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Finding Bhoto: Invaluable cultural Heritage

Issue May 2015


Finding Bhoto: Invaluable cultural Heritage


After fifteen days of relentless efforts made on digging out the Bhoto sealed and stored in the treasury of the Sikhara-styled temple to Lord Matsyendranath popularly known as Karunamaya after the Bhoto Jatra held at Jawalakhel every year, unfortunately lost under the debris of the temple fallen during the devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015, the team of the priests, attendants to the lord and the officials of the Guthi Sansthan: the state-run trust for running the cultural festivals, found the Bhoto, and publicly displayed it, the RSS news posted on stated.


The Sikhara-styled temple in Bungamati came down after the quake shook the ground on April 25, 2015, and all the jewelry boxes including the jewels-studded Bhoto went down under the debris. The team of diggers managed to find all the jewel boxes including the Bhoto after fifteen days of the hard work.


The Bhoto has the unique myth behind it. Every year, one of the officials of the Guthi Sansthan displays the Bhoto from the four corners of the balcony of the chariot at Jawalakhel after a month-long tour of Lord Matsyendranath on a spire like chariot that passes through the narrow lanes in Patan. The display of the Bhoto was to show the public that the jewel-studded Bhoto is still in the custody of Lord Matsyendranath.


At one of the annual festivals of Lord Matsyendranath held at Jawalakhel, one human and another goblin came also in a human form fought for the Bhoto. The goblin in a human form wore the Bhoto means a vest and was watching the festival on the last day of the tour festival of Lord Matsyendranath to show off his vest to the public. The human claimant was attempting to take off the vest from the goblin.


The law enforcement officials took both of them to the head of the State attending the festival at Jawalakhel. The human claimed that the Bhoto was his. “The goblin was a thief. He stole the Bhoto from me while I was plowing my land”, said the farmer. The farmer said that he had taken off the Bhoto and set it on one of the furrows. The goblin had equally vehemently claimed it as his.


The head of the State could not decide whom it belonged to. None of them had hard evidences. So, the head of State decided to keep the Bhoto in the custody of Lord Matsyendranath until they came with evidences. The display of the Bhoto was to show the public that the Bhoto was still with the deity.


Actually, the farmer was the real owner of the unique and the high-value Bhoto. The serpent king graciously presented the farmer with the vest called Bhoto studded with precious diamonds and stones as the reward for healing the eye disorder his queen had suffered from.


The serpent queen had a prolonged-eye ailment. None of the serpent healers could effectively treat the ailment and heal it. None of the serpent healers could make any progress on healing her eye illness. So, the serpent king sent his attendants to the human world to bring a healer.


The attendants to the king of serpents grabbed the farmer while he was plowing his field, and took him to the world of serpents. He needed to heal the eye complaint of the serpent queen that had been desperately suffering from sores on her eye. The farmer picked up some dirt from behind his ear and applied it on the eyes of the queen.


Surprisingly, the sores on the queen’s eyes went off. The serpent king was in high spirits to see the human physician healed the eye illness of his queen. Both the king and the queen were very grateful to the human healer. The royals rewarded him with the vest studded with the precious stones.


Lord Matsyendranath was from Kamarupa: the current Assam State in India. A team of the Licchavi king from Bhaktapur, a tantrik priest from Kathmandu, and a porter from Patan brought the lord from Kamarupa to Nepal and solved the crisis of the twelve-year long drought in Nepal. The event must have happened at least fifteen hundred years ago if it were really happened.


Sitting on the cushion of a serpent deity, Gorkhanath: the disciple of Lord Matsyendranath meditated on his guru Matsyendranath causing the prolonged drought making untold misery to the people. Gorkhanath was determined to have the sight of his guru. He was not in a very good mood to freeing the serpent.


The three States such as Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, and Patan had no choice but to bring Lord Matsyendranath. The three city-states cooperated with each other and brought the lord to Nepal. Upon arrival of Matsyendranath, Gorkhanath rushed to revere his guru freeing the serpent deity. Instantly, rains made their way to Nepal.


Everybody: the king, the tantrik and the porter claimed that the deity should be in his domain. They had endless arguments for several days. Finally, they agreed on letting one of the senior citizens of Bhaktapur, Katmandu and Patan to decide where Lord Matsyendranath would stay.


With his walking staff, the 110-year old man climbed up the high ground made for him to announce to the public where the lord would stay. The public crowded around the high ground was eager to hear what the old man would say. He said that the deity would stay in Patan. The high ground crumbled bringing the old man down to earth.


