Gorakhnath is unarguably the topmost among the clan of Nagas, Naths & Siddhas. I say is and not was, because people believe that this greatest among Siddhas still roams the holy spots on Earth in his invisible form.
Baba Gorakhnath, it is believed, had perfected the science of Alchemy – the ancient art of turning base metal into gold. He was one of the few Siddhas who could ingest the (poisonous) chemical mercury through one nasal tract & bring out an exact quantity of liquid gold through the other nasal tract.
The purification process that Gorakhnath often referred to, was internal cleansing of mind where: when you develop the art of converting your base thoughts into gold in the mental space – your physical body automatically follows suit by converting the base metals in your human body to the metal gold. When this happens, you develop the proverbial `Midas touch’- where whatever you touch converts to gold.
With Gorakhnath, this was `literally’ possible – his touch could turn base metal into gold. But with lesser mortals, it simply means that whatever you `touch’ on a symbolic plane (people, projects, jobs et al), it will turn to `gold’, as in it will succeed; come to fructification.
Baba Gorakhnath travelled far & wide. Travelling north towards Himalayas, he stopped by a huge lake in midst of mountains. Incidentally, it was also the resting spot for many travellers, monks & siddhas – but unfortunately it was devoid of any homing facilities in the harsh Himalayan weather. Gorakhnath then split a mountain to create a wide crack, which then allowed the large lake to drain across the mountains – creating a lush green valley. (In Tibetan mythology, this act is associated with Buddha Milrepa – a highly revered monk in Buddhist order).
In the centre of this valley, Gorakhnath erected a wooden Mandap (a large space created by roof & pillars). He called it Kastha-Mandap (kashtha-mandap). Kastha / kashtha = difficulty / difficulties in Sanskrit. Mandap = place of common gathering.
Seating himself in the midst of this Mandap, Baba Gorakhnath made a vow that whosoever shall walk into this Mandap & rest a while, his troubles (kastha / kashtha) would be left behind in the Mandap & he would walk away lighter.
In the midst of this Kastha-Mandap, is thin, long wooden pillar. It is said that if you join your spine to the pillar & take a 360 degree turn, your back / spine problems will be solved. This spot went on to become the meditation spot for Tibetan monks in centuries to come.
Gorakhnath’s Kasthamandap. Its translation in Tibetan language – Kathmandu. In the land of (ney = good) & (pal = people). Nepal.
Kathmandu city reminds you of any small town north India.
Language script is Devnagri & their dialect has many traces of Hindi.
Kathmandu’s fascination with red brick buildings is evident from Tribhuvan airport itself. You feel you have stepped into IIM Ahmedabad.
Kathmandu wears a highly neglected, disorganised look in many places, its highpoints being bad roads & chunks of hanging cable wires.
Kathmandu’s city centre covers up with its share of malls & high street lifestyle shops. The city’s Durbar Square is the ancient heritage part of the city – the area with houses the ancient Kasthamandap & Kumari temple.
Thamel area of Kathmandu is most lively with its Indian restaurants, pubs, small casinos & lanes of street shops. Tourist’s delight.
Indian currency is accepted, but carrying 500 & 1000 rupee notes is a criminal offence and liable to imprisonment.
Newa community of Nepal has a unique custom – their women are married thrice. At age 5 to the Bel Tree; on attaining puberty to the Sun God; and finally to a man of their choice as they grow older. That way, no Newa woman experiences widowhood.
Mustang community of Nepal has another unique custom – if there are more than 2 sons in a family, then they do not bring home multiple brides. The wife of the eldest is the wife of all brothers. She spends one month with each brother & apparently there are no serious discords between brothers on this issue.
The `Kumari’ custom is also unique to Nepal. Kumari is a living Goddess. She is chosen only from the Sakya clan, the birth clan of Gautama Buddha. A search is carried out for young girls in the age group of 5 years. She has to be blessed with 32 signs of physical perfection, in addition to having a good horoscope that matches with the horoscope of the King. Once a Kumari is selected, she is revered as Goddess Parvati and lives in royalty. Till she attains puberty. That is the catch. She is the queen of Nepal for about 6 years; then puberty brings her back to common life. An ex-Kumari cannot marry as no man will attempt to marry a girl who was once a Goddess. So in that sense she remain a Kumari (a virgin) all her life. Not by choice perhaps, but by sad default.
An interesting point of mention is that Nepal’s original boundaries extended to include India’s Garhwal region, Darjeeling & Gorakhpur in UP. When British invaded India, they attempted to invade Nepal too, but the ferocious Gorkhas fended them off, and finally signed a peace treaty after signing off the aforementioned territories to India. Since then, these fiery Gorkhas have been an integral part of Indian Army, the most decorated & feared Gorkha Regiment.
