Nepal, a small landlocked country between India and China, is a secular state, but majority of people are Hindus. Hinduism basically is a polytheistic belief. According to the Hindu scriptures, there are as many as 330 million deities. Some of the deities can be mundane such as grass, stone, or tree; while some are more like human beings but with occult power. Some Hindu gods are endemic to certain place and worshiped by certain cults, while others are revered by Hindus all over the world. Shiva and Krishna are some of the Hindu gods, who dominate Hindu religion.
Hinduism emphasize on goddess worshiping cult popularly called Shakta. Shakti is a generic name for any goddess and hence goddess cult is called Shakta. Manakamana, one of many goddesses in Hinduism, is endemic to Nepal.
The word Manakamana is composed of two Sanskrit words, mana (mind) and kamana (wish). Hence the literal meaning of Manakamana is wish fulfilling. Every day hundreds of people from Nepal and India visit Goddess Manakamana and ask for favor. It is believed, every wish of devotes is granted by the Goddess. Goddess Manakamana is considered so sacred that photography is not allowed in temple sanctum.
The temple dedicated to Goddess Manakamana is on the top of the hill, in Gorkha district. Until recently, one had to ride on horseback or walk for four hours to reach the temple, but now it is easily accessible by Cable Car. Over the years Manakamana Temple was renovated many times. Today it is a four story pagoda style temple ornately decorated with wood carving and copper roof.
Manakamana Temple is at 1300 meters from sea level and straddles Trisuli and Marshyangdi river valleys. Manaslu, Himalchuli and Annapurna mountains are visible from Manakamana Temple.
How to Get to Manakamana Temple
Manakamana is at the junction of three cities Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan.
If you want to get to Manakamana Temple on foot, you have to reach Abu Khairini by bus or car, cross a suspension bridge over Marshyangdi River, and then climb a hill. It will take almost four hours to reach Manakamana Temple from Abu Khairini.
You can also get to Manakamana Temple by a Cable Car. The cable car station is at Kurintar, which is 3 hours drive from Kathmandu, 2 hrs from Pokhara and 1 hour from Chitwan.
The Legend of Goddess Manakamana
In medieval age, Nepal was disintegrated in many princely states. One of many satellite kingdoms was called Gorkha. House of Ghurkha (also called Gorkha) was ruling dynasty in Nepal until 2006. In the nineteenth century, British Government in India hired Nepali people for their armed force. Even today Nepali soldiers, popularly called Ghurkha soldiers, are integral part of Royal British Army and Indian Army.
If you don’t find justice, go to Gorkha is a popular saying in Nepal. The saying commemorates Ram Shah, the just king of Gorkha. Ram Shah – the progenitor of Prithvi Narayan Shah, founder of modern Nepal – was born in 1614 AD. It is believed, Goddess Manakamana had blessed Ram Shah and prophesized that one day his little kingdom will become an empire.
Legend has it once Ram Shah woke up in the middle of night only to find his wife missing. After the same incident occurred following nights, he was suspicious. One day he thought to pry on his queen. He pretended to be asleep and waited for his wife to leave the bed. In the middle of night, the queen walked out of the room. Ram Shah followed her. Suddenly he saw, his queen was no more in human form, she was a goddess riding on a lion and attended by Lakhan Thapa, a servant in the palace. Ram Shah’s queen was actually Goddess Manakamana in human form only known to her devotee, Lakhan Thapa.
Ram Shan bowed to Goddess Manakamana and asked for her forgiveness. She said, since people will know about me, I will no more remain on the earth, but will appear some day. Saying so she vanished.
Many months later, when a farmer was plowing, he plow struck on a stone. To his surprise the stone began to bleed. The farmer went to Ram Shah and informed about the incident. The following night the king was asked by the Goddess, in dream, to give a proper place to stay. Ram Shah summoned Lakhan Thapa and ordered him to bring the stone to Gorkha so that he could build a temple for Goddess Manakamana.
Lakhan Thapa, along with his friends, went to fetch Goddess Manakamana. They carried the stone in palanquin and walked towards Gorkha. They climbed a hill and before strolling downward, they rested for a while. When they tried to carry the palanquin again, they could not lift it. Goddess Manakamana had strictly warned Ram Shah not to stop while bringing her to Gorkha.
Thinking this incident as the will of divine, Ram Shah built a temple around the stone and appointed Lakhan Thapa as the priest. The current priest in Manakamana temple is the 17th generation descendant of Lakhan Thapa. He worships goddess behind closed doors by offering fruits, vermilion, incense, oil wicks, rice, eggs and clothes. After the priest conducts worshipping, the temple is opened for the devotees.
Animal sacrifice is a part of Goddess worshiping in Nepal. According to widely held belief, goddess demand fresh blood of young uncastrated male animals. After animals are decapitated, the idols are washed with warm blood and the carcass is eaten as sacred meat. Nepal Government even sanctions budget for animal sacrifice. Animal sacrifice is extensively practiced in the temples of goddesses including Manakamana. Every day dozens of goats, sheep, and fowls are sacrificed to Goddess Manakamana.