June 13, 2024, Thursday
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Bunga Mahotsav: a step to revive glory of Bungamati

The Nepal Weekly
October 18, 2022

Bungamati turned vibrant once again on Saturday as the small Newa town was hosting a cultural festival, Bunga Mahotsav that offered visitors a cultural experience.

Bunga Mahotsav showcased live performances, heritage walks, live woodcarving demonstrations, food and displaying of culture, rituals, art and crafts in the traditional manner creating impressions of long time back.

Local historical artefacts, tools and instruments of local trade, local life style, music, masked dances, painting exhibitions showcased on the occasion. Local foods were also sold in the Bunga Mahatosav.

Sajha Yatayat had offered free shuttle from Jawalakhel to Bunga and to return to Jawalkhel for the visitors.  

Parya Sampada, through EU-Switch Asia initiative, worked together with the community to rebuild and revitalize Bungamati as an example for other heritage settlements in the valley. Bunga Mahotsav aims to relaunch Bungamati as a destination for heritage tourism with offerings palatable to people from all walks of life.

Bungamati is a settlement in Lalitpur Metropolitan City in the Kathmandu Valley. It is a Newa town at the southern hillside of the Kathmandu Valley overlooking the Bagmati River at its west.

During the Lichchavi Kingdom, the town was called Bugayumigrama. The word ‘Bugayumi’ is a Kiratian dialect so it is the proof that the settlement had come into existence since Kiratiperiod before the Christian Era. During the Malla period, it was called Bungapattan. Bungamati is also called Amarapur or Amaravatipur.

The original settlement of Bungamati was located uphills around the recent ‘Chunikhel’ area; recent ‘Bungamati’ being the place of cremation surrounded by huge forest, the original place is still called ‘Bugal’. It is said that when Red Machhindranath was brought into the valley then the settlement was shifted to present location of Bungamati after the temple of Red Machhindranath was constructed.

Bungamati is the hometown of the deity Machhindranath, regarded as the patron of the valley and his large Shikhara-style temple in the center of the village square is his home for six months of the year; he spends the rest of his time in Patan. The process of moving him back and forth between Patan and Bungamati is one of the most important annual festivals in the valley.

The Big Earthquake of April 2015 destroyed a massive destruction in Bungamati town. The temple of Machhindranath and a number of residential houses ruined.

The restoration and reconstruction of temples and residential houses are still going on.

Machhindranath Temple, Hayangriva Bhairab Temple, Manakamana Temple, Shrishtikanta Lokeshvara Temple, Karyabinayak Temple and some other places are places worth visit in Bungamati area.

Machhindranath Temple

The central ritual focus of Bungamati is the Temple of Machhindranath. Bungadyo has many important mythological, historical and contemporary ritual associations with water. Bungadyo being a primordial rain god, who was later identified with the benevolent Aryavalokiteshvara. Machhindranath is also known by the name of “Karunamaya” meaning an embodiment of love and kindness like a mother figure. While the Newars of Bungamati refer to Machhindranath as Bungadyo, the Newars from other parts of the valley use the name Karunamaya to refer to Machhindranath. The god of Bungamati and Patan is also identified as RaktapadmapaniLokeshvara and Aryavalokiteshvara.

There are a few interesting legends and stories on Bungadyo or Karunamaya – how he was brought to the Kathmandu Valley to end up 12 years long drought.

Machhindranath is brought to Patan for chariot festival in April, May every year.

Hayagriva Bhairab Temple

Hayangriva is chief Bhairav among all the ancient Bhairavs of Kathmandu Valley. The protector and ancestor god of Bungamati is Hayangriva Bhairav.

There is no written record of when this temple was established, but the Salivanjikatundal in the temple before the demolition indicates the existence of this temple since ancient times, as it shows pre-medieval art.  The copperplate and stone tablets of the Malla period mentioned in the context of repair and restoration have been found. In Kirati settlements, the concept of ancestor god is found. The scenario of arrival of Bundya Karunamaya: Led by Hayangriva Bhairav of Bungamati, Swet Bhairav of Lubhu, Krodh Bhairav of Harisiddhi, Sanhar (Tika) Bhairav of Lele and Chandra Bhairav of Patan-Ikhalakhu to Nepalmandal proves that Hayangriva Bhairav existed when Machhindranath was brought here.

There are some meanings of the word Hangreve or Haygreve – even if one is in a state of fearlessness, the real meaning is – Horse-Neck.  The shape of a small horse is on the head of this Bhairav.  Since the compassionate (Bodhisattva) is shown in the symbol of the flying horse as in the story of Simhasarthabahu, Hayagriva Bhairav can be taken as a devotee of that horse.  In Tibetan Nyingmapa, Bajrayani Buddhism also shows this Hanyagriva Bhairav as a Bodhisattva. This Bhairav also has a red face like that of Bungadyo which has three eyes – which is ‘laughing’ even though it looks like it is drowning in anger.

Manakamana Temple of Aju/Ajima Temple

Bungamati is also homeabode of Goddess Manakamana. People believe that Manakamana is in Gorkha district, but the fact is the original Manakamana is in Bungamati. It is said that upper part of the body of Goddess above navel is in Bungamati and lower part of the body below navel is in Gorkha.

Bungamati observes Manakamana Jatra as the main festival of Bungamati which usually occurs in the month of October during Navami, Dashami and Ekadashami of Dashain festival. During those three days the temple at Gorkha is shut down and the priest sends the devotees to Bungamati

Shrishtikanta Lokeshvara Temple

Bungamati is the birthplace of Shristikanta Lokeshvara, the god attributed to the creation (shristi) of overall living entities of the world.

There is ample of evidence that shows Bungamati as the foremost settlement of Kathmandu Valley, and one of the reason is it is the home abode of Shristikanta Lokeshvara who created existence of Nepa Valley.

Karyabinayak Temple

Karyabinayak Temple was built on the fourth Thursday of the month of Chaitra (near second week of April) in Nepal Sambat 781 (1661 AD) under the leadership of leader Purna Singh of Bungamati. At this time the reign of Shri Niwas Malla had just begun in Patan. Inside this temple, worship is done on a naturally formed stone in the shape of Ganesha.  But now, a statue of Ganesha covered with artistic silver is also kept.

Karyabinayak is one of the four famous Binayakas of Kathmandu Valley.  Other Binayakas are Jal Binayak of Chobhar, Surya Binayak of Bhaktapur and Ashok Binayak of Kathmandu. Before starting any work, devotees come to Karyabinayak to wish for the successful completion of that work.  Devotees get crowded on Tuesdays and Saturdays.