Somewhere in time, Kathmandu was considered a walking museum. The days were in the 1960s and 70s. It was the hippie moment or some prefer to call it as flower power days. War had just ended- the second world war and the world had seen how bad is the war. Both those winners and losers had enough of the war and they understood it was not worth it at all.
Both the western world and the eastern world started to interact. Westerners would come to the Eastern world, mesmerized by the ancient artefacts and the culture they often would adopt. Easterners on another hand tried to preserve their artefacts and were fascinated by western science and technology.
One of the deity which marked the westerners with lots of curiosity was God Akash Bhairav.
Here, in Kathmandu, there are many temples dedicated to Akash Bhairab. The main Akash bhairab temple is located in Indra Chowk. It is a three-storey building. The poor laboured were subject to the most inceptive work. Some people claim that Akash bhairav is the reincarnation of lord shiva.
The history of Akash Bhairav and its existance.
Bhairava refers to a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva. There are many different forms of Bhairava, such as Pachali Bhairava in Teku, Baagh Bhairava in Kirtipur, Mahakaal Bhairava in Tundikhel, Batuk Bhairava in Patan, Kirtimukh Bhairava in Pashupati, Tika Bhairava in Lele etc.
Aakash Bhairava in Indra Chowk, is one of them. Bhairava, also known as the brother of the living goddess Kumari. Akash Bhairava is worshipped with different names in different communities, such as: Aajudyo and Haathudyo by Newars (Aaju refers to respected Kirat king Yalamber, Haathu refers to the god offering holy liquors to his worshipers), Akshobhya Buddha by Buddhists and Shyam Baba by Marwadi
Here we discuss about Akash Bhairav himself. The legend says that Akash Bhairav was the first Kirati King. He was known as Yalambar to us. He had super power and he had gained those powers through tantrik worshiping. In the great battle of Mahabarta, King Yalambar went to the battle supporting the losing side of kaurabas.When lord Krishna knew about his arrival and his supporting the other side, he played a slippery game which Lord Krishna is known for. Later on, during the battle, Krishna somehow managed to chop off the head of Yalamber and the head landed in Tek Dovan, junction of Bishnumati and Bagmati rivers, presently Indra Chowk at dawn and transformed into stone itself, hence the name given as the Sky God or the Akaash Bhairava..
Some also say that the chopped head flow along the river and reached Teku Dovan where a farmer found the head. Yalamber then ordered him to establish the head in the Indrachowk. Yalamber also promised to protect the valley so he is also taken as the protector. The giant face of Akaash Bhairava seen today is said to be that of Yalambar. This is one of the famous legends associated with the establishment of Akaash Bhairava. Later on, king Anand dev established the half statue of Akaash Bhairava (1204 B.S. – 1224 B.S.) with tantric rituals.
Since the legend and statue of Akash bhairav has been completely submerged in the soil, and the people had to dig up the head to place it where it is now. The age of the statue is still a mystery. Therefore, the government of Nepal needs to be serious in this matter and should start dating/ageing the statute. Things like these are so vital for the development and prosperity of the country. We are ignoring so much of these and focusing on some secondary factors. I believe that someone capable and willing to sacrifice their life for the country will run the country, but this is not a badminton game. This is a basketball or football game where the team is built and the country is run by the team. Hence, if everyone dies their part the country will win.
Reference about the temple of Akash Bhairav and how it was built.
History suggested that in 1432 B.S the renovation for the temple had begun. Then Narendra Malla contributed a gold facial mask to put in the statue. Then there is more renovation by various kings in 1966 B.S. and in 1996 B.S.The last known renovation was done by Pratap mall in 2059. One major twist in the religion began with the worshipping Akash Bhairav. The idol in the face of Akash Bhairav is exact the same which he wore at the battle in Kurukshetra. Lord Akash Bhairav -the god of the sky, is also regarded by Nepali Maharjan(a caste in Nepal) as their ancestor, especially the peasant group. There is an image on Akash Bhairav’s head which Buddhists claim as Buddha and Hindu identify as Brahma. Thus making the idol worshipable by all.
God of Rain
In the religious and cultural aspect, Akash Bhairav is also known as the god of rain by the farmers. As Nepal is heavily dependent on agriculture therefore farmers ask Ahash Bhairav’s blessing in the true form of prayer.Indra Jatra is named after Indra not only because Nepal is an agricultural country and it worships rain god for good harvesting but there is a story related to it. It says that after King Yalamber’s head was established in the valley as Akaash Bhairava, different gods and goddesses, especially Indra, asked for a boon that they can worship Akaash Bhairava and celebrate different festivals
A total of 23 important pujas are done for the deity all over the year. And different feasts are organized in the temple itself. Special worshiping and celebrations are done in different days such as:
Shiva Ratri: Puja
Fagu Punima: Puja
Indra Jatra: Colorful mask dances and dramas, and
religious hymns (bhajans)
Kumari Jatra: Chariot placed and flowers exchanged.
