The forms of the goddess

taleju

Overview

KATHMANDU – At a time when gods still walked the earth, a cruel asura, or demon, undertook a severe penance to appease Brahma, the creator of the universe. Mahisasur’s penance shook the heavens, and the creator himself had to bow down to it, granting the demon a boon that no man or god could defeat him. The demon wallowed in his pride, and unleashed a wave of terror on gods and humans. They shook in fright, and did not know who to turn to.

But, like all boons, this too came with a hidden clause. Because Mahisasura had specifically asked that no man or god would be able to defeat him, the gods prayed to the divine mother, or shakti, to help them. The compassionate mother that she is, she told the other gods she would defeat the demon. Taking on the form of Durga, or the fierce one, she met Mahisasura in battle. Fierce fighting raged on for nine days, during which Mahisasura sent minions after minions to challenge the goddess, who defeated them all. On the ninth day, Durga challenged a frightened Mahisasura herself. The demon took on the form of a buffalo and stampeded her. The goddess swept aside the buffalo, and with one stroke of her sword, chopped his head off.

This popular myth that surrounds Dashain has many undertones. For one, it symbolises the victory of good over evil, not only in absolute terms, but also over the evil that resides within oneself. Durga is the ultimate cleanser; worshipping her removes the evil that resides in the heart of men. Also, this festival connotes a radical departure from otherwise male-oriented Hindu pantheon of gods. Durga is a symbol of the universal female; her victory over a male establishes her as someone who breaks social archetypes, while the fact that gods had to call upon her to rescue them also speaks volumes about the importance of women in society.

The nine days of Dashain symbolise the furious fight between Durga and Mahisasur. Devotees across the Valley visit different manifestations of the goddess on respective days, culminating in the worship of the supreme mother. On the first day, also known as Ghatasthapana when jamara (barley) seeds are planted in every house, the goddess Shailaputri is worshipped. Subsequently, the manifestations Brahmacharini Durga, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda Durga, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kaalratri, Mahagauri, and Siddhidaatri are worshipped on the days leading up to Bijaya Dashami, the day that celebrates the victory of the goddess. During Dashain, ten different shrines are worshipped in and across the Valley. Devotees wake up early morning to visit these shrines, asking the goddess to fulfil their wishes. These ten shrines may not hold the same manifestation of the goddess as worshipped during Durga, but they are an intrinsic part of Dashain celebrations.

Sobha Bhagwati

Located on the banks of the Bishnumati River, the original name of this temple is Shovagya Bhagwati, which later corrupted to Sobha Bhagwati. The goddess here is supposed to defeat the ego that resides within all, and the temple is believed to have been built during the Lichhavi period. During Navaratri, devotees throng here in the hope that the goddess will destroy any evil that overtakes an individual.

Taleju

The first Malla king of Kathmandu, Ratna Malla, is said to have built a Taleju temple on the northern side of his palace in 1501. The temple is built in traditional vihara style and it opens only on the day of Mahanavami. On the night of Mahaashtami, 108 buffaloes, goats and eggs each are sacrificed to the goddess here.

Sankata

Located near New Road, the word ‘Sankata’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘sankat’, meaning plight. Sankata is the goddess who eliminates any trouble. In ancient times, this temple was not worshipped as much as the others, but after the Lichhavi King Narendra Dev worshipped her, the temple started gaining popularity. During Navaratri, prayers are offered here every night.

Sobha Bhagwati

Located on the banks of the Bishnumati River, the original name of this temple is Shovagya Bhagwati, which later corrupted to Sobha Bhagwati. The goddess here is supposed to defeat the ego that resides within all, and the temple is believed to have been built during the Lichhavi period. During Navaratri, devotees throng here in the hope that the goddess will destroy any evil that overtakes an individual.

Bhadrakali

Located near Shahid Gate, Bhadrakali is the temple of the goddess Kali. During ancient times, the king himself prayed at this temple if any trouble arose in the kingdom. Even today, the Nepal Army begins its Dashain only after receiving the prasad of Bhadrakali. According to history, she arose from the north face of Lord Shiva, which is blue in colour and with three eyes. This temple is also known as Lumarhi Temple and is one of the main temples of the goddess inside the Valley. Bhadrakali is the auspicious form of the goddess Kali.

Naxal Bhagwati

Located in the centre of Naxal, the goddess of this temple is also called Mardini, which means destroyer. Currently under renovation, it is said that anyone who worships the goddess here must discard any ego before doing so. The Naxal Bhagwati’s idol is believed to have been crafted by the same artisan who made the idols of Palanchowk Bhagwati, Sobha Bhagwati and Nala Bhagwati.

Guheshwori

Located across Pashupatinath, this temple on the banks of the Bagmati is regarded as one of the most-important pilgrimages in Nepal. It’s also regarded as the shrine of Goddess Satyawati or Sati Devi, wife of Lord Shiva. The legend goes that Sati Devi could not bear the insult of her husband and jumped into the sacrificial fire of her father. Lord Shiva could not bear this and carried the body of Sati throughout the lands; in his grief, the world stopped to function. The gods then decided to let Sati’s body parts fall throughout Nepal and India, where they are still worshipped as manifestations of the goddess. At Guheshwori, the yoni (vagina) of the goddess is said to have dropped, and is now one of the most-important sites of Durga-worship.

Dakshinkali

Located 22 km away from Kathmandu in the village Pharping, Dakshinkali is named after the goddess Kali–the fearful form of Lord Shiva’s consort Parvati. The idol here is made of black stone and is considered one of the four directional goddesses of the Valley. This temple is one of the most sacred spots inside the Valley, and devotees throng here not only during Dashain but all around the year. Sacrifices are made twice a week on Saturdays and Tuesdays, but the animals have to be unsaturated males. However, during Navaratri, animals are sacrificed almost every day.

Maitidevi

The current Maitidevi temple near Dillibazaar was built by Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher, but records of it can be traced back to the Lichhavi Period. The goddess here is also associated with Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth. Maitidevi temple, it is said, is the parental home of all goddesses. The name of the temple itself is derived from maiti (maternal home) and devi (goddess).

Kalikasthan

This shaktipith is located on the way to Anamnagar from Dillibazaar. The goddess here is called by many names, including Ambika. In the form of Parvati, she is known as the divine spouse of Lord Shiva. Though it occupies just a small area, it is considered to be one of the most powerful Kali temples of the Valley. According to legend, when Kaushiki Devi was produced from the body of Parvati, her body hue was black, and that is why she was called Kali.

Baglamukhi

Located in Patan, the goddess Baglamukhi is also known by its other name Pitambhar Vidhya, and is the goddess of love and peace. It is said that worshipping all the gods inside this temple compound equates to worshipping all the 330 million Hindu gods. The mass believes that worshipping the goddess on any day during Dashain brings luck and prosperity.

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