The Gorkha’s knife – the Khukri is a beautifully crafted knife. When in Kathmandu, don’t miss the Khukri shop to get an insight into how it is designed & crafted.
Don’t also miss Kathmandu’s local liquor brews – their Khukri Spice Rum & their Ruslan Vodka.
NAGARKOT & BHAKTAPUR
Nagarkot is about an hour & half’s drive from Kathmandu. It is the nearest highest point from Kathmandu from where you can see the majestic snow capped Himalayas.
Bhaktapur is an ancient heritage city. Spread over 5 square kms, be prepared to walk its length & breadth to enjoy its beautiful architecture, its old palaces and its temples – all dedicated to Shiva, Parvati & Bhairava.
athmandu’s Secret – Part 2 – Lord Pashupatinath
PASHUPATINATH TEMPLE, KATHMANDU
Pashupatinath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It looks, feels & is – really ancient. You feel for a moment that you have stepped back in time.
It is spread over few square kilometers & houses many other temples along with its main deity Lord Pashupatinath. Lord Pashupatinath is housed in the centre, in a temple that boasts of extremely ancient architecture. Don’t miss the intricate detailing.
It is bang on the banks of Bagmati river (which unfortunately is just a trickle owing to heavy pollution). You can look down from the corridors & catch a burning body or two, provided it belongs either to the Royal family or a family of high lineage. They are the only ones who have permission to cremate in the adjoining premises of Pashupati temple.
Don’t miss doing a Circumbulation (Parikrama) of the 525 Lingams that have been installed in a Swastika maze. You have to walk through the created maze, passing all 525 Lingams, touching the main Lingam in the centre, and exiting again from a different end. It ensures good health, good life & longevity.
Don’t miss grinding the huge Sandal (Chandan) stone & applying some paste to your forehead.
Don’t miss churning the platform of burning fires (in small plates) with a sugarcane stick. It brings peace to your ancestors.
Don’t miss the huge sitting Nandi Bull humbly facing his Master. It is majestic.
Don’t miss sitting down for a few minutes in solitude & simply breathing in the vibrations.
PASHUPATINATH – AS `HIM-ANSHU’
Kathmandu is the land of Shiva. His name reverberates across the valley in the multitude of small temples that surround the valley. Barring Pashupatinath temple, most temples do no boast of any rituals – you can simply walk in, have a darshan, and touch the God.
In Shiva Purana, Shiva is referred to as Himanshu also, in the Purana’s description of this Himalayan valley (though there is no such reference to Kathmandu as a city per se). Him = snow capped mountain; Alay / Alaya = residence; Ansh / Anshu = a part. Shiva as Him-anshu is that form who has merged into the snow capped mountains, making it His residence, and has thus become a part of them. Lord Himanshu resides on the mysterious Mount Kailash peak in the majestic Himalayan mountain range.
PASHUPATINATH – THE ANIMAL GOD
Many long centuries back, a cowherd noticed a certain milky white cow straying from his herd every day. She would quietly return by evening, after emptying her udders of all milk. Puzzled by this occurrence, the cowherd once quietly followed the cow, only to see her dropping her milk over a stone, into a small earthly cavity. Curious, the cowherd went near to have to look as to what lay in that hole – and he discovered the Lingam of Lord Pashupatinath. This discovery later paved the way for the erection of this current temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu.
There is also a mention in the Shiva-Purana which says that when Shiva was craving solitude when the Pandavas of Mahabharata, were searching for Him to wash off their earthly sins; Shiva then took the form of a Bull & started running; the Bull was subsequently stopped by Bhima; Lord Shiva burrowed into Earth; but Bhima grabbed him by the tail, thus effectively stopping him. The hump of the Bull is worshipped as the holy Kedarnath Lingam, whereas the head of the Bull, that emerged at another end of the Himalayas, is worshipped as Lord Pashupatinath (pashu = animal; pati / nath = Lord).
PASHUPATINATH – GOD OF SMALL THINGS
In this form as Lord Pashupatinath, it is believed that Shiva radiates extreme compassion to beings of the lower order; creatures / life forms / people who cannot take care or fend for themselves. It is believed that He fends for them, takes care of them, and ensures full sustenance to them in their mortal life on earth; and when their end comes, He personally delivers them from the physical to the astral.
The only way to approach Lord Pashupatinath – as the God of Small Things – is in your most humble, helpless form. Shed your ego, your worldly possessions, your name & fame, your achievements & enter His temple with the mind of a newborn baby. Don’t be ashamed to show your lapses, needs & shortcomings, because that’s what He’s there for. And your sustenance & protection is assured in this life.
