Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 40
BY: SUN STAFF
Barahachetra - Chatara, Nepal
Mar 21, 2013 CANADA (SUN) The Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.
Baraha-kshetra at Chatara
Outside of the royal durbar squares, there are several more important abodes of Lord Narasimhadeva in Nepal that we would like to mention. The first is a temple previously mentioned in this series -- the Barahachhetra (Varaha-kshetra) in Chatara (Chatraa-gaddi), situated at the Sapta-Koshi confluence in Sunsari district.
Barahachetra - Chatara, Nepal
(Click for large image)
[ Photo courtesy Velpandian@Panoramio]
The deities inside Varaha-kshetra temple are dated to the 5th Century, which may be an indication of the age of the Narasimha shrine in the temple courtyard. Both the Lord and the guardian simha beside him are very worn with age. On one side of Sri Narasima is a sculpture of Garuda that appears to be less old, positioned here at a later date.
Changu Narayana Temple, Bhaktapur
One of the most famous, and certainly one of the oldest temples in Nepal is the Changu Narayana temple. The image of Lord Narasimha here is thought to be the only Nrsimhadeva deity to have survived the great earthquake of 1255 A.D.
Sri Garuda, Changu Narayan
[Photo courtesy Asianlnsights@Flikr]
The Changu Narayan temple complex sits at the eastern end of the Kathmandu Valley. Sitting on a ridge above Bhaktapur, its gilded roofs shining in the sun are visible from Bhaktapur's Durbar Square.
The pagoda-style temple is dedicated to Lord Narayana. Built in the early 4th Century by Licchavi dynasty rulers, the temple survived several earthquakes, only to be destroyed by fire around 1700. There are many beautiful sculptures in the temple courtyard dating from the 5th to 13th Century. Beautiful niche carvings and inscriptions are found throughout the temple complex. A large kneeling Garuda faces the main entrance, with images of King Bupathindra Malla and his queen nearby.
Lord Narasimha, Changu Narayan
Among the numerous images of Lord Vishnu is one similar to Budhanilkantha -- the Lord reclining on Sesanaga. Nearby is a 10-headed Vishvarupa image from the 8th Century, and another depicting Narayana riding Garuda. And of course, the exceptional sculpture of Lord Nrsimhadeva, carved in the 9th Century.
Changu Narayan Temple, Nepal
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Kathmandu City
The last abode of Lord Narasimha in Nepal that we'll mention is a well-hidden jewel. The Lakshmi Narasimha Temple in Kathmandu City is housed adjacent to the ancient Nardevi temple, about a kilometer north of Hanuman Dhoka. Nardevi Temple was built in the 8th Century by Lichhavi ruler, Raja Gunakamadeva. The Lakshmi Narasimha temple is a three-storied pagoda style temple at the southwest corner of Nardevi temple.
This Lakshmi Narasimha temple was built in 1672 A.D. by Lambakarna Bhatta, who was a famous tantrik and the guru of King Pratap Malla. The temple complex continues to be run by the Bhatta family.
Nardevi Temple, Kathmandu City
The history of Lakshmi Narasimha temple is described here by Sriman Oppiliappan Koil Varadachari Sadagopan:
"During Pratap Malla's reign, the sacred dance dramas performed in the front courtyard (Nasal Chowk) of his palace at Hanuman Dhoka were widely famed. In one of these dramas Pratap Malla played the role of Lord Narasimha and the spirit of the Lord did not relieve his body even after the play. Troubled Pratap Malla consulted Lambakarna to get rid of this problem. Lambakarna using his tantric power found out that the King had offended Lord Laxmi Narasimha by dancing in his costume. He suggested the King to replace the existing idol of Laxmi Narasimha in the palace and install another idol of Lord Narasimha. Following his advice the King asked Lambakarna to move the existing 'murti' at the palace to a suitable place.
It is widely believed that Lambakarna breathed life to the 'murti' of Narasimha and escorted it near his house at Nardevi and after performing necessary tantric rituals installed it at its present place. He later constructed a temple and a small courtyard (Narasimha Chowk) which is surrounded by two-storied building for the priests to stay. A long open veranda in the north and east, known as Kausi-Deval, in the outer precinct of the temple was also built."
This story is reminiscent of another, described in a previous segment, about the Narasimha deity
installed by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1698 A.D. as a sign of contrition for having impersonated the Lord in dance. In fact, these events happened only a few years apart from one another.
According to a living member of the Bhatta family, Lambakarna Bhatta used to perform tantra rituals using only vegetarian items (panchabali). At that time in Nepal, it was believed that no one could perform tantra properly without animal sacrifices. The fact that Lambakarna Bhatta did so impressed King Pratap Malla so much that he made Bhatta his royal priest and guru. To this day, only vegetarian methods are used in the worship of Sri Sri Lakshmi Narasimha at this temple.
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