The Crown Jewel of Chobhar

Text by Devendra Gautam

Even though he had been kidnapped, Lord Adinath was as revered in Lhasa as he was here; however, his heart remained in his hilltop abode in Chobhar. 

There’s an ancient temple atop a peaceful hill in Chobhar, beyond outcrops of modern houses and pine trees, that is dedicated to Lord Adinath (In Sanskrit, Adi means ancient, and Nath means lord). According to a local, Asha Ratna Shakya, he is also called Chyangrasi, and Buddhists regard and worship him as Anandhari Lokeshwor. In fact, earlier, the temple was known as Suvarna Kakshyapal Mahavihar. 

Shakya is kind enough to narrate the legend of Lord Adinath, which is quite intriguing, and goes like this: some Bhotes (people of Tibetan origin) from Kerung once kidnapped the god while his chariot festival was underway in Balkhu. At the time, the god was wandering around in the form of a beautiful woman. Taking turns, they carried him on their backs, and set off for Tibet. In a desperate bid to free himself, the god bit the back of the kidnapper carrying him. However, they swiftly worked out a solution, and carried him facing outwards. With the god unable to bite them any further, the rest of their journey was pretty smooth. At a spot on the bank of the Trishuli River, the kidnappers took a brief rest, and this is where the temple of Chyangrasi was built. But, that comes much later.

Homesick lord’s outings

The story continues: At his new abode in Lhasa, the lord missed his previous home on the high hilltop in Chobar, with the fields glowing with golden mustard flowers below, and the constant visits of his faithful devotees. So, his hamsa (spirit) would leave the Lhasa abode in the form of a bumblebee, and return at night. After one such outing, some Lhasa denizens found mustard flowers on the lord’s image. Suspecting that something was not right, they kept him in closely guarded solitary confinement, but these stringent security measures did not work, either. He managed to come to Kathmandu, where he stayed in Badagaun (or, Sanagaun), but his stay was short-lived. The villagers accused him of spreading cholera, and threw him into the Nakkhu River. 

Bizarre cow

Now, a man of the Gopali clan (cowherds) from Chobhar used to graze his cows along the Nakkhu banks. One day, he saw the cow showering her milk on a stone at the expense of her calves. This bizarre behavior surprised him. Digging in the area to unravel the mystery, he heard a voice from underneath ask, “Who’s digging? And why?”  He was astonished, but there was no end to his surprises that day. A god appeared before him, and asked, “Is the temple above (on the hilltop) empty?” “Yes,” he replied. “Then, I want to stay in the temple,” declared the god. “I will talk to my fellow villagers to see whether you can stay or not,” answered the cowherd. 

The villagers decided to let him stay at the temple. After observing a half-fast for three days, and living on curd and beaten rice for two more days, they, including priests and a Dangol man, headed to the site with a musical procession to bring the lord back to his original hilltop abode.  And on the day of Astami, the cowherd, using a bamboo pole, pointed out to the villagers the spot where he had got a glimpse of the lord. At the end of a sacred ritual, the god entered a golden jar in the form of a bumblebee, and in the daytime, prominent local people performed additional rituals and brought the god to his original abode. That’s the legend of Lord Adinath. Fascinating, wouldn’t you say? Now, here are some other interesting facts.

Unique features

You’ll see something at Adinath Temple that’s not the norm in most other temples, that is, numerous utensils hung around the shrine. This has to do with a unique practice; while on the one hand people dedicate such objects in commemoration of those who have passed away, on the other hand, they are also offered after fulfillment of a wish, after regaining health, after landing a job, after achieving success, etc.  

Another unique facet of the temple concerns the appointment and duties of the head priest. Specifically, a head priest should be above 12 years of age; he should have undergone bratabandha (sacred thread ceremony); and he should be from a Shakya family of Chobhar. A head priest usually serves for a month. According to 19-year-old Pratish Shakya, who served as head priest for the month of Shrawan, 2072: “During the month-long priesthood, the head priest is confined to the shrine, meaning, he cannot go to school or college, and he cannot eat anything that others have touched; he has to prepare his meals himself. In addition, he cannot brush his teeth, change his clothes, or bathe.” 

Festivals (jatras) associated with Lord Adinath take place in the months of Chaitra (Chaitra Astami), Baishakh, and Kartik. According to Pratish, many Tibetan pilgrims visit the temple to offer their prayers, and they demand to be allowed entry into the shrine’s sanctum sanctorum. Apparently, they have not forgotten the lord who once graced Lhasa!