Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 50

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BY: SUN STAFF - 7.1 2019

Sudarshan Chakra 
Vaisnava-stambha, Dattatreya Temple - Bhaktapur, Nepal

The Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.

Conclusion

Over the course of this series we have covered the history of Nepal, particularly as memorialized in Vedic and Vaisnava spiritual art and architecture related to the Mahabharata Period. Many examples come on the timeline before or after this era, but closely connected to it. Today we bring the series to close with a brief look back over the vast historical timeline and the long ages of Vedic influence in Nepal, that preceded even the ancient Mahabharata Period.

The history of Nepalese culture and civilization has been traced back to the Age of Truth, or Satya-yuga. King Manu, the first King of the world, ruled Nepal under the Solar Dynasty during Satya-yuga when the land was known as Satyawati, 'Land of Truth'. During Treta Yuga, the Silver Age, it was known as Tapovan, the 'Land of solitary meditation and penance'. In the Dvapara-yuga, the Copper Age, Nepal was known as Muktisopan, the 'Ladder of salvation'. And in the Iron Age, Kali-yuga (the Age of Quarrel), it is known as Nepal.

Lying at the foothills of the great and ancient Himalayas, Nepal is full of pristine waterways and great forests. Not surprisingly, it was chosen as a place of spiritual refuge for a great many famous sages, including Kanwa, Biswamitra, Agastya, Valmiki, Yajnavalkya and others.

India's King Dusyanta married Shakuntala, the adopted daughter of Kanwa Rishi of Nepal. Their son Bharat ruled the region. For a time Nepal was called Mahabharat, and the vastly surrounding territory under the sovereign rule of King Bharat was known as Bharat. Biratnagar, the kingdom of King Birat, is mentioned in the Mahabharata, and the Mahabharata range of the Himalayas is a symbol of King Bharat's supremacy.

Sudarshan Chakra
Vaisnava-stambha, Dattatreya Temple - Bhaktapur, Nepal

There are many references to Nepal in Vedic literature, and we have been able to cover only a handful of them. Sita Devi's father, Janak, was the King of Janakpur, located on southeastern border of Nepal. Some believe that the Ramayan was composed on the banks of the Saptagandaki, the sacred river flowing out of the Himalayas, through Tibet, Nepal and India. Nepal is one of several places where Veda Vyasa is said to have taken birth. His Appearance in Nepal is worshipped at the Vyas Cave at Damauli (Vyasangar).

All these references indicate that Nepal was a spiritually important place long before Manjushri visited, and settled the Kathmandu Valley. In Nepal's Swayambhu Purana it states that Manjushri came from China. At the time, the great lake covering the Kathmandu Valley was known as Kalidaha, and also as Nagadaha. Vipaswi Buddha once came here and planted a lotus seed in the lake, which blossomed into a thousand petals. A dark blue flame also emanated from the water, known as Swayambhu-joti, a self-manifesting flame. When Manjushri drained the great lake he erected a stupa over the flame, and cultivated five sacred groves in penance: Agnipur, Shantipur, Vayupur, Nagpur and Basupur. He then populated the Valley, establishing the town of Manjupattan and installing Dharmakar as King.

Since that time, Nepal has been ruled by long lines of kings from various dynasties: the Gopala, the Ahirs, the Kirats, the Licchhavis, the Mallas and the Shahs. For the most part, the historical record of these kingdoms are focused no the Kathmandu Valley, less so on the rugged far reaches of Nepal.

Sacred Conch
Vaisnava-stambha, Dattatreya Temple - Bhaktapur, Nepal

At the end of Dvapara-yuga, Kanakmuni Buddha from Shobhavati and Kashyap Buddha from Varanasi came to Nepal on pilgrimage. When Kanakmuni went back to Gaud, he sent Prachanda Dev, the King of Gaud (Bengal) to Nepal to worship Swayambhu and Guheswari. He also advised the King to become the disciple of Gunakar, one of the disciples of Manjushri. Prachanda Dev took this instruction, traveling to Nepal and becoming a monk, taking the name Shantishri.

