Doleshwor Mahadev: The forgotten Head of Kedarnath
After a treacherous trip up the mountains, Bhimsen, one of the five Pandavas spotted a gigantic looking bull in a distance which he knew was Shiva in disguise. Bhimsen known for his brute strength, forcefully caught the bull. When the bull was caught, he tried to escape but unfortunately, the bull was torn into several parts because of Bhimsen’s strength.
Mahabharata, the Sanskrit epic depicts the struggle for power and conflict between two groups of cousins, the Pandavas (the five sons of Pandu) and the Kauravas (100 sons of Dhritarashtra). Most people remember the epic for the great war between the two on the field of Kurukshetra, where the Kauravas were killed and Pandavas were victorious. Pandavas then ruled the kingdom of Hastinapur. But what happened in the aftermath of the war?
The Pandavas and Lord Shiva in disguise
To atone for the sins committed in the Kurukshetra war, the 5 Pandavas, the five brothers Yudhishthira, Bhimsen, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva and their wife Draupadi went on a perilous journey to the Himalayas in Nepal, in search of Lord Shiva, to ask for forgiveness and get his blessings. Lord Shiva strongly disapproved of the Kurukshetra war and the bloodbath caused by it. He assumed the form of a bull to hide from the Pandavas. After a treacherous trip up the mountains, Bhimsen, one of the five Pandavas spotted a gigantic looking bull in a distance which he knew was Shiva in disguise. Bhimsen known for his brute strength, forcefully caught the bull. When the bull was caught, he tried to escape but unfortunately, the bull was torn into several parts because of Bhimsen’s strength. The different parts of the bull appeared in five different locations in India: Madhmaheshwar, Tungnath, Rudranath, Kalpnath and Kedarnath being the main body. The Pandavas later built the Kedar Temples in the different locations and were thus freed from their sins. The temples are collectively known as the Panch Kedar (five temples or holy places of dedicated to God Shiva). However, people couldn’t find the head of the bull and for thousands of years people have been looking for the head of the bull.
The Doleshwor Mahadev
In the year 2009, the head priest of the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand, claimed that Doleshwor Mahadev was the head of the holy Kedarnath shrine. When a devastating flood damaged the temple of Kedarnath in 2013, the daily prayers in the temple couldn’t be carried out and the head priest of temple requested that the daily rituals be held in the Doleshwor Mahadev Temple in the foothill of green hills of Bhaktapur instead. Doleshwor Mahadev in Bhaktapur is worshipped as the head of Kedarnath by thousands of devotees every year. It is believed that the devotees have to visit the Doleshwor Mahadev temple and the Pashupatinath temple in Nepal in order to complete their Panch Kedar Yatra (journey) and the Char Dham yatra, four pilgrimage sites: Badrinath, Dwarka, Jaganath Puri and Rameswaram in order to achieve moksha (salvation).
The pagoda style temple of Doleshwor Mahadev is located 20 kilometres from Kathmandu in Suryabinayak, south eastern part of Bhaktapur District. Locals of Bhaktapur also call it Bimaleshwor Mahadev. The devotees offer prayers to Mahadev, hoping to receive his blessings and to cleanse a lifetime of sins. An essential feature of any Shiva temple is a sculpture of Nandi, the sacred bull of Shiva. The temple has multiple Nandi sculptures. Nandi means “giving joy” and the smaller sculpture is said to give the devotees exactly that. The devotees share their deepest wishes to the whispering in the ear of the sacred bull. Close to the temple is a sculpture of a Naga (snake deity). Nagas are closely associated with Lord Shiva. The Naga seen around the neck of Shiva is Vasuki, also referred as the king of the Nagas. It represents the endless cycle of life and death and reminds Shiva’s followers to keep their ego under check.
Bhaktapur is home to numerous other Shivalayas. One of them is the Aashapuri Mahadev temple. “Ashapuri” as the name suggests is a sacred place where the wishes of the devotees come true. Monday in particular sees huge number of devotees flock the temple because it is said that the one who worships Lord Shiva on Monday, gets their dreams fulfilled. Other occasions when temple receives the greatest number of visitors are Teej which is a celebration of union of goddess Parvati and lord Shiva; and Maha Shiva Ratri (the great night of Shiva), a night dedicated to Lord Shiva where he performs the heavenly dance known as the “Tandav”.
The temple is about 6 kilometers away from the Doleshwor Mahadev Temple. The Ashapuri Mahadev temple is located in a peaceful location. It lies on the bank of two small rivers. Opposite it is a beautiful white stupa surrounded by colorful prayer flags.
Another holy destination nearby is the magnificent looking Kailashnath Mahadev Statue of Shiva, which is about 5 kilometers away from Ashapuri Mahadev temple. The 143 feet tall statue is the tallest standing statue of Lord Shiva in the world and second tallest sculpture of any Hindu deity. The enormous sculpture of Lord Shiva holding a mammoth Trishul (holy trident and weapon of Shiva) stands on top of a hill in Sanga and is visible from afar.