This poem is of nostalgia and devotion. Its about my earliest memory, as a toddler, of the legendary Goddess in the Himalayan mountains – Vaishnavi.

A Lady of the Yore, with a longstanding vision, and every bit faithful to it! Independent, powerful and a non-renunciate yogini of the highest order! 

My recent brush with divinity has circled me back to Her.

This poem is an ode to Her, to thank Her, for being with me. I was a child then, when I first met Her, about 30 years later, I realize, I am a child still, walking on a new path, knowing nothing at all about this new way. Forever, an ignorant, learning and unlearning.

.

One of my first memories of You, O Vaishnavi!

is of freezing cold water

flowing through my little warm toddler feet.

I was unable to decide back then,

whether to keep walking or to keep standing,

‘Why walk in cold water to meet someone?’,

I had thought back then.

The little me did not realize then

the big reverential authority of You!

All I knew was,

we were there to see a Goddess Vaishnavi

Either very early,

before the first light,

Or late,

in the dark of the night!

My eyes widened with fright

but then I got distracted

by something very beautiful,

little baby bangles strewn everywhere

on the floor, in the water.

“Dropped by someone in a hurry?

Or a secret invitation for me

to quietly pick and choose some for myself?”,

I had wondered!

Whether they would fit me or not

was beyond my little comprehension,

I was so lured by them

That I picked some,

not realizing back then,

that it could have been your Leela

either to distract me

from the fear of the cold water,

or to bless me with a gift

for visiting you for the first time

even before seeing you!

On seeing me lagging behind, my tall chaperone

scooped me up in his arms

and took me deeper into the cave, to You!

I remember seeing the little mounds of rock

covered in little red shining scarves

and the auspicious vermilion

which one was you, was hard to tell,

But I do remember a big man sitting next to them,

handing out swift blessings

on your behalf,

my feet all warmed up by then.

Why today

I am reminded of You again,

I know not yet.

But I do know

from my last visit not so long ago,

that the shivering cold water still graces

the floor of your cavernous lodge,

flowing beneath your devotees’ feet,

Either to soothe the anxious,

or to rejuvenate the weary,

or to douse the angry,

or to caution the astray!

Thoughts disappear, in your presence,

mind is clear, undistracted.

Such is the ambience

of your solar complexion

in the color of Palash

and warm saffron!

I do put on a bangle today,

a bangle of gold,

different from the ones

I found in your womb,

yet the same,

an important blessing from you,

so I have been told

by an unparalleled seer!

Thank you, dear Goddess,

for your bangle is a mystical reminder,

that you are always near, ever watchful,

that you will keep showing me the way,

even when stationed afar

in the esoteric peaks of the mystical Himalayas

in your venerated chambers,

regent and richly adorned

with buoyant nature

and set ablaze

by the raging plasma

of your aeonic Tapas!

.

Legend of Vaishnavi

Her Grace is known for her intense tapas, surrender to Lord Vishnu, and provides spiritual guidance to Her devotees.

She is more commonly known as Vaishno Devi among her folks. She is the uber-energetic, the alpha, a spiritual warrior, mother, said to have powers of all the three forms of the Divine Feminine – Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati. 

Legend has it, that when Lord Rama was on his way to Sri Lanka during his exile, he saw Vaishnavi meditating on the banks of a river. Vaishnavi with her insight knew he wasn’t ordinary and asked to merge back into Him, the original source of us all, the highest goal of many spiritual adepts. Lord Rama, then having taken an oath of a single marriage, gave his word to Vaishnavi, that He would come back during the Kaliyuga, the current epoch that we are in, and merge with Her then. Whether Lord Rama has reincarnated yet and the merger has happened already or not, still remains a mystery. Only a great devotee of Devi Vaishnavi, and a seer of the three realms of time, will be able to tell.

She guides us lesser folks with her extraordinary spiritual powers by living in Her self-consecrated rocky mound in a cave, now adorned with enchanting silver and gold doorways, and an equally energetic flow of water behind Her mound! Her shrine is located in Katra, Himachal Pradesh. 

Photo Credits – My daughter, when she was not about to be 3, dressed up as Devi.

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Vartika Verma

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