During the rule of the Gopal Dynasty there was a great earthquake, which toppled the ancient temple of Pashupatinath and covered the Swayambhu-joti flame. The great demon Danasur again filled the valley with water, and it is said that because of this, Sri Krsna came to Nepal, killed Danasur and married his daughter. He again drained the water out of the Valley, through the Chobar (Chovar) gorge, thus saving the people of Kathmandu. The gorge is said to have been created by Krsna, throwing a thunderbolt at the mountain.

A large number of cowherds came along with Krishna at the time of the Danasur pastime, and they remained in Nepal. The ruler Nemuni is said to have selected from among them a pious cowherd named Bhuktaman, who became the first king of the Gopala Dynasty, which ruled Nepal for 621 years.

The last king of the Gopala dynasty was Yakshya Gupta. Over the course of time, pastoral disputes arose and the Gopalas were defeated by the Ahir dynasty. Three Ahir kings ruled Nepal: Badasimha, Jaymati Simha and Bhuban Simha. The last of these, Bhuban Simha (Bhuvan Singh), was described early on in this series as the last of the Yadava Dynasty rulers put in place by Sri Krsna, after He dispatched Banasura. Bhuvan Singh was defeated by Yalamber, the chief of the Kirats, and the first Kirat king of Nepal. And this leads us back to the beginning of our long and circuitous story of the history of Nepal through the Mahabharata Period.

Lord Nrsimhahdeva 
Nepal Bronze, late 17th c.

 

We close this series on a more current note. The long history of Nepal has footprints leading right up to the modern era, and the lila pastimes Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. In a 2011 Sun article by Deena Bhandu prabhu, Sri Radharaman Lalji's Appearance Day (the 469th anniversary of His Appearance), we read about the pastimes of Gopal Bhatta and Sri Shalagram in Nepal:

"When Gopala Bhatta heard of the disappearance of Mahaprabhu, he felt intense separation from the Lord, having associated with him only in his childhood. One night Lord Caitanya appeared in a dream and told him, "If you want my darshana, make a pilgrimage to Nepal." In Nepal, Gopala Bhatta visited the river Gandaki. After taking his bath he filled his water pot and was surprised to see that some Shalagrama-shilas had entered it. Emptying his pot, he filled it again, only to find the shilas had re-entered his water pot. Again he emptied his pot, and when he filled it for a third time he found that now twelve Shalagrama-shilas were there. Thinking this must be the mercy of the Lord, he decided to bring those shilas with him to Vrindavana.

One day after returning to Vrindavana, a wealthy devotee approached Gopala Bhatta Goswami with dresses and ornaments for his Deity. Gopala Bhatta told him that as he was only worshiping a shalagrama-shila, it would be better to give to someone else who was worshiping a Deity and could use them. It happened to be Narasimha-caturdast and thinking deeply on this incident Gopala Bhatta remembered how Lord Narasimha deva had manifested from a stone pillar. He then began to prey to the Lord, "O Lord, you are very merciful and fulfil the desires of your devotees. I wish to serve you in your full form." In esctasy he read the chapters of Shrimad Bhagvatam about Lord Narasimha deva's pastimes, and then took rest. In the morning when he awoke, he found that one of the twelve Shalagramas, the Damodara-shila, had manifested as Shri Radharamana..."

Sri Radharaman Lal

Summary of 2015 Nepal Earthquake Damage

Over the course of this reprised 2013 series on Nepal in the Mahabharata period we have tried to point out which of the temples and tirthas mentioned were later damaged in the great quake of 2015. You will find a good pictorial guide here, and live footage of the quake below, followed by a list of links with many additional images. You can also download a copy of the Unesco report, Changing Faces of Nepal, which gives more detail on the history of damage and rebuilding of Nepali temples after various quakes.