Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 35


Deities of Barahachhetra Temple at Chatara, Nepal
(Click for large version)
[Photo courtesy Velpandian@Panoramio]

Mar 16, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — The Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.

Our series on Nepal in the Mahabharata Period has crisscrossed a very extensive timeline, from Sri Krsna's pastimes fighting demons in the northern regions prior to the Battle of Kurukshetra, to fairly modern times in which art and architectural artifacts continue to tell the story of the presence of Vedic culture in Nepal. Early in this series we began discussing the 29 Kirat kings of Nepal beginning with Yalamber, who defeated Bhuvan Singh, the last king of the Yadava dynasty put into power directly by Sri Krsna. Following Yalamber were a number of kings, one who ruled at the time Arjuna visited Nepal (Humati Hang), and a king who fought at Kurukshetra (Jitedasti).

Over a period of approximately 1,225 years, the Kirat rued Nepal, from 800 B.C. to 300 A.D. The last two Kirat kings were Patuka (28th) and Gasti (29th). It was during Patuka's rule that the Kirat dynasty was weakened enough to end its long dominion over Nepal. Kings from the Soma (Sombanshi) dynasty attacked Nepal several times during Patuka's reign. Putaka successfully fended the Soma's off as they attacked from the west, but he was eventually forced to leave his capital city at Gokarna, moving to Shankhamul. Thus Gasti, the final Kirat king, took over an already defeated kingdom, and the Soma King Nimisha brought him down, ending Kirat rule of Nepal.

At the fall of the Kirat kingdom, Nimisha reigned as the first king of the Soma dynasty, around 205 A.D. He built his palace in Godavari (Godwari), about 10 km. from both Patan and Kathmandu darbars. Around that time the Godavari-Mela began, and continues to be held there every twelve years. Nimisha also erected the four-faced linga of Pashupatinath.

The fifth and last Soma king to rule Nepal was Bhaskerverma, whose reign ended in 305 A.D. It was Bhaskerverma who led a military expedition that pushed all the way south to Rameswaram, a wealthy Vaisnava city. Bhaskerverma made off with a vast amount of Rameswaram's wealth, which he used to gold-plate the roof of Pashupatinath and otherwise improve the economic condition of his Nepali kingdom. He also spent opulently to improve Devapatan, naming it Swarnapuri.

When the Soma's first took power, the Kirat people moved to the Eastern hills of Nepal and settled there in small enclaves. Although the majority of Kirats were principally involved in Mundhum religion, their animistic traditions continued to be tinged with both Hindu and Buddhist practices. But even as late as the 17th Century, some Kirat leaders continued to proliferate a more predominant form of Vaisnavism. For example, Kirat King Lo Hang Sen of Western Nepal maintained the Vaisnava faith. He had four sons who extended his kingdom east to the Mahanadi River. Lo Hang Sen was ordained as king on the Bijaypur throne by sannyasis in 1609 A.D. He built a temple in the name of Baraha (Varaha Avatar), on the eastern bank of the River Kosi at Chatara, and the temple was put under sannyasa management.

Gokarna Mahadev Temple, Nepal

Around the same time, in 1582 A.D., local villagers built the Gokarna Mahadev Temple, a triple-roofed mandir on the banks of the Bagmati River. Gokarna Mahadev is the abode of Gokarneshwar (Lord of Gokarna), who resides in the sanctum in Shivalingam. Over the temple entrance, Shiva and Parvati appear on a golden torana as Uma-Maheshwar (Parvati sitting on Shiva's thigh), with Garuda above them.

There are a great many deity shrines, murtis, sculptures and reliefs all around the temple complex, some dating back more than a thousand years. Included are Sri Sri Radha Krsna, Lord Nrsimhadeva, Narayana on Sesanaga, Lord Brahma with three heads, Lord Shiva, Lord Indra, Ganesh, Ganga Ma, Kamadeva, and others. One of the finest deities is housed in a small shrine in the northwestern courtyard, where an 8th Century image of Parvati graces the tirtha. There is also Vishnu-paduka. All can be seen in this video:

The Baraha Temple at Chatara is known as Barahachhetra or Varahakshetra. Situated at the confluence of the Sapta-Koshi Rivers (Sapta is a tributary of the Koshi) in Sunsari district, this tirtha is considered one of Nepal's most holy pilgrimage sites, along with Muktinath. Varahakshetra is accessed through Dharan.

Just below the main temple there are two smaller temples of Guru Varaha and Nageshwar, with the row of deity shrines for Surya Varaha, Koka Varaha and Indra Varaha to the east. The main temple of Lord Varaha stands on the left side of the main entrance. Inscriptions found in the temple precinct state that the temple (built in 1609 A.D.) was restored in 1783 A.D., and was destroyed by the earthquake of 1934, but renovated the following year.

Barahachhetra, Chatara
[Photo courtesy Velpandian@Panoramio]


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