Amongst the many legends associated with the Shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi, is that of Lord Rama's encounter with Vaishnavi during the period of his exile when he (Lord Rama) directed the Goddess towards the holy cave situated in Trikoot Parbat. There are other legends too, like that of the Pandavas, who are said to have visited the holy abode and are also believed to have built a temple here. Prahalad, the legendary son of the atheist king Hirankashayap, is also believed to have undertaken a pilgrimage to the holy shrine. However, the most popular and well known legend is that of Sridhar Brahmin who used to live in village Hansali situated at the foot of Trikoot Parbat, adjacent to modern day Katra Town.
Shridhar was a staunch devotee of Shakti. Even though he was a very poor man, with the inspiration and assurance from Goddess Vaishanavi who appeared one day in his dream in Kanayaroop, Sridhar undertook the organizing of a grand Bhandara. An auspicious date for the Bhandhara was selected and Shridhar invited all the people living in nearby villages to the Bhandara. Thereafter, Sridhar went from door to door requesting his neighbours and acquaintances to give him raw provisions which could be cooked and served to the guests on the day of Bhandara. Though a few of them obliged but many others turned down his request. They in fact taunted him for having the audacity to hold a Bhandara without having the wherewithal for organizing. As the day of Bhandara drew nearer, Shridhar's worries about feeding the guests invited for Bhandhara also increased.
On the night preceding the day of Bhandara, Shridhar could not sleep a wink. He had spent the entire night grappling with the problem of how to feed his guests with the limited provisions and to accommodate them in the inadequate space that he had. When he was unable to come up with a satisfactory solution to his problems till morning, he resigned himself to fate and got up to face the day. He sat down for puja outside his hut. By midday, his guests started arriving. Finding him deeply involved in puja, they began to make themselves comfortable wherever they could find place. Strangely enough, a very large number of guests were able to comfortably have their space inside Sridhar's small hut and still a lot of space was unutilized. When the puja was over, Shridhar looked around and saw huge number of guests who had arrived. While he was wondering how to tell his guests that he would not be able feed them, he saw Vaishnavi coming out of his hut. With the grace of Goddess Vaishanvi, all guests were offered food of their own choice and the Bhandhara turned out to be very successful despite some problems raised by Bhairon, a disciple of Guru Gorakhnath who too was invited in the Bhandhara.
After the Bhandhara, Sridhar was curious to get to the bottom of the mystery shrouding the magical powers of Vaishanavi. He began asking young Vaishnavi for an explanation for the mysterious developments of the day. He called out to her but the Vaishanavi was not there to reply. He called out again and again but with the same result. Vaishnavi was no where to be seen. A feeling of emptiness engulfed Sridhar. Then one day, he had a dream of the same girl who told him that she was Vaishno Devi. The Goddess showed him the vision of her cave and also blessed him with the boon of four sons. Sridhar, happy once again, set out in search of the cave, and after finding it he decided to spend rest of his life in worship of the deity. Soon fame of the holy cave spread, and the devotees began to flock it to pay their homage to the mighty Goddess.