was Vaishno Devi?
During the time when the Goddesses were wreaking havoc on the evil Asuras, the 3 main manifestations, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati, pooled their collective strength and sent a divine child to be born in the house of one Ratnakar. She was to uphold righteousness and attain a level of consciousness by which she would merge with Vishnu.
While passing through a ravine she shot an arrow into the earth from where water gushed out -- this stream came to be known as Banaganga. Charan Paduka, marked by the imprints of her feet, is the place where she rested. The Goddess then meditated in the cave at Adhkawari. It took Bhairon Nath nine months to locate her, the reason why the cave is known as Garbh Joon. Mata Vaishno Devi blasted an opening at the other end of the cave with Her Trident when Bhairon Nath located her.
On arriving at the Holy Cave at Darbar, she assumed the form of Maha Kali and cut off Bhairon Nath's head which was flung up the mountain by the force of the blow and fell at the place where the Bhairon Temple is now located. The boulder at the mouth of the Holy Cave according to the legend is the petrified torso of Bhairon Nath who was granted divine forgiveness by the benevolent Mata in his dying moments.
The Shrine Discovered
Legend goes, that the holy shrine was discovered by a Brahmin, Pandit Sridhar about a thousand years ago. He used to live in Hansali village at the foothills of the Trikuta Mountains. One day, as he was grazing cattle, he met a beautiful child, Vaishnavi, on the hills. She urged him to call the people of his village to a feast. By mid-day when his guests arrived he had still not made arrangements for any provisons.
Suddenly, he saw Vaishnavi coming out of his hut and she asked Sridhar to call his guests saying the food was ready. He watched in amazement as all the villagers went inside his small hut and finished their meal. As they left , he called out to young Vaishnavi knowing that the anawer to the mystery lay with her. But she was not to be found.
His search for her led him to a a cave up a cliff where he thought he spied her. But in vain. As he wept in anguish a light shone on him, and he had a vision: Vaishnavi was transformed into a transcendental beauty with eight arms and astride a lion. She told him she was Shakti and in this cave she was manifested in her three forms of Kali, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Sridhar's progeny have been worshipping the Goddess in this Holy Cave since those hoary days!