To escape from Bhairav, the Devi took shelter in a cave known as “Garbh Joon” near “Adhkwari”, where she is said to have meditated for 9 months attaining spiritual wisdom and powers.
Her meditation was cut short when Bhairav located her. Vaishno Devi was then compelled to take the form of the Goddess “Maha Kali” at the entrance of the Holy Cave which forms the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine.
In the ensuing battle, Bhairav’s head was severed from his body with such force that it is said to have fallen in a valley known as “Bhairav Ghati” which is about 2.5 kms. from the Holy Cave.

Before dying, Bhairav pleaded forgiveness and the Goddess knowing that his main intention in attacking her was to seek liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, granted him a boon that every devotee coming on the pilgrimage, to complete the pilgrimage also had to visit the Bhairav Nath temple near the Holy Cave after visiting the Goddess.

Thereafter, the Goddess assumed the shape of a rock with three “Pindis” (meaning “heads”, each representing a form of the Mother Goddess viz., Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati) and immersed herself in meditation forever.

Historical background of the Holy shrine:

The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine is a very ancient shrine and its date of origin has not been determined with certainty. Geological studies of the Holy Cave place the Cave’s age at nearly a million years old, although, the mountain Trikuta Mountain (meaning the “Mountain with the three Heads”) is mentioned in the Rig-Veda (Ancient Hindu Text).

The first mention of the worship of the Goddess is found in the “Mahabharat” (ancient Hindu epic) when the armies of the Pandavs and Kauravs were gathering to fight the epic war. 
 Arjun (one of the five Pandav brothers and a renowned Archer of that time), upon the advice of Lord Krishna, who was acting as his charioteer-cum-guide, meditated upon the Mother Goddess seeking her blessings for victory in the coming War .
In the Mahabharat, she is mentioned as “Jambookatak Chityaishu Nityam” (meaning the one who always dwells in the temple on the slope of the mountain in Jamboo – present day Jammu town). To commemorate their victory, the Pandavs built temples at “Kot Kandoli” and “Bhawan” as a mark of gratitude to the Goddess.

On a mountain, adjacent to the “Trikuta Mountain” overlooking the Holy Cave are five stone structures believed to symbolise the five Pandavs.

It is also recorded that Guru Gobind Singh too had visited the Holy Cave.

Some devotees believe that, this shrine is the holiest of all “Shakti-peeths (places where the Mother Goddess or the “Eternal Energy has her abode), since the skull of Mata Sati fell here, while others believe that the right hand of Sati had fallen here, when Shiva had danced his terrible Universe shattering “Tandav” dance holding her mortal body in his hands, while grieving on her death.
 Inside the Holy Cave of Mata Vaishno Devi, there are stone remains/imprint of a human hand popularly known as “Varad Hast” (meaning “the hand that grants boons and blessings”).

There is, however, unanimity in that the Shrine was discovered about 700 years ago by the same Pandit Sridhar, at whose place Mata Vaishno Devi had helped organise a “Bhandara”.

When she had left to escape from Bhairav or Bhairon Nath during the Bhandara, Pandit Shreedhar is said to have felt that he had lost everything in life. In his grief, he gave up food and water, locked himself in a room and prayed to the Goddess to appear before him.

Then, the Goddess appeared in a dream and instructed him to search for her in the Holy Cave in the Trikuta Mountains. She guided him in his dreams and through divine visions to find the Holy Cave.
 When he entered the Holy Cave, he found the rock upon which were three heads or “Holy Pindies”, representing her manifestations of the Supreme Energies (Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati). The Goddess is said to have appeared before him in all her manifestations of the Supreme Energies and introduced him to the Holy Pindies.
She blessed him with a boon of four sons and the right to worship her manifestation and to spread the glory of the Holy Shrine all over the World.
He spent his life worshipping at the temple of the Goddess and his descendants have followed the tradition since then.