Mela Purnima: Swasthani Katha beginning.
Indra Jatra or Yen-yaa (Kathmandu Procession) is a most lively festival celebrated in Kathmandu in September with colorful mask dances, exhibition of ancient wooden or stone masks of Akaash Bhairava at the doorways, idols of Indra at the crossroads, costume dramas, religious hymns (bhajan) and more exciting events, ready to take the entire city to an cultural accumulation of centuries back.
The jatra runs for eight full days. One weVek before the Indra Jatra festival, the main image of the Bhairava is brought down from the main door of the temple during night time. A high platform is raised just before the temple for the image, and smaller platforms are raised across the road for bhajans (religious songs). People from the valley come to see the image of Bhairava, which is placed, on the platform for one week. On the last day of the Jatra, the image is placed back by taking it through the window in the center of first floor during the night.
Akash Bhairav Temple
Akaash Bhairav temple, located in the hotspot of the traditional city of Newars, is a pure example of traditional Newari architecture. This three-storied temple is longitudinal in plan with its front façade facing to the East.
OPENINGS (Doors and Windows)
The entrance door is made up of gold plated brass metal. The torana aboeéfve the main door consists of Bhairab statue in the middle with Kumar and Ganesh statues at its left and right. Above the Bhairab statues are the replicas of Garud, Nagkanya and Makar. There are metallic statues of Guarding lions on the sides of main entrance door.
On the first floor, a lattice window (aankhi jhyal) lies just above the main door and a similar one lies on the southeast corner. There are two Gan Jhya with Torana above them and also a central main three bayed San Jhya on the same floor. All the windows and the Torana above them are also made up of gold plated brass metal. Two gold plated flags are placed on the sides of the central bay.
Decoration around the temple
Renovation of the temple
Firstly, the terrace and balcony were restored, cause that’s where the devotees would line up and there would be a bajan ceremony in those days.
And in 2042 B.S., renovation started with the permission of the department of archaeology. The jhingati tiles were replaced by brass roofing, cause they would be more durable. But later it was found that the foundation was shifted by 4”. The internal wall was destructed by moisture and wooden materials i.e. joists and posts by termites, this was quite anticipated because of the age of the house. The age factor of the materials used was expired. The renovation was necessary for the temple. So, the renovation committee was established in 2050 B.S. under Bikash Bhakta Shrestha. And the renovation process started on 1st Asoj, 2058 B.S.
The new design is not only based on the previous design but they have tried to retain the original look before 1990 BS, especially the eastern façade. Some of the pictures of 1966 BS were used for the account. The construction is fully based on Nepali traditional style of architecture with new construction technology inside it. They had strictly followed the protocol of the traditional Nepalese house.But the structure has been made in such a way that it reflects the old heritage for the new generation.
Whatever is the story of the temple, we should look forward to learning and discovering our history. What amazes me is there are so many mythical stories, fantasy stories and even brutal stuff in and around us that there will always an audience. Then there will always be someone to criticize and humiliate it as well.
Religion,nation,people,belief,faith and traditional gratitude are all interwoven in this manifestation of Bhairav worship.
This temple of Akash Bhairav temple is built by huge hard work and blood, sweat and the if someone. Temples and shrines are the most important factor for our tradition to be alive. These are the monuments that put our country in the limelight. What happened to the people nowadays, personally if I was able to do carpentry or pottery work I would not hesitate to do the work, unfortunately, I was born at a different time where the hippie movement had been ended and there were lots of new science and invitation to move with.
We should educate our younger generations about this heritage, the temples and artefacts. These are the gift given by our ancestors so we should respect them. These are the things that make a true Nepal. If we lose this we will lose our identity as well.
Akash Bhairav is also believed to be the jeevan tatwa. Our culturalism and culturally both are integrally bound during the worshipping of Bhairav and the temple as well. It stands as a grand testament to the cultural personification of Upasamhar.For eight straight days the celebration both compromise deity and the temple itself. This is then followed by Tantrik Puja, the Sajun Puja and Kal Puja. The worshipper and the deity are held together in a uniquely reciprocal dynamic state.
How much this Akash Bhairav is respected and shown can be seen all across the sky.Back in 2007 Nepal’s state run airline had sacrificed two goats to appease Akash Bhairav following a technical problem with one of its aircraft. Though I am not sure how much Bhairav became attached with their technical and maintenance department.The rest can be seen in the Nepal Airways airways
After all this devotion yet Indra Jatra was the main cause for the fall of the Malla Dynasty. September 25 1768, while the whole town was celebrating Indra Jatra, Prithvi Narayan Shah found the perfect time to take the city with a minimum amount of strength and blood been wasted. Prithivi Narayan Shah simply went to the palace courtyard where his throne was already been placed and thus marked the end of the Malla dynasty and the start of the Shah Dynasty.