Bhaktapur is undoubtedly the city of temples. How many of you, though, are certain of the meaning behind the name “city of temples”? Is it simply because there is a temple on each corner? Or perhaps there are actually more temples in Bhaktapur than homes.
Well, although it is a mystery whether there are more temples or not but one thing is clear you could find numerous numbers and names of the temple over here.
Among these, the temples of Nava Durga also do befall. Here, most people got confused over Nava Durga Dyo chhen and the actual temples of Nava Durga.
Upon calling the Nava Durga temple, many people assume it is the dyo chhen of Nava Durga which is located at Kwathandou, Bhaktapur. But there are other temples too that depict the Nava Durga.
During Dashain (Mohani), the people of Bhaktpur go to nine different temples to worship Nava Durga, which symbolically represents the nine manifestations of Goddess Parvati. Meanwhile, they are also termed Astamatrika if we put aside the Tripurasundari from that group.
The city of Bhaktapur as a whole is protected by these eight Mother Goddesses. Moreover, the location of these open shrines or Piths proposes a mandala where they are based on the four cardinal points and four intermediate points.
The eight mother Goddesses are Brahmayani (Brahmani) towards the east; Maheshwari towards the south-east; Kaumari towards the south; Bhadrakali (Bhadrakali has replaced Vaishnavi) towards the south-west; Varahi towards the west; Indrayani (Indrani) towards the north-east; Mahakali towards the north and Mahalakshmi towards the north-east.
However, the Goddess “Kaumari” should not be confused with Goddess Kumari, who represents the Goddess Taleju Bhawani. Meanwhile, we could not ignore the fact that most of the pith lies on the outskirts of the city.
You could notice that all these temples are located on a little outskirt part of the Bhaktapur Nagara, which was the then capital of Nepal Mandal. It is said that these temples were then established to protect the city and named Astamatrika since they were eight in number and are placed in the eight different corners of Bhaktapur Nagara.
However, establishing Tripurasundari in the middle of the town make them nine in numbers and hence started to be called Nava Durga. Although there is no mention of worshipping them during Dashain, yet they have been worshipping since ancient times. During Dashain, all these temples saturate with devotees.
However, there is a set routine to visit these temples during the ten days of Dashain. Starting from Bramhayani, respectively Maheshwori, Kumari, Bhadraali, Barahi, Indrayani, Mahakali, Mahalaxmi, Tripurasundari, and again Bramhayani are worshipped during the ten days of Dashain. On the tenth day of the Dashain, the Dashami although is the day of tika, people hover themselves in the Bramhayani temple to see the jatra.
The details and the locations of the temples are as follows.
- Bramahayeni temple
The location of this pith is beautiful and there is a gate leading in. On this slightly elevated spot you could often encounter farmers at work and a ghat too. On the very first day as well as on the last day of Dashain (Dashami), a mela occurs over here, adjoining the Khame jatra.
- Maheshwori temple
The Maheshwori temple or the pith lies on the bank of the Hanumante river.
The Kaumari pith, which is only a few minutes’ walk away towards the north of Bhadrakali temple, goes through a crowded area. The Kaumari shrine is the simplest and really out in the open. It is situated on an elevated ground rising above the houses which lie on the edge of the city.
Barahi Goddess has the face of a boar and this shrine is one of the few that lie on road level. On the two sides are rest houses. It lies in the northern hemisphere of the Suryabinayak bus stop.
The pith of Bhadrakali, which also lies on the bank of the Hanumante river, also lies close to the bridge and this is where the 70ft pole (Lyo sin dyo) is erected during the Biska jatra. The Bhadrakali has an important part to play during this festival. In fact, out of the two players, Bhadrakali is one while the other is Bhairav. Directly in front of the pithe is a rest house generally known as pati.
The Indrayani pith, which is easily identified by the massive tree over the shrine is also known as Lunti Ajima. Her temple is down a short flight of stairs to the northwest of Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
As Lunti Ajima is known to have served pig meat to her many children when they were starving, she is very popular with those of traditionally low caste (*Today, the Nepalese government does not acknowledge cast discrimination) and is important in impure Tantric rituals.
The name Indrayani (or Indrani) appears to be a later brahmanization corresponding to Indra, an attempt to assimilate indigenous goddesses more thoroughly into classical Hinduism. Traditional sacrifices to Indrayani, on Balachaturdashi, included a snake, a sparrow, and a grasshopper as well as the heads of water buffalo tossed into a fire resembling a Vedic Hom sacrifice.
-by ggm (tripadvisor.com)
The Mahakali pith is the largest of the shrines. A gate sits at the bottom by the pitched road where steps lead up to the shrine, with small concrete structures nearby, which are used by the priests. There are many idols here.
The shrine of Mahalaxmi looks like any other two-tiered Nepalese-style temple except that the idol is a plain stone. However, hovering devotees, as well as the golden architecture of this temple, make it more beautiful. Probably this might be the only temple that looks this fine within the Astamatrika.
Tripurasundari is the proper kind of dangerous goddess to be at the center of the mandala’s power. As mentioned earlier, the location of the shrines of the Goddesses suggests a mandala because the city of Bhaktapur was conceived as a yantra placed within a bounding mandala.
Levy suggests that the Goddesses protect not only the external boundaries (as their locations suggest) but also the particular octant of the city in the vicinity of their shrines. As the Goddess Tripurasundari is said to protect the central area of the city, we are talking about nine Goddesses and not just eight.
Hence the city is divided into nine segments with one protecting the center and the other eight protecting eight outer segments. However, it seems that once Goddess Taleju became the all-important deity for the kings and took precedence over Tripurasundari, the latter lost her central political importance. Today, Tripurasundari is only one of the goddesses and enjoys no special place as a powerful Goddess.
References: ECS NEPAL, POWER CENTERS OF AN ARCHAIC CITY: MOTHER GODDESSES OF BHAKTAPUR