The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB):

The maintenance and administration of the Shrine and the “Yatra” (pilgrimage) of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, including pilgrim amenities etc. are managed by the SMVDSB, also called the “Shrine Board” since August 1986. The Rules governing the conduct of the Board are governed by the provisions of the Jammu & Kashmir Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act 1988 which aims at providing better management and governance of the Shrine.

The Governor of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, by virtue of his office is the ex-officio Chairman of the Board comprising 10 members.

Prior to this arrangement, the upkeep and control of the Shrine was under a private Trust called the “Dharamarth Trust” and a group of local residents called “Baridars” (those who collected a portion of the daily offerings as per their “Bari” or “Turn”). This arrangement was not working in the interests of general upkeep of the Trust and pilgrim amenities.

Among the facilities provided is an arrangement for having two six-seater Pawan Hans helicopters , which are now available for ferrying “yatris” from Katra to the helipad next to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine for pilgrims who are not able to take the steep climb enroute to the Shrine which has helped in increasing the number of visitors.

The SMVDSB Trust has worked meticulously towards providing several other facilities for make the pilgrimage more comfortable and a memorable experience.

As a result, the number of pilgrims visiting the Shrine has increased manifold and 105 lac pilgrims visited the Shrine in 2012 (approx), which was also the Silver Jubilee Anniversary for the Board.

Commemorative coin:

Reserve Bank of India has issued a five rupee commemorative coin to commemorate the occasion of the silver Jubilee of the SMVDSB. The coin has been put into general circulation during the first week of May 2013.


The reverse of the coin shows the picture of “Mata Vaishno Devi” in the centre. Below the picture, is mentioned “2012” (the year when the SMVDSB completed its silver jubilee. I wonder, if the year should have been “2011” as the SMVDSB was set up in August 1986), below which is mentioned “Silver Jubilee”. On the upper periphery is mentioned the inscription “Shri Vaishno Devi Shrine Board” in Hindi and on the lower periphery, this inscription is mentioned in Hindi. The prominent “diamond” mint mark of the Mumbai mint is at the extreme bottom of this face of the coin.
The obverse of the coin shows the Lion Capitol of the Ashoka Pillar in the centre of the coin, with the legend “Satyameva Jayate” inscribed below it in Hindi. On the left periphery is written “Bharat” in Hindi and on the right periphery “India” is written. On the bottom of the coin, the denomination of the coin “5” is mentioned preceded by the “rupee symbol”.

The specifications of the coin are:

Shape: Circular; Diameter: 23 mm; No. of serrations: 100; Metal Composition: Nickel Brass (Copper – 75%; Zinc – 20% and Nickel 5%).

It speaks volumes of the “questionable” quality of minting of coins at the Mumbai Mint (and other Mints?), that, the outer shining layer/ coating of this coin has already come off on the obverse, although, the coin has been in circulation for less than two weeks.  While RBI is going to introduce polymer notes in view of some one-third notes in circulation being destroyed as “soiled notes” every year, perhaps, a relook is required at the Reserve Bank of India/ India Government Mints to ensure that minted coins retain their coating/shine at least for a few years and have uniform mint marks, particularly in the case of commemorative coins, which are issued to honour persons, events and institutions etc. who/which have left their mark in shaping Indian History/culture!!

The above is an image of the reverse of the Rupees ten coin issued by the Mumbai Mint, which I have in my coin collection. The coin features an engraving of Mata Vaishno Devi riding a Lion. On the periphery of the coin is mentioned “Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board” in Hindi on the top and in English on the bottom periphery. The year of issue is mentioned as “2012” below the portrait of the Goddess, along with the words “Silver Jubilee”.  The “Diamond” mint mark of the Mumbai  Mint appears below the inscription. 


The above is an image of the obverse of a bimetallic Rupees Ten coin issued on the occasion. On the outer left periphery is mentioned “Bharat” in Hindi/Devnagri. (Notice that the word “rupiye” in Hindi and “Rupees” in English which is normally mentioned on other ten Rupee coins issued hithertobefore in recent times, is missing from this coin). On the outer right periphery is mentioned “India” in English.
(Another attempt by the Mints to save up costs by omitting the words "Rupiye" and "Rupees" or was it just a plain engraving/designing error).

