Tuesday, 3 October, 2023

The Fame Of Machhindranath

Aashish Mishra

It’s the Bikram Sambat year of 546 and it has not rained in Kathmandu for more than a decade. The heavens have not let loose a single drop of water for the past 12 years, turning the fertile green valley into an arid desert. The rivers and ponds have dried, the crops have failed and Swo: Ni: Ga, as the valley was known back then, is on the verge of collapse.
To say that the people were contrite would be an understatement. They were cursing themselves, cursing their selfishness. After all, the beggar that showed up at their doors all those years ago only wanted a fistful of rice and some water – not a hard thing to give for the well-heeled Kathmanduites. But still, they didn’t.
Then again, how could they have known that the beggar was Lord Gorakhnath in disguise? But, need they have known? Is a person only worth kindness if he is divine? No matter what, in life, one must never deny food to the hungry and water to the thirsty. Here, the people of Kathmandu had denied both. Not a single house in Kantipur, Patan and Bhadgaon gave Gorakhnath the rice and water he asked for and that told the lord everything he needed to know.
“The residents do not deserve the prosperity they have,” he felt, “for they do not use it to help those less fortunate.”
“They denied me food and water! Now I shall deny them the same things.”
An angry Gorakhnath then collected all the nine Nags of the valley and put them in his pocket. But a few sneaky ones managed to escape. So, he collected them again and this time sat on them. Nags are the serpent deities responsible for managing the water cycle of Nepal Mandal. With them trapped, the cycle broke. The water on the land flowed away and the water in the sky stayed. Rain completely stopped.
Parched, the valley cried for mercy. The people apologised for their actions and begged Gorakhnath to release the snakes. But he did not listen. Why should he show kindness to a population that had shown him none?
Having failed to appease Gorakhnath, the people did the only other thing they could – they went to the king for help. The king, Narendradev of Bhaktapur, assured the people that he would bring an end to the drought. But how to do it? His advisors told him to consult with the tantric Bandhudatta Acharya of Kathmandu. Heeding their advice, the King visited Acharya who told him that the only way the snakes would be released was if Gorakhnath stood up and the only person Gorakhnath would stand up for was his guru Lord Machhindranath.
Hearing this, the King decides to bring Machhindranath from his home in Kamaru Kamaksha in present-day Assam to Kathmandu and asks the Tantric to help him. The King, the Tantric and a porter Lalit from Lalitpur set out to Kamaru and bring Machhindranath to the valley with the help of Karkotak Nag in a story that is very well known.
When the Lord arrives in Kathmandu, Gorakhnath stands up to greet him and the snakes escape. As soon as they escape, Kathmandu receives rain. As is another well-known story, the residents of Lalitpur manage to keep Machhindranath in their city and conduct a chariot procession every year in the name of the residents and rulers of all the three cities of the valley. But one thing not many know is that for the first 84 years, Machhindranath was taken around the city on a palanquin. It was only during the reign of Bardev that the tradition of constructing a 13-storey chariot comprised of various gods began.