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Sankhu Vajrayogini

NEPAL | Sunday, 10 November 2013 | Views [3800]


 Vajrayogini is associated with the founding of the Kathmandu Valley.  According to a number of legends, there was a large lake here in primordial times where the buddhas and bodhisattvas would come to meditate.  Manjushri came to meditate here as well. In his vision he saw the Chakrasambhava with the yoginis beside it.  He decided that this was a sign that it would make a perfect place for humans to worship and meditate as well, so he set about cutting a path to drain the water.  Unfortunately, the water rushed out & he couldn’t plug the hole to stop it from entirely escaping.  No being was able to help until he called on Vajrayogini and the other yoginis.

When Vajrayogini was visiting her earring fell down.  A pond manifested where it fell and a tree sprang up nearby.  On a branch from the tree a child appeared who grew up to be Sankyadeva, the first wise ruler. Sankya means city or place in Sanskrit. Vajrayogini could be seen by the people as fire/flame/light from the mountain.

 Sankhu is the site of the oldest existing monastery in the Valley.  There may have been some to the east of the city (this one is in the South), but there are neither text nor artifact evidence to support this.  Scholars believe that the Sankhu Vajrayogini Temple was first constructed in the 1st-2nd C.

The founding of the city is mentioned in some of the old Newari Buddhist texts, including the Sarvastivad Vinaya Sutra, which said that 100 yrs. after the Parinirvana of the Buddha, Theravada split into 8 distinct groups, with one of them mentioning the Sarvasti Vada, which says that Ananda visited the K-mandu Valley.  The next clear reference to the history of the city is in the 3rd C BCE, when Ashoka and his daughter, Charumati visited and she married a local prince.  She created the Charumati Stupa at that time, while her father created the 4 stupas/Chaityras in Patan.

 Legend has it that during King Dharmadeva’s reign there was an extended drought.  He asked some holy people what he could do to relieve the suffering of his people and they responded that only a royal human sacrifice would be sufficient to placate the powers over rain.  As he did not want to hurt his son, he decided to offer himself.  He told his son that the person who was found in front of the offering altar should be sacrificed.  He then covered himself so that his son did not know who it was he was killing.  Once the Prince returned to the palace and found out he had committed both fratricide and regicide, he went a little crazy.  He requested help from Vajrayogini, who told him to build a Chaitrya/stupa on the hill, Gu, where the Vajrayogini Temple now stands.  After this one was completed, she also told him to build one Boudanath.

The site was destroyed by Shankacharya in the 8th C in his zeal to reinvigorate Hinduism in the region. The destruction of the first stupa can be seen under tree roots by the staircase to the entrance of the Temple complex. The current complex