The old man was bias to Patan. So, he fell down from the high ground. Apparently, the porter from Patan went to the senior citizen and fed him the mixture of rice and yogurt on the eve of his announcement. The porter cleverly added a pinch of salt to the mixture. Eating the salt of the porter, the old man became obliged to the porter.


For Shaivities, the lord is Matsyendranath. For Buddhists, he is Avaloketasvore. For Vaishnavis, he is Biranchinarayan. He is Karunamaya for all folks. The lord is also named as the rain god. Karunamaya means compassionate.


Every year, attendants take the idol of Lord Matsyendranath to Lagankhel to give the idol a new life. They strip off the lord’s attire, and take the body of the idol to Lagankhel to cleanse it. Before taking the idol to Lagankhel, the priests transfer the divine spirit to a holy water jar called kalash for safe keeping. After the rituals of bathing the idol, the attendants bring it back to the summer temple in Patan. The Vajracharya priest repairs the red face paint, and other clay and wooden parts of the idol. Then, they transfer the divine spirit back to the idol.


Every year the chariot festival of Lord Matsyendranath starts at Pulchok in Patan. The members of the guthi community build a chariot at this place. Lord Matsyendranath travels on a portable shrine carried by the members of the guthi community from the summer temple in Patan to the chariot, and takes the seat at the inner sanctum of the chariot on the first day of the festival of pulling the chariot.


Once the deity is seated in the chariot, devotees pull the chariot to the lanes in Patan. It makes a number of halts at different sites for the lord to see how the common folks have been doing in their daily businesses, giving the devotees the opportunity of making offerings to the lord. It is a month-or-even-longer festival. The locals at each halt celebrate the coming of the lord at their place.


Lord Matsyendranath makes a long halt at Lagankhel. A festival of dropping a coconut from the top of the chariot held at Lagankhel at an auspicious time. One pf the members of the guthi community climbs up to the top of the spire-like chariot and drops a coconut from there down to the devotees waiting for catching it while in the air. Anybody successful to do so will have a birth of son in that year. So, everybody scrambles to catch the falling coconut.


Next day early in the morning before dawn, while men are still in beds, women only pull the chariot from the Lagankhel to the crossroads at Pode Tole. This is the only time when women participate in pulling the lord in a chariot.


Lord Matsyendranath stays there until the astrologers find an auspicious time to pull the chariot from there to Jawalakhel: a final destination of the lord. A group of astrologers sit together at the Kumari-pati and find out the most auspicious time to pull the chariot from the crossroads to Jawalakhel. After the four days of the arrival of Lord Matsyendranath at Jawalakhel, a festival of display of Bhoto is held in the presence of the head of state.


Over all the major events, the living goddess kumari presides. At the festival of Bhoto festival, the living goddess kumari takes a special position, and presides over all the activities held over the whole day. The head of state makes first offerings to the living goddess kumari, and then to other deities and Lord Matsyendranath. While the chariot is pulled from the crossroads at the Pode Tole, the living goddess kumari takes a seat in the kumari-pati to preside over the pulling of the chariot.


After the exhibit of the Bhoto from the four corners of the balcony of the chariot at Jawalakhel, the festival of Lord Matsyendranath ends for that year. Living goddess kumari travels on a portable shrines carried by the devotees to her permanent abode in Patan. Lord Matsyendranath travels on a portable shrine carried by devotees to the winter temple in Bungamati.


Patan devotees follow Lord Matsyendranath up to the half way to Bungamati to see off the lord. They go on a procession singing religious hymns in praise of the lord. Some people play musical bands others carry smoking incense in their hands.


Bungamati devotees come to meet Lord Matsyendranath at the half way. They also come with musical bands. Some devotees carry burning torches in their hands others sing devotional hymns. Lord Matsyendranath resides there for six months.


If any earth tremors happen to occur then every activity of the lord is postponed until astrologers find an auspicious time to restart the activities.


This year, the devastating earthquakes hit Nepal on April 25, 2015. Thereafter, quakes and aftershocks have continued for months. Lord Matsyendranath has been waiting for the quakes to stop. The lord has been on his chariot on the half way to Patan from Bungamati. This year happens to be the year of once-a-twelve-year pulling of the lord on the chariot from Bungamati to Patan. The chariot was built in Bungamati. Lord Matsyendranath was on his way to Patan when the unfortunate quake hit Nepal causing the untold miseries to the millions of Nepalese.


One attendant always remains with Lord Matsyendranath in a chariot. He takes care of everything the lord needs. The lords remains in the chariot until the quake ends and devotees are ready again to pull the chariot to Patan.


The lord has lost the winter temple in Bungamati to the quake. Only the summer temple at Patan remains intact. Even Lord Matsyendranath needs a temporary shelter in Bungamati.


May 20, 2015

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