Written by Prabesh Paudel and Jocelyn Wright
So, dear friend, tell me another of your charming stories about Nepali culture.
Okay, let me tell you about a famous temple near my hometown, Dhorphirdi, located in Tanahu district. It’s called Dhor Barahi Mandir. The temple is small but really famous among Hindu devotees because of its natural spring pool, where the water level mysteriously rises and falls. It is located at the top of a steep hill, approximately five kilometers off of the highway to Pokhara. Pilgrims usually hike, but many tourists rent an off-road van, which takes 30 minutes to reach the parking lot. Then, you still need to hike 15 to 20 minutes to reach the temple.
Oof! I bet you sweat a lot!
Yeah, but there’s a saying in Hindu culture: “If you choose a difficult way to reach a temple, you will please the gods and goddesses, and they will grant you more blessings.” So, many people choose to hike to the temple.
That makes sense. Tell me more.
Devotees visit this temple to pray for a loyal and loving husband or wife, fulfillment in their marriages, good health, and long life, especially for a husband.
Then, I’ll definitely have to try that! So, what’s the temple like? What do you see, smell, and hear when you step out of the van?
Well, you first see many stalls with colorful items. They normally sell baskets with everything needed for worship in the temple. They contain candles dipped in ghee (clarified butter), incense (e.g., agarwood), camphor, flowers, raw coconut, and colorful threads to be worn after meeting the pandit (Hindu priest).
I’m visualizing the vivid colors… Okay, then what?
With your basket in hand, you can start hiking to the temple. After a few minutes, you can smell food being made ready to serve from the side restaurants in front of the hotels near the parking lot. There are so many local snacks you can taste, like aloo chop (potato croquettes), samosas (fried pastries made of green beans, green chillies, steamed potato, and onions), sel roti (rice doughnuts), chana masala (chickpea curry), and, of course, you can have milk tea.
Mmm! This all sounds so mouth-wateringly amazing!
But you must remember not to eat anything before offering puja (prayers) to the devi (goddess)!
Okay, and how do you do that?
Be patient, I’ll get to that. So, after this mesmerizing smell and before you finally reach the temple gate, there are many ghantas (bells) hanging along the way to the temple. Normally, you ring the ghantas to inform the devi of your arrival.
Oh, my ears are tickling imagining the lovely, ringing sounds!
You can also hear many holy chants and songs in the temple arena. They sound good for the soul and mind.
Like “Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu”?
Exactly! Then, after arriving at the temple, you can see the small pool where water flows in from a rocky hill. Before entering the temple, you have to wash your hands with the pool water. Many people are surprised by the many big fishes in the pool. These are really old and are worshiped as gods, so trying to harm them can land you in trouble.
Good to know! Okay, so what next?
Next, you should remove any leather items you are wearing and your shoes before entering the temple to pay respect to the devi within.
This is similar to Korean culture!
Um. So, inside the temple, you can offer puja to the devi with the pandit chanting some holy mantras. You might ask why Hindus do puja. Well, puja is the act of showing deep respect to the gods. We do this through songs, prayer, and other rituals, like blowing a shell horn. Once we offer puja, we can feel inner peace. The mesmerizing sound of ghantas and the chanting of mantras make us feel so calm. That’s why we stand in line for hours to get a glimpse of the devi.
I always wondered about that. Okay, go on.
Remember the pool I mentioned before? Actually, that pool is also the place where goats are slaughtered as part of the sacrifice to the devi. People normally offer her goats when they believe that their wish has come true or they are going to start something new and want her blessing. Of course, another way to pay tribute to the devi is to buy and fly a pair of pigeons.
I see. So, now can you eat?
Yes, after you offer your prayers to the devi, you are free to eat. You can taste the food I mentioned earlier.
After this romantic journey, how do you feel about my hometown temple story? I hope you liked it and are also eager to visit in person.
Yes, that was so fascinating! Your stories always move me. Speaking of which, when can we go?!