Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 7

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BY: SUN STAFF - 11.10 2018

The Defeat of Shiva and Banasura
 

Sri Krsna's liberation of Banasura, the Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.

There are numerous temples in North India and Nepal that are associated with Banasura (Vanasura), his daughter Usa and her husband Aniruddha, Lord Krsna's grandson. One of these is in Bamsu (Sonitpur). Known today as Lamgoundi Village, it is situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttrakhand, where Banasura maintained one of his headquarters. There is also a small temple of Anruddha in Lamgoundi.

Today, the villagers of Lamgoundi and nearby villages like Pasalat, Phoili and Dewli Bhanigram worship Banasura as a rain god. While we find no direct references to Banasura's association with the rain god (e.g., Varuna or Parjanya), in the Krsna Book (Ch. 63) description of the battle between Banasura and Krsna's forces, we read:

"Banasura was very much agitated. He began to splash his different weapons, like torrents of rain, upon the body of Lord Krsna. When Lord Krsna saw the weapons of Banasura coming at Him, like water coming out of a strainer, He took His sharp-edged Sudarsana disc and began to cut off the demon's one thousand arms…"

Many other temples dedicated to Bana, Usa and Aniruddha are found in Assam state, which was another capital city maintained by Banasura. As the map indicates, Banasura's presence in Nepal was flanked by his headquarters to the east and west, from Rudraprayag to Assam, covering a great swath of the Himalayan foothills.

Two of Banasura's capital cities appear to be similarly named, and thus are often confused. One was his capital at Sonitpur in Banpur, today known as the city of Tezpur, Assam. The other was his capital at Sonitpur (Bamsu), known today as Lamgoundi village, Rudraprayag. It is common to find that the place names associated with pastimes of divine personalities are duplicated in two distant regions, no doubt because one location was renamed for pastimes taking place in the original locale. That is perhaps the case with our two Sonitpur's.

Banasura's realm

At Lamgoundi in Rudraprayag district is the village of Ukhimath, which sits on the east side of the holy Mandakini River flowing out of Kedernath. We recently discussed the char-dham rivers in our series, "Panch Prayag". And in this series, we've mentioned the Aniruddha and Usa temple at Ukhimath, which is near Ramgarh (in Ronitpur), about 3 km. from Guptakashi.

Before proceeding to Assam state and then Nepal, where the majority of tirthas related to Banasura are located, let us first explore the ancient ruins of Banasura's fort in Uttarakhand, near Rudraprayag.

The Champawat region of Uttarakhand, once the capital of the Chand dynasty rulers, has many well known temples, some associated with Lord Krsna's Appearance there in His Kurma-avatar incarnation. The Lohawati River originates near this place, and the village of Lohaghat is named for it. At a nearby village called Karnakarayat, about 6 km from Lohaghat, there are signboards for Banasur-ka-Kila. These are the ruins of Bana's fort, close to the hill station called Abbot Mount.

Making the 2 km. climb, one comes upon the ruins of the fort. Situated in the Himalya foothills, this is the place said to be known properly as Sonitpur (Bamsu).

Observation tower at Banasur-ka-Kila 
 

While some historical narratives place the great battle between Shiva/Banasura and Sri Krsna's Yadava army in Nepal, the greater consensus is that the fight took place at this fort -- Banasur-ka-Kila, Uttarakhand. Of course, as the map above indicates, given the long years and changing territorial boundaries, what is known today as the nation of Nepal is not so far away from this location in modern Uttarakhand.

According to local history, the Yadavas marched in behind their leader, Lord Balarama, with Sri Krsna on Garuda leading the column. The battle took place on the plains surrounding the fort, and on the ground known today as Karnakarayat village, and ended with the overtaking of Bana's fort. The current ruins clearly post-date the original fort, and in fact, a signboard on the premises explains that although the fort was renovated in the mid-16th Century, it is indeed the location where Vanasur was defeated by Lord Krishna in a face to face battle.

The ruins at Banasur-ka-Kila are situated at an elevation of 1,860 m. (6,100 ft.) above sea level. Visitors can see the fort ruins from all sides, and from this location they can see an expansive Himalayan vista. The transcendental pastimes that have taken place here and there in this panorama are inconceivable.

View of the Himalayas from Banasur-ka-Kila