Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 33


BY: SUN STAFF - 3.12 2018

Members of Trimurti - Roof strut (detail) 
Jagannath Temple in Kathmandu Darbar Square

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

Although less visible than the influence of Lord Visnu and Shiva in Nepal, the worship of Lord Jagannath also has a significant presence in the spiritual life of the Nepalese. In the Darber Square of Kathmandu is an ancient Jagannath Temple. The temple is thought to have been built in 1563 A.D. during the rule of Mahendra Malla, and later re-constructed by Pratap Malla. The Deity Himself is inscribed with the date, 1563. The temple was originally dedicated to Vishnu, and was later re-dedicated to Lord Jagannath.

It was apparently during the re-building of the Jagannath Temple by Pratap Malla that the Vishnu temple environs became mixed with Buddhist and eroticism. Pratap Malla carved hymns on the walls of the Jagannath Temple as prayers to Taleju (Durga) in the form of Kali. The outside was elaborately carved with scenes of erotica, many featuring persons looking distinctly Buddhist. Behind the temple, he erected a large image of Bhairav that is the focus of worship on Durga Puja.

Fortunately, Nepal's connection with Lord Jagannath is also expressed in a more purified manner, by way of the Nepali royals' periodic visits to Puri Dham, where the Lord is worshipped in His proper form. In the following text, taken from the booklet, From Lord Jagannath and Nepal by Aniruddha Das. It describes the relationship of the Nepal Raja and Lord Jagannath. The booklet was produced on the occasion of the Nepal King's visit to Jagannath Puri Dham sometime in the mid- to late-1960's.

Mentioned below is the ceremonial address offered by Puri temple officiating priests when Nepal royalty visits the Deities at Puri Dham, which beings: "Hail to you scion of the solar dynasty, the descendants of the Lichavis, the Lord of Navakota and Kailashakuta." The reference to the Lichavis gives us a marker on the timeline for how the Nepal/Jagannath relationship fits in the context of our 'Mahabharata Period'.

In an earlier segment of this series, we talked about the timelines of our self-defined 'Mahabharata Period', saying that in the context of this series on Nepal, the 'Mahabharata Period' loosely encompasses the long period after the war, beyond Sri Krsna's departure and the start of Kali Yuga, and up to the appearance of Gautama Buddha (6th to 5th c. B.C.) The label extends to that late date in order to address the art and architecture of Nepal that we are primarily concerned with, which bears the marks of Vedic Culture known from the long pre-battle Mahabharata history, being significantly transformed in Nepal upon the arrival of Buddhism.

The discussion of Nepal's connection to Lord Jagannath is more current still, but as Puri temple records show, the recorded history of Lord Jagannath indicates that worship of the Puri Lord also pre-dated the main body of records, starting with Indradyumna I's building of the Puri Jagannatha Temple. The first King Indradyumna, a Malava king, is mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Puranas as being the son of Bharat and Sumati. It was apparently an Indradyumna later in this line who became the ruler of the Avanti region, and built the temple for Lord Jagannath at Puri Dham.

Licchavi (Lichavi) was an ancient kingdom in Nepal, existing in the Kathmandu Valley from approximately 400 to 750 A.D. Extant Licchavi inscriptions are in Sanskrit, similar to the Gupta scripts, indicating a cultural influence from India kingdoms further south, in the Classical Period. Historians suggest that the Lichhavi lost their base of power in India then came to Nepal, attacking and defeating King Gasti, the last Kirat king. Nonetheless, the greatness of this royal line is still evident today, by the reception given to members of the dynasty upon their arrival in Puri Dham to worship Lord Jagannath.

Jagannath Temple in Kathmandu Darbar Square


The Special Rights of the King of Nepal

Only the Nepal king and the Puri Raj can enter the temple on a palanquin with a procession. They can go up to the Kalpa Vrksa Tree where they have to go on foot.

When the Nepal king comes then everyone except for the mudirath (the representative of the Gajapati) has to leave the temple and the four gates are closed. This is called, "mandir sudha".

The royal visitors have to leave their insignia by the kalpa vrksa. Then the panda, that is the priest in charge of Nepali pilgrims, called ??mharia and the pratihari panda will welcome them. Then the second paricha (reciter) of the Patjoshi Mahapatra will recite the following welcome address called Mudela Siddhi.

[English translation, Oriya is found in the book] "Hail to you scion of the solar dynasty, the descendants of the Lichavis, the Lord of Navakota and Kailashakuta. Your country, which is known as Bhattaraka mandala, is served by the following rivers: the seven Gandukis and Narayani. Your country is protected by Lord Matsyendranath and Ghantakarna Bhairava. You are a great Shaiva. You are a great devotee of Lord Buddha. When your predecessor Maharaja Dhiraj Sankardeva was ruling as a great Indra, he presented Visnushila (salagram) which had the symbols of both Sankarsan Vasudeva, and Ubhaya Mukhi Kundali from the holy river Ganduki and thereby he made his dynasty spiritually famous. Being the scion of that great king you may kindly accept the traditional honor of worshipping Jagannath."

