Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 16

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BY: SUN STAFF - 29.10 2018

Bhimasena Dolakha Temple

Sri Krsna's liberation of Banasura, the Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.

Since the end of the Mahabharata Period, Bhima has been worshipped by the residents of Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. First known as the Kirats, the local people later became known as the Newar. There are a number of important temples of Bhimasena in Nepal including the Dolakha Temple, also known as the Deopatan temple (built in 1681 A.D.), the Bhimasena Temple in Kathmandu (built in 1140 A.D.), and another in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu. Fortunately, both the Kathmandu and Bhaktapur Bhimasena temples survived the 2015 earthquake.

Bhimasena Dolakha Temple

At the northern end of Durbar Square in Patan, Nepal is the most famous Bhima Temple. Dedicated to the worship of Bhima as the god of trade and business, the temple is always well-kept and prosperous looking. It's interesting that Bhima is famous throughout the Himalayan region for pastimes associated with the Kurukshetra War, which had little or nothing to do with wealth. In Nepal, Kubera is closely associated with wealth, and with Lord Shiva. Likewise, Bhima worship has been embellished with Shiva attributes by the Kirats and Newars, so the question arises -- was there a connection between Kubera worship and the appearance in Nepal of the Bhimasena cult?

The Dolakha Temple was built in 1681 A.D., but this was apparently a re-build, after fire destroyed the earlier structure. Restorations also took place after the great earthquake of 1934 and recently, in 1967.

The striking brass lion atop the temple stamba, or flagpole, reminds visitors of the extraordinarily strength of the Mahabharata hero, Bhima, whose exploits are illustrated on a wooden plaque on the temple's south side. The lion overlooks what is now an artificial marble façade and gilded façade on the 1st floor.

The large, platform-less three-storied pagoda mandir has a traditional rectangular plan. The furnishings in this temple are opulent, compared to other local shrines. Many brass bells hang from rafters of the widely jutting roofs, and the struts are elaborately carved.

The gilded upper roof supports a pataka, a metal strip by which the gods ascend to the Heavenly Fields. It is supported by four metal nagas. As mentioned in the segment on Kubera, nagas are often the guardians of wealth, and in this case, reside above Bhimasena's abode, where he is worshipped as a god of business and wealth. There is also a naga arched over the deity stone.

Bhimasena Deity Stone

The presiding deity of Dolakha Bihmsena, also known as Bhimeshwor, is a rough triangular stone installed on the first floor. The stone is something like the 'hero stones' found many places in India.

In his deified form, Bhim Sen is said to embody three incarnations: Bhima himself; the Goddess Bhagawati, who wants blood sacrifice, and Lord Shiva, who never accepts blood (animal) sacrifice.

There are various local legends associated with the stone deity, and with Bhimasena himself. One has to do with 12 porters who were traveling through, and stopped at this spot, where they attempted to make themselves a 3-stone stove to cook rice for their meal. After several minutes of cooking, one portion of the rice had cooked, but the other portion remained uncooked. When the porter who was cooking shifted the pot around, the cooked rice became uncooked again when it came in contact with one of the three cooking stones -- a black stone having a triangular shape. The porter became so angry that he hit the stone with his paneu (ladle), and where the stone was cut, blood coated with milk came out of the stone. It was determined that the stone embodied Bhimasena, thus it was installed and worshipped.

Another unusual aspect of the temple is found on the upper level, where place settings -- bowls, spoons and cups -- are nailed to the roof struts as offerings to Bhima. They are no doubt associated with the traveling porters.

Sri Bhim Sen

It is said that the Bhimasen deity stone sometimes sweats drops of warm water. The Newars believe that the sweat is produced because somewhere in either present or future time, Bhima is sweating due to his efforts to protect the people (and particularly, the ex-royal family members).

There is another legend that there was once a kingdom beside a mountain peak that was ruled by Bhima, with the blessings of Lord Brahma. The local people were being made to suffer at the hands of Bhima. (This is reminiscent of the Rakshasas he fought before the Kurukshetra battle.) Wishing to end their suffering, the people prayed to Lord Shiva for relief, and he came from Gaurishanker and killed King Bhima. According to this legend, after Bhima's death, the stone god was named Bhimeshwar, referring to Bhima's liberation by Shiva, not to his having Shiva's attributes. This legend may have contributed to the later notion that Bhima was to be worshipped as Shiva.

Stairway to Dolakha Bhimsen