Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 43


BY: SUN STAFF - 21.12 2018

Lord Budhanilkantha Visnu, Kathmandu

The Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.

Budhanilkantha Visnu

The antiquity of Vishnu worship in Kathmandu Valley is evident in the person of Budhanilkantha Visnu, a 1,380 year old image of Vishnu lying on Anantasesa. The Deity resides at Budhanilkantha Temple, about 5 km. from the center of the Valley. In addition to the 20 foot long deity of Garbhodakasayi Vishnu at Budhanilkantha Temple, there is another one residing at Balaju Gardens, about 5 km. northwest of Kathmandu City center. A third image resides at the Royal Palace, but is not available for public darshan.

The 2015 earthquake seriously damaged Lord Shiva's temple, Goddess Saraswati's temple, a wall located on the premises, and the rest house. Fortunately, there was no damage to the pond in which Lord Budhanilkantha resides.

Budhanilkantha Temple is in the foothills of Shivapuri. The Lord lies with his legs crossed, holding chakra, conch, lotus and mace. It is said that only the priests may see Vishnu's crown, and some claim that the crown is inscribed with an image of Buddha. But as we can see in the image below, the Lord's headpiece appears to have a simple round ornament in the center.

Lord Budhanilkantha Visnu

Budhanilkantha Visnu, carved from a single block of black basalt, lies in a 43 foot long tank, with a short walkway that allows priests to offer puja and decorate the Deity. Hindus are permitted to touch the Lord's feet and make offerings, but foreigners are banned from doing so. The Visnu image lying at Balaju Gardens is enclosed in a similar cement tank.

There are two stories regarding the origin of Sri Budhanilkantha, who is also known as Jalakshayan Narayan. One says that He was carved on the order of King Vishnugupta of the Licchavi dynasty, around 633 A.D., and transported to Kathmandu. Another local legend has it that the Deity was buried and rediscovered when a local farmer struck the image while cultivating his land, causing blood to flow from the ground.

Lord Budhanilkantha Visnu

King Pratap Malla is said to have had a prophetic vision indicating that if the King of Nepal were to visit the Budhanilkantha temple, death would be imminent upon his departure. Since that time, Hindu Kings of Nepal have refused to visit the temple.

Lord Budhanilkantha Visnu

Budhanilkantha literally means "old blue-throat'. Although local Newari Buddhists worship the Deity, the budha in Budhanilkantha's name does not refer to Lord Buddha. Rather, it means 'old'. The description 'blue throat' is generally a reference to Lord Shiva, and the pastime of Shiva drinking poison is well known in Nepal. Whether or not the name Budhanilkantha indicates a meshing of Vishnu's identify with Shiva's is not known, but is certainly possible.

Lord Budhanilkantha Visnu

Lord Shiva's pastime drinking poison during the churning of the milk ocean specifically involves Nepal. When Shiva's throat began burning from the poison, he transported himself to the Himalayan range north of Kathmandu, struck the mountainside with his trident (trishul-astra to create a lake, and quenched his thirst. Lord Shiva suffered no long-lasting ill effects from this pastime, although a blue patch remained on this throat. The lake in this pastime is known as Gosaikunda.

Lord Budhanilkantha Visnu 

Shaivites say that during the Shiva festival held here in August each year, the image of Lord Shiva can be seen lying under the waters of the lake. Some maintain that on the underside of the reclining Budhanilkantha, there is a mirror image of Shiva.

Each year during Kartik, thousands of pilgrims visit Budhanilkantha Temple to celebrate the awakening of Lord Vishnu from His long sleep. Buddhist devotees also come to celebrate Naga Panchami, a day of worshipping Sesanaga, who has many representations in Buddhist tradition.

Vishnu on Anantasesa at Balaju Gardens, Kathmandu