According to Madala Panji the following conversation took place between Adi Sankaracharya and Yayati the King of Nepal in the 7th century:

Yayati desired that Sankaracharya, who was a great sage, should be the chief of Purushottam Ksetra and that he should establish a Pitha on the sandy upland between the Kalpa Vriksha and the sea where a Shiva linga was already existing (Govardhan Math). He further stated that this piece of land from Ugrasen Mandap (where the antarvedi existed) to the sea shore be named Bali Sahi. (The other name of the Govardhan Math is Bali Sahi Math).

Sankaracharya replied that he had made Yayati the 2nd Indradyumna and therefore he should install Lord Mahadeva in the form of Balabhadra; the spouse of Mahadeva, Yogamaya in the form of Subhadra; and Purushottam as Lord Jagannath. Sudarshan Chakra, the weapon of Lord Krishna should be installed as the deity Sudarsan. For Balabhadra and Subhadra it is necessary to have two Vishnusilas [Shalagrams]with the symbols of Vaishnavism. On the direction of Shankaracharya, one Bharati Acharya was deputed to Nepal to meet with Kind Shankar Deva. The Raja agreed to make a gift of Salagram and two were brought to Puri."

In the above welcome address these Salagrams have been described as "Sankarshan Vasudeva" and "Ubhayamukhi Kundali." Both Shalagrams were "living shalagrams", meaning that there were still insects living inside that were carving symbols in the stones.

Primarily for this gift of the Salagrams and secondly due to his matrimonial alliance with the kings of the Puri dynasty, the king of Nepal has a special right to worship Lord Jagannath.

The Salagram sila for Subhadra is called Kundali because it possesses a golden line (made of gold) inside.


Genealogy of the Lichavi Dynasty of Nepal

Supushpa (of Puspapur) 
Jayadeva I
11 Kings
Vrisa Deva
Shankar Deva
Dharma Deva
Mahi Deva
Vasanta Deva
Udaya Deva
Narendra Deva
Shiva Deva
Jaya Deva II 
Parachakra Kama

Among the many alternate versions of the history of Nepal royalty's connection to Jagannath Puri is one found in the article, "The Sri Jagannath Cult and its Diffusion Beyond India" by Makhan Jha, Studies in the Cult of Jagannath, Bhubaneswar (1991):

"The sacred specialists of Jagannath of Puri have yajamana relationships with pilgrims and they maintain registers wherein the visits of their clients are entered with great care. I have gone through several such registers at Puri. This pilgrims' register is their valuable possession. Whenever any pilgrim is noticed at the bus stand or at the railway station, he is questioned and surrounded by a group of priests to verify the pilgrim's identity and his home country. As soon as he discloses his name, father's name, village, district, etc., his panda establishes his claim over the yajamana. In this way, every part of India including Nepal is distributed among the pandas of Puri.

At Puri there is exclusively one priest for Nepal, who is popularly known as Nepali Panda. I, while working on Puri temple in 1975, interviewed him in detail. He disclosed that though Nepali people visit Puri every year in large numbers, he has not yet received any member of the royal family during the last three or four decades. [This contradicts the previous post.]

The Nepali Panda further disclosed that a special relationship was established with the kings of Nepal since the 16th century. In 1568, the Jagannath temple was destroyed by Kala Pahar, a Muslim general, and thereafter was renovated in 1587 by King Ramachandra I. Five unknown and untouched things are placed inside the navel of the Daru Devata, which are changed at the time of Brahma Parivartan whenever Navakalevara is performed. Among the five unknown elements, one thing is believed to be a Shalagram sent by the Malla kings of Nepal.

As all of us know, the Shalagram stone is found in the Narayani River of Nepal and Indian pilgrims visiting Kathmandu especially purchase two important things, rudraksha beads showing affiliation to Shiva and the Shalagram stone showing affiliation to Vishnu.

In this way, a strong bond of affinity was established between the Jagannath of Puri and the kings of Nepal. This strong religious affinity was not changed even after the change of dynasty from the Malla to Gorkha kings in the 1768."


Nepal kings as Tutelary Heads

"As the kings of Puri are called "chalanti Vishnu" and have been the tutelary heads of the Jagannath temple, or as the kings of Garhwal are called the Baland Badri, for they are the tutelary heads of Badrinath Dham, similarly the kings of Nepal since time immemorial are called Vishnu incarnate."


Lord Jagannath Deities in Buddhist style 
Pata Chitra painting, Orissa