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» North India
» Jammu & Kashmir
Location: Located 61 km North of Jammu
Height: Perched at 5,200 feet on lower Himalayan Ranges
Famous As: Most Divine Shrines of Hindus
Best Time To Visit: All The Year Round

The Holy LightThe two-hour long Aarti or Prayer is performed twice a day, first at sunrise and again at sunset. The holy cave is closed to pilgrims at this time. Only the Pujaris (priest), Sahayaks (attendants) and an officer is permitted in the holy premises.

Prayer Proceedings:

The priests chants out loud the 108 names of Goddess Durga. Then they perform Atam Puja for their own purification. This is followed by Tilak (urging the gods to grant the priests health), chant of Pratigya Sankalp (vow to worship the three deities), bathing of Ganesh, Surya and Chandrama symbols. Then the holyPindies are bathed with water and the five Amrits: Milk, Curd, Ghee, Honey and Sugar.

"Pashupatinath" is then given a bath with Panchamrit. This is followed by a general cleaning of the area of the sanctum sanctorum. Ganga water is poured over the holy Pindies. The priests chant Devyapradh Kshamapan Stotram or the mantras seeking forgiveness for their sins. Meanwhile the preparations for the adorning of the sacred Pindies go on.

The garments used for adornment is red, the bridal colour of all Hindu girls. This symbolizes that Goddess Vaishno devi is in her bridal atire awaiting Vishnu's arrival. Once the Tilak ceremony is over the Pindies are adorned with flowers, gold necklaces, silver crowns, bangles, sindoor. A curtain is drawn covering the entire sanctum sanctorum.

Aarti begins which includes ad dedication to Sridhar, the brahmin credited with having found the shrine. After the local Aart is over, the priests sing hymns in Hindi and Dogri to the accompaniment of bells and cymbals. The head Priest, a descendant of Sridhar, provides to Darshan to devotees and distributes Prasad. Puja is also performed in the holy cave which is once again thrown open to the pilgrims for Darshan.

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