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Chhabdi Bahari

NEPAL | Saturday, 9 November 2013 | Views [1941]

Chhabdi (Chhapti) Bahari near Tanahue, Pokara Region

 Chhabdi Barahi is the worship and pilgrimage site of a fish headed goddess that made herself known about two hundred years ago.  At that time the locals used to fish in a small pond by the current site, but one day someone shot an arrow at a fish, the arrow stuck in the rock and blood appeared on it.  It was obvious that this was the site of a deity, and that by fishing they were hurting the god.  All fishing stopped immediately and a small shrine was erected.  Over time, a real temple was built and within the last two decades an entire pilgrimage site, complete with entrance path lined with vendors selling Prasad and sacrificial offerings appeared.  The Chhabdi goddess is worshipped by both Buddhists and Hindus and consequently Hindus make blood sacrifices to her.  There is a cost sheet near the entrance to the shrine that lists the costs of the offerings as: head of a duck NRS 50, sheep 300, goat 70, hen 100, and buffalo 550. Only the head is offered.  One doesn’t pay if the head isn’t returned, i.e. disappears, but if it is given back to the pilgrim then one must pay for the donation. 

There are some very large fish swimming in the various enclosures where the original pond must have been, with a nice waterfall in the back of the complex.  The deities’ shrine is next to one of the smaller enclosures, and this one also has a few large eels in it, that the temple priest dutifully fed with pigeon and crow heads while we were there.  He threw one head at a time into the water and then with a long pole pushed it directly in front of the eel’s face so that it would eat the offering. Once one eel had been fed, he repeated the process for the other three.

The image of the goddess is in a small shrine next to the eel-fish pond. She has a fish like head, but otherwise has the normal Hindu imagery.  As one of Vishnu’s manifestations was as a fish, Matsya is also represented in the imagery and Chhabdi has a disc, which is normally associated with the maintainer god. There are also three smaller stone reliefs next to her and the entire shrine is replete with red and gold cloth offerings, flowers, rice, Prasad, and red vermillion and yellow tumeric paste making it quite colorful within the rock cliff.

When we were on our way out two little girls were ringing with the bells on the side of one of the ponds and about to start their own pujas.  By the entrance were two sadhus who were also selling red and yellow tumeric as well as ruksa prayer beads, which are normally associated with Shiva.  People were picnicking on a flat space above the Prasad stands and some of the local boys were dancing to Nepali folk music on the other side of the path. The goddess may be a recent addition to the pantheon, but she is now very much part of the local community and their economic well-being.



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