A procession of Goddess Tripura Sundari to the riverside temple, Salyankot. by Sunil Sharma.
Atop Salyankot in Dhading’s north-west, lies the Tripura Sundari temple, a sacred haven where beauty and divinity harmoniously converge. The Tripura Sundari temple, an ancient marvel, boasts a rich history spanning approximately 450 years. However, folklore suggests a more ancient origin, attributing its construction by King Anshu Varma around 1,600 years ago. The temple is said to have first graced the banks of the Netrawati River in Hanse (Thulo Besi) Phant, offering a timeless connection to the past, where echoes of its venerable presence resonate through the centuries.
Three Different Temples of Goddess Tripura Sundari
The goddess is enshrined in three distinct temples, each resembling traditional homes in their design. Perched atop the Salyankot hill are two of these temples, while the third temple sits in the Salyanbesi valley, nestled along the serene banks of the Netrawati River. Notably, the third temple underwent recent reconstruction, adopting a Pagoda style that adds a touch of modernity to its sacred architecture. This harmonious trio of goddess abodes stands as a testament to the varied and evolving expressions of devotion in their structural embodiment.
The temple situated on the eastern side of the hill is referred to as Dashain Ghar. This sacred space is dedicated to the worship of the goddess, especially during the extensive celebrations of Bada Dashain, spanning 15 days in September and October. Additionally, the goddess is honored on a single day during the Chaite Dashain festival in Chaitra (March/April). The western hilltop temple serves as the primary abode for the goddess during most periods. However, there is a unique aspect to her divine presence as she spends approximately four months residing in the temple located by the riverside in the tranquil valley. This cyclical movement adds a dynamic rhythm to the goddess’s spiritual journey throughout the year.
Around mid-November, when the goddess transitions from her hilltop sanctuary to the riverside temple, a grand annual celebration known as Maithan Jatra or Nwagi Jatra takes place. This festive occasion holds special significance as it marks the propitious moment to partake in the consumption of the newly harvested rice in the year. The date for this ceremony is carefully determined by astrologers and scholars, discreetly set on the day of Vijay Dashami but revealed only on the auspicious occasion of Bhai Tika. Once the date is unveiled, the news swiftly spreads far and wide, creating anticipation and excitement among the devotees. People, drawn from neighboring districts such as Gorkha, Nuwakot, Chitwan, Makwanpur, Rasuwa, and even Kathmandu, converge to participate in the joyous festivities, contributing to the vibrant and communal spirit of the celebration.
During night time, the hilltop temple comes alive with continuous worships and the illumination of rays of oil wick lamps. The devout engage in night-long rituals to honor the goddess. The next day as the first rays of dawn shine upon hills the goddess embarks on her journey from the hilltop to the riverside temple. While the downhill trek is typically an hour-long stroll for a physically fit individual, the Jatra procession deliberately moves at a leisurely pace, extending the journey to four hours or more.
In this ceremonial procession, a Rana Magar priest assumes the significant role of carrying the goddess, draped in a saffron cloth, on his back. The priest deliberately moves with slowness, emphasizing the sacredness of the journey. An intriguing aspect of this tradition is the strict prohibition against anyone other than the designated priest touching the goddess. To ensure compliance, security cordons are meticulously arranged along the route, ensuring that onlookers maintain a respectful distance, preventing any inadvertent contact with the revered deity. This careful and deliberate pace underscores the reverence and sanctity associated with the goddess Tripura’s journey to her riverside abode.
As the goddess, carried by the priest, gracefully proceeds through the Jatra route, visitors joyfully extend their greetings by offering coins, rice grains, and fragrant flowers. The atmosphere is filled with the harmonious melody of bells, the rhythmic beat of ritual instruments, and the soulful singing of hymns while the aroma of incense wafts through the air. Along the roadside, a large and eager crowd awaits, eager to witness the goddess’s descent to the Salyanbesi valley, renowned for its lush and fertile paddy fields.
Upon reaching the valley temple, a heartfelt reception awaits the goddess. She is honored with offerings of new rice mixed with yogurt and bananas, symbolizing the bountiful harvest. The consecrated new rice is then distributed to the visitors as prasad, a blessed offering. As the sun sets, the festive spirit continues with another night of jubilant celebrations in the Maithan rice field. Devotees, particularly women, stay awake throughout the night, adorning the temple with long flower garlands and lighting oil-fed lamps dedicated to the goddess. The air resonates with joyous singing and dancing, creating a lively atmosphere that symbolizes the profound devotion and festivity of the occasion. It’s important to note that the entire Jatra unfolds as a captivating two-nights-one-day event, weaving together moments of reverence, celebration, and communal joy.
The Legends of King Prithvi Narayan related with the temple of Tripura Sundari
About 238 years ago, during his campaign to unify Nepal, King Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha came across the extraordinary reputation of the goddess. This revered deity was known for bestowing her blessings upon sincere devotees, empowering them to achieve significant plans and endeavors. Intrigued by the goddess’s fame, the architect of modern Nepal, King Prithvi Narayan, decided to visit the temple dedicated to Tripura Sundari. Upon reaching the sacred site, he expressed his earnest desire to behold the goddess, offering prayers and worship. However, the priest, in a courteous manner, conveyed that access to the primary chamber where the goddess resided was restricted, and no one was permitted to enter.
In the later stages of his life, King Prithvi Narayan Shah recounted an incident from his visit to the temple in the compilation of oral counsels known as Dibyopadesha. Eager to witness the goddess and extend his prayers, the king inquired if he could have the privilege to see her. However, he was informed that only the priests and caretakers were permitted to enter the inner sanctum. Undeterred, the king then requested if he could offer his prayers at the temple’s entrance, to which his wish was granted.
As the king faithfully continued his daily prayers, a remarkable dream unfolded one night. In this dream, a young girl, veiled and holding two daggers, appeared before him. Intrigued, the king inquired about her identity, and she revealed herself as the daughter of the Rana Magar priest. Just before disappearing, she presented both daggers to the king, declaring that his dreams would be fulfilled. This mystical encounter left an indelible impression on the king, shaping his convictions and reinforcing his belief in the divine guidance bestowed upon him through this prophetic vision.
The following morning, upon conferring with his advisors about the dream, they conveyed a profound insight to King Prithvi Narayan Shah. According to them, the young girl who had appeared in his dream was none other than the goddess herself. The dream encounter, coupled with the blessing of the daggers, was believed to be a divine empowerment that would guide and fortify the king in his ambitious mission to unify the eastern regions. This mystical revelation became a pivotal moment, instilling a sense of divine purpose in the king’s heart and inspiring him to embark on the unification mission with renewed determination and confidence.
In a dream, the goddess revealed herself to King Prithvi Narayan Shah, declaring that she was the daughter of the Rana Magar priest. Folk tales recounting the goddess’s origin suggest a strong familial connection with the Rana Magars. According to the stories cited by Sharma, the goddess was rescued from a precipitous cliff in close proximity and was subsequently established and worshipped within the household of a Rana Magar. These narratives highlight not only the mystical communication with the king but also emphasize the goddess’s roots and her intimate association with the Rana Magar family, underscoring the deep bond that forms the foundation of her revered presence.
In a significant turn of events, the goddess made a profound appearance in the dream of a Rana Magar, beseeching him to rescue her from a challenging abode nestled within a cliff hole. Responding to the divine plea, a search was conducted the following day, leading to the discovery of the goddess’s idol within the cliff hole. Intent on establishing a temple for her, the local community initially chose Belung, approximately five kilometers north of Salyankot, as the sacred site. However, the goddess mysteriously vanished. In yet another dream experienced by the same Rana Magar, the goddess expressed her desire to reside in his home above all else.
Subsequently, the temple dedicated to the goddess took on a distinctive architectural form, resembling ordinary residential houses rather than the more conventional temple designs. An elderly local resident shared that the unique design of the temple was a manifestation of the goddess’s own wish. This intriguing tale not only reflects the goddess’s mystical communication but also sheds light on the profound connection she established with the Rana Magar and the localized decision-making process in determining the sacred abode for her worship.
King Prithvi Narayan Shah was not allowed to see the Goddess after he was informed about the old tale. There is a local legend that recounts a story of a king who, against advice, insisted on glimpsing the goddess. Unfortunately, his decision led to regret as he ended up losing his eyesight before he could lay eyes on her. It is strictly observed that only the priests have the privilege of physically interacting with the goddess, and anyone else is prohibited from touching her. It is believed that without proper worship, respect, and adherence to the prescribed procedures, the goddess may undergo a transformation, taking the form of a tiger or serpent, and potentially causing disturbances or troubles for the local community. This cautionary tale serves as a reminder of the significance of reverence and adherence to rituals in ensuring the benevolence and peaceful presence of the goddess.
The spiritual belief of people regarding Goddess Tripura Sundari
The revered goddess, alternately recognized as Salyankoti Devi and Mai Bhagawati, is believed to bestow extraordinary blessings upon her devoted followers. Folklore suggests that those who possess sincere devotion may be privileged with a divine encounter in their dreams, where the goddess herself appears and invites them to express their wishes. This powerful deity, often classified among the pantheon of potent goddesses, is believed to possess the ability to grant the aspirations of her devotees, making their dreams a reality. According to popular belief, the goddess is known to manifest in various forms, many of which are considered formidable and awe-inspiring. Consequently, the act of directly seeing her is strictly prohibited due to the perceived intensity and sacred nature of her presence.
The goddess exudes a powerful aura that is so potent that even kings were prohibited from gazing upon her. This prohibition extends to the local Rana Magar priests responsible for the temple’s daily rituals and management. These priests deliberately refrain from making direct eye contact with the goddess, as it is believed that the intense radiance emanating from her might have a blinding effect on their eyes. The aura surrounding the goddess is considered so strong and sacred that it necessitates a respectful distance, even for those who are entrusted with the sacred duties within the temple.