The Asoka Pillar emblem showing the 3 lions are in the centre of the coin with the words “Satyameva Jayate” (in Hindi/Devnagri, meaning, “Truth Always Prevails”) is mentioned. On the extreme bottom of this face is mentioned the denomination of this coin “10” in numerals, preceded by the Rupee symbol.

Specifications of the above coin are as under:

The Rs. 10/- coin was bimetallic. Its shape is circular, and its outer diameter is 27 mm. Its weight is 7.71 gms. The metal composition of the coin is:

Outer Ring: (Aluminium Bronze): Copper: 92%; Aluminium: 6 %; Nickel: 2%.

Centre piece: (Cupro Nickel): Copper: 75%; Nickel: 25%.

 Stories and legends ascribed to the Goddess:

There are several other stories of the Goddess’ intervention to help the Devas and Sages against the depradations of Asuras (Demons).

Some of the famous legends are:

-       the story of Asura Hyagriva (the demon with the Horse’ Head who could only be killed by a Hyagriva) ,

-      Madhu and Khaitab (two Asuras who had obtained a boon from the Goddess that they would die only at a time ascertained by them and they planned to take over the Indralok),

-      Mahisasur (the Demon who was half-man and half-buffalo and had obtained a boon From God “Agni”  that they can be killed by only by a woman in battle),

-      Vritrasur (the Brahmin Demon born out of a Yagya fire to avenge the death of his brother, the sage Vishvarupa at the hands of Indra, the King of “IndraLok” or “Paradise”, who too was killed by deceit by Indra),

-      Shumbha and Nikumbha (Two powerful Asura warriors who had obtained a boon From God Brahma that they cannot be killed by either man or Beast),

-       Indra’s penance (after he had killed a Brahmin and had left incognito and a sage had been installed in his place to run the affairs of the “IndraLok” (Abode of the Gods - Paradise) who coveted the luxuries of the “IndraLok”, including Indra’s wife Indrani,

-      She came to the aid of the Devas during their long war with the Asuras and after defeating the Asuras advised them to shun the path of war and live peacefully.

The Call of the Mata:

It is a strong belief that one does not visit the Vaishno Devi Shrine, unless the Mother Goddess calls one to visit her abode in the Holy Cave. It is also a belief that once the Divine Mother calls the person who receives the call, he/she is bound to visit the Shrine and receive her blessings.
In the local areas, one often hears the residents say “Maan Aap Bulandi” (meaning “the Mother herself calls you” – to visit her).
Almost all the pilgrims who have visited the Shrine would vouch for this. Upon the call of the Mata, the person just initiates the process of travelling to the Holy Cave and she makes the journey as comfortable as possible with her Divine blessings.

There is also a belief that unless the Call has come, no matter how much a person tries, he/she will not be able to visit the Shrine or have her blessings in person.

Our visit to the Mata Vaishno Devi Temple in 1995 – A personal experience of the “Call of the Mata Vaishno Devi”:

We visited the Temple in 1995 when we were posted in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India).

We were not getting train travel reservations to Jammu for almost a month and then we were told that, reservations were very easily available only for 5th December 1995 night, so we pounced upon the opportunity and booked the tickets.

On 6th December 1995, when we got up in the morning, the train was standing at a Railway station in Punjab, but the eeriest feeling was that there was nobody at the station except a large police force and we were the only passengers in the compartment as well as several adjoining bogies. When the train landed at Jammu, only 8-10 passengers got off the train, besides us.

We were asked for the reason of our visit by the Police Force on duty at the Jammu Railway station, who told us that it was dangerous to travel on 06.12.1995, (6th December, being the anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya, Faizabad district, in Uttar Pradesh, India) because of which, all Hindu religious shrines were under terrorist threats. They escorted us to a nearby Taxi stand, where, luckily a single taxi was available which charged us two-way fare to Katra.

When we reached Katra, there was almost 95% vacancy in all the Hotels who offered the best accommodation at very economical rates, praising us for our “determination to visit the shrine despite the terrorist threats” (foolhardiness?).

We began walking up the steep incline/gradient which leads to the “Adhkwari” (at about half-way up) and the “Holy Cave” after a trek of 14 kms or so.
  After about 5 kms we were negotiating the steep climb with some difficulty when suddenly a young girl on her way down ran to us as if we were “long lost friends”. Seeing that we were completely out of shape, she gave us a walking stick each saying that she and her mother did not need the sticks on their way down (we never thought that we will need walking sticks on the climb up to the Holy Cave, seeing that we used to go for a 6 km morning walk every day. I am convinced that the Goddess had made this arrangement for us).
With shouts of “Jai Mata Di”, many other pilgrims urged us on. When we reached the Adhkwari, one has to go through a very narrow passage through the rocks. Amazingly, even overweight pilgrims could go through that passage very comfortably.
 When we were about 2 km. away from the Holy Cave, we saw a young Sikh pilgrim coming towards us who said he had been chasing us on the uphill climb, because he thought, I resembled his favourite singer-actor and took some photos with me.
 Naturally, I felt quite energetic after the discussion and he said that he would escort us to the Holy Shrine area. On reaching the top,  when I turned back to thank him, he was nowhere to be seen (Another one of the Goddess’ unseen ways of helping us with the climb?).

We had heard stories of long queues of pilgrims, outside the Holy Cave, but there was no one else at that time except for a newly married couple. The Pandit managing the temple inside quickly ushered the newly married couple out.
For the next 15 minutes or so, I asked him several questions regarding the Deity and the positioning and legends of the three Pindis. He shared that he was very happy to meet us because we had come only to see the Goddess when I told him that I would be happy if all human beings live in harmony and there is World Peace and were not asking for any personal boons.
Then, suddenly, a crowd of 10 – 15 devotees appeared and the Pandit assumed his officious demeanour, but not before giving us a coin from the Mother Goddess’ “Treasury” which is still available with us.

(We are convinced that the Goddess had called us to visit the Holy Cave on a day when we would have her “Darshan” very comfortably and also “assigned” the Pandit to tell us everything about her legend. We are also convinced that she had arranged for the little girl to give us the walking sticks and the Sikh pilgrim to guide us in the last leg of the climb to her “Holy Cave”).


Links to other Articles on coins issued on Prominent saints and temples of India: 

1) Sant Dnyaneshwar and Sant Tukaram

2) Sant Thiruvalluvar

3) Mahatma Basaveshwara

4) Jagathguru Sree Narayana Gurudev

5) Mother Teresa

6) Saint Alphonsa

7) Lord Mahavira: 24th Teerthankar of Jainism

8) Celebrating 1000 years of Brihadeeshwarar Temple



(The above Rupees Five coin has been given for my collection by
 Krishna Tonpe, while the Rupees Ten coin has been collected by me from a coin exhibition).

4 comments:

  1. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented on 20.05.13:
    "Congratulations on writing '100' informative blogs. This 100th number is dedicated to Mata Vaishnodevi. It is very tiring 'yatra' filled with devotion. It tests one's stamina. I travelled a lot through North to South India but could not visit this shrine. Though I would have loved to do this 'yatra',unfortunately now it is not possible due to recent 'knee replacement surgery'. But on reading your blog, it is as good as scaling the heights of 'Vaishno Devi'. Thanks !"

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  2. Thank you so much. I know, with my bad leg I , too, will perhaps not be able to climb steep mountains again. However, we all have to learn a lot from your wide experiences of places and cultures of India, which is entirely your "Treasure". I always look forward to your very encouraging comments on my posts.

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  3. Great. Good work and nice information.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for visiting the blog & your encouragement.

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