PASHUPATINATH – THE ALCHEMIST’S STONE
The fact that Baba Gorakhnath – the undisputed Master of Alchemy; the Valley where you leave all your troubles behind; and mystical Pashupatinath Lingam are all in the same radius of few kilometers – cannot be a coincidence. So what is the connection?
In the Shiva Purana, there is an extensive description of a certain Shiva-Lingam that is referred to, as the Parasmani –Lingam (pronounced paa-ras-mani).
Parasmani is a wishing-stone; a touchstone; the Alchemist’s stone. It is believed that finding such a touchstone has been the undying quest of Naths & Siddhas & Alchemists across centuries, across the world & across various civilizations. Having this stone grants a person the power of Alchemy – the power to convert base metal into gold.
Shiva Purana describes Lord Pashupatinath as the Parasmani Lingam. The wishing stone. The Touchstone. The Alchemist’s stone.
It could be perhaps the presence of this rare stone in this Himalayan valley that led Gorakhnath to the end of his search & he decided to reside here as his final earthly abode. What Baba Gorakhnath knew, we will never know because Naths & Siddhas are not famous for sharing secrets.
But what Gorakhnath did share for the common man about Alchemy was:
The human body comprises of traces of metals & minerals.
The key lies in mind-control.
Every time we control a base-thought (an animal instinct) & successfully overcome it, we convert a small fraction of the base-metals in our human body to gold.
The more we keep up this mind control, the more gold we will have in our body.
The chemical name of gold is Aurum. The light which radiates from our body is called Aura. The more Aurum we have in our body, the stronger & more golden will our Aura be.
At some stage in our combined mental penance & physical restraint – there will come a point where a significant amount of base-metals in our body has been converted to gold.
This is the stage when we are blessed with a Healing-touch. Whatever we touch, gets purified.
If we persist this over one lifetime & several subsequent lifetimes, we can all reach the level of Baba Gorakhnath – where with a single touch, we can actually / literally – convert base-metal into gold.
When we reach that stage, further secrets of Alchemy will be revealed to us. Till then, start with a simple mastery over hunger, thirst, sex & wicked thoughts.
Don’t search for a Master, the Master will find you. When the student is ready, the Master will appear. That is the catch-line of Naths & Siddhas.
So – from what we do know from the correlation of vedic texts & documented facts is that Pashupatinath is undisputedly a Parasmani Lingam. Here, Parasmani does not refer to the chemical composition of the stone, but to its magical properties that make it an Alchemist’s Stone. Lord Pashupatinath is a 4 faced stone Lingam. Legends say that the real Parasmani is hidden beneath the Pashupatinath Lingam, and it radiates its aura & power from there, allowing whosoever who touches the Pashupatinath Lingam – to gather its mystical vibrations.
BUT – the catch is – no one is allowed to touch the Pashupatinath Lingam except the Royal family of Nepal. Earlier it wasn’t so. Touch-darshan was open to one & all. But many decades back, a devout of Indian origin, wanting to test the power of this Parasmani Lingam, surreptitiously tried to scratch a steel spoon on the Lingam’s surface, hoping to convert it into gold. He was caught, as were several others who had gotten into the habit of scratching the Lord’s Lingam with coins, in the hope of conversion to gold. The price of that greed is the price we are all paying today by banning our entry into the sanctum-sanctorum.
What most people do not understand is that – even with the Alchemist’s Stone in the palm of our hand – it will be of no use to us – if we have not attained the SIDDHI to use it. That is the penance that has taken lifetimes for religious practitioners like Baba Gorakhnath – and it is not a science that is going to be gifted to a commoner on a platter. It is a mastery that has to be earned.
But that notwithstanding – when you are in the temple campus of Pashupatinath – don’t forget to wish & keep wishing. He knows what wishes to ignore; what can be given & what must be given. You will not come back empty-handed.
BUT – there is another catch here. You will have to collect your granted wishes from a different place – from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple of His Hidden Consort. Most are not even aware of this. Most return back after the darshan of Pashupatinath. But some, a chosen few, make it to Her altar. There – they receive from Her what He has granted to us.
Continued… Kathmandu’s Secret – Part 3 – His Hidden Consort
This is the story of Shiva & Sati. Shiva is insulted by Sati’s father Daksh. Sati takes the insult personally. She throws herself into the holy ritual fire. Shiva is informed. He reaches Daksh’s palace. Picks up Sati’s dead burning body in his arms. In uncontrolled anger, He starts the Pralay-Tandav – the dance of destruction. Vishnu steps in. He feels Shiva can only be calmed if He is separated from the dead burning body. He unleases His Sudarshan-Chakra (Disc) with instructions to chop the body to pieces. The body is slashed in 108 pieces, each piece falling at a different spot in accordance with Shiva’s wild dance.108 `seats’ of `power’. 108 Shakti-Peeths. Power points on Earth for protection & salvation of mortals.
KAMAKHYA & GUHYESHWARI
Of primary importance amongst the 108 seats of power, are 51 seats which lay claim to the Goddess’s most important body parts. The lower private organs of Sati, got thrown into 2 different places. Amongst the primary 51 seats, her private parts – the ovaries & uterus fell at Kamakhya Devi in Gauhati, Assam, India – and the vagina & cervix fell some distance away at Guhyeshwari Devi in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kamakhya Devi in Assam is also referred to as the `bleeding-goddess’. In correlation to the body part of Sati that fell here, Kamakhya has her periods in the Hindu month of Ashad for 3 days; it is believed that this blood flows into the Brahmaputra, and the river takes on a pinkish hue (which from a practical standpoint is also attributed to the immense vermillion that flows into the river on those 3 days).
In the Devi Tantra it is detailed that, that is exactly how she wishes to remain – as the hidden / unknown / undiscovered / secret consort of Pashupatinath.
Taking a walk from Vaishali Hotel into Thamel’s famous shopping lanes, I chanced into a bookstore one evening. A voluminous book titled – Tantric Wisdom Goddesses penned by a foreign author (whose name I cannot now remember) caught my attention.
Being a hefty-priced thick book, I had no intention of buying it; but I didn’t think it ethical to take notes either. But I did browse through the pages trying to remember as much of the interesting information, I could.
In keeping with this Deity’s wishes, I would not like to comment too much in depth; but I would like to share a recap from the book & from my travels:-
If you have faintly read somewhere that she appears among the primary 51/108 Shakti Peeths, then you will at least ask for her & try to include her temple into your itinerary, even if her significance is not clear to you.
But otherwise, Guhyeshwari is easy to miss. She appears nowhere on the local tourist guide’s agenda. So if you haven’t priorly read or heard about her, then chances are that you will miss paying a visit to her temple.
When in Kathmandu, insist that your local guide takes you there, because he / she will most likely tell you that her abode has no significance & a visit is not essential.
Guhyeswari is a mere 10 minutes drive from Pashupatinath, yet you will find her courtyard almost empty.
Guhyeshwari temple is on an elevation from the road; large old temple; ancient architecture.
In the midst of the temple compound which houses several other small, micro temples – is her sanctum-sanctorum. You have to descend to enter it. It’s as if she’s hiding in a small cave.
Initially you may mistake her for a shiva-lingam – it looks just like one & you may keep looking around for a temple that’s more symbolic of a Goddess.
But there she is – in `pind’ form / a large hump of a stone. That’s Guhyeshwari Devi.
She has made a choice to remain secret & undiscovered like the symbolic private part, from which her energies arose.
Here, in Kathmandu, she chooses to remain in shadow & solitude, so that her better-half, Lord Pashupatinath can fulfill his worldly responsibilities without her distraction.
For those who have figured out her secret & seek her out … :-
She is the goddess of soul-mate connections. In `Tantric Wisdom Goddesses’, it is said, that those who make a visit here are not too far from their soul-mate connections. A fleeting encounter in this life & a more fulfilling encounter in the next – is assured for all who make it to her altar.
She is the goddess of marriage. A visit to her temple proves highly beneficial to those seeking / searching for a marriage partner.
She is the goddess of marital fidelity. A visit to her temple assures ensures fidelity & commitment in marital ties.
She is the goddess of marital longevity. A visit to her temple ensures a long & fruitful marriage partnership.
And the most important perhaps – It is said you have to collect from Guhyeswari’s altar, the wishes which have been granted to you by Pashupatinath. She is the medium. He passes on the granted wishes to her – and she in turn – passes them onto you when you reach her altar.
So in a way – though it’s easy to miss her – you can’t afford to miss her – else you risk leaving your bag of granted wishes back in Kathmandu itself.
Her real secret lies in teaching you to look for – the unseen; the hidden; the subtle; the invisible.
Her real secret lies in teaching you to look beyond the obvious that meets your eye & ear.
Her real secret lies in searching for the soul hidden deep within imperfect bodies.
Her real secret lies in connecting you to your own soul.
If Lord Pashupatinath is the God of imperfect life-forms & small, helpless beings – then Guhyeswari Devi is the perfect soul that is hidden deep within all of them & every one of us. The key is to find her to find yourself.