The Mysterious Goddess Taleju Bhawani, A Terrifying Demon and the Living Goddess
Taleju Bhawani is considered as the goddess who made kings. Legend has it that the great Malla kings established their powerful dynasty because they were granted kingship by goddess Taleju. There are Taleju temples in the three royal palaces of Malla Kings in Basantapur, Patan and Bhaktapur.
When King Prithvi Naryan Shah conquered the three kingdoms of Kathmandu valley, he continued the tradition of worshipping the goddess Taleju and the living goddess Kumari, a child manifestation of the goddess.
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The Taleju Bhawani temple
The legends associated with the Taleju temple of Basantapur and its aura make it the most mysterious Taleju temple in the Kathmandu valley.
The original home of Goddess Taleju is believed to be the Tulja Bhawani Temple in Tuljapur, India.
She was brought to Nepal by the Malla Kings who worshipped her as patron deity.
The temple of Basantapur was built by King Mahendra Malla in 1564.
King Jaya Prakash Malla and the goddess
According to folklore, the final king of Kantipur (old name of Kathmandu), King Jaya Prakash Malla used to secretly visit the Taleju Temple in Basantapur to meet the Goddess Taleju Bhawani every midnight. They used to play a game of dice every night.
Towards the end of the Malla reign, there was inter-state political rivalry and warfare in Nepal. King Jaya Prakash Malla had realized that his reign might end soon.
The king talked about kingship and the political dimensions of war with the goddess. The goddess told him what he had already predicted, his reign was coming to a tragic end.
The birth of Kumari, the living goddess
In their meetings, the goddess often gave him advice and helped him with decision making but she had one condition that no one could know about their secret meetings. Unfortunately for the king, the queen was suspicious about the king’s whereabouts in the night.
One night, the curious queen followed the king. She covertly watched the king and the goddess playing dice inside the Taleju temple. The goddess saw the queen and became frantic. She told Malla that she would never meet him again and vanished into thin air. The king was distressed and begged the goddess to return and one night, she finally appeared in his dream.
The goddess told him that she would reside the body of a girl child from the Buddhist Shakya clan. If the king worshiped her then she would protect him and he would be able to extend his to rule for a decade. The king then built the Kumari Temple in the 18th century now known as the Kumari Ghar (house) for the living goddess Kumari. And as predicted by the goddess, the king ruled for further 12 more years.
The Taleju Bhawani’s horse
There is a horse stable adjacent to the the Taleju Bhawani Temple in Basantapur. It has been home to the horses offered to the goddess Taleju for centuries. A special horse is still kept there.
The horse is believed to be the vahana (the mount or vehicle) of the Goddess Taleju Bhawani.
The horse is well taken care of and is decorated and worshipped during the Bijaya Dashami. A similar white horse is also part of the Bijaya Dashami festival in the neighboring city of Bhaktapur.
Majipa Lakhe and Goddess Taleju
While the goddess Taleju was being brought to Nepal from Tulja Bhavani Temple in India, it is believed that a mythical demon followed her. The ferocious flesh-eating demon was Majipa Lakhe, who was the protector of the deity.
Initially, the Lakhe caused havoc in Kathmandu but later he became the protector of Kathmandu valley after the request from the king. According to another tale, Lakhe fell in love with a young girl in the city and started visiting her in human guise.
One day, he was recognized and captured by the villagers, who took him to the king. But instead of punishing him, the king offered him impunity. The king offered the Lakhe a life with the girl if he promised to give up his chaotic habits and protected the town instead. It is believed that he also protects the living goddess Kumari who is considered as the manifestation of Goddess Taleju.
The terrifying red-faced demon with fangs is often portrayed in festivals by a performer who wears a Lakhe mask and a dark red wig. It is believed that the spirit of the Lakhe lives in the mask and dictates the dance movements of the performer.
The Taleju temple of Sundhara
The little known Taleju temple of Sundhara is another mysterious temple located less than a kilometer away from the Taleju temple of Basantapur. It is situated near Dharahara tower on the Bagh durbar marga.
There is a forbidden door in the Taleju temple premises, which hasn’t been opened in over 160 years.
The strange thing is that the door was locked from the inside by Prince Upendra Bir Bikram Shah. He was the son of King Rajendra Bir Bikram Shah and brother of King Surendra Bir Bikram Shah.
Shah practiced Tantrika inside the temple and spent most of his life seeking salvation and spiritual excellence. He was known for performing tantric rituals and magical practices. Shah was also a scholar and literary genius who wrote poems inside the temple premises.
He was accused of being involved in a plot to unseat both King Surendra Bir Bikram Shah and Jung Bahadur Rana. Rana put him under house arrest in Bagh Durbar.
According to a popular legend, one day, Shah locked himself inside one of the temples in the premises and he was never seen again. The temple door hasn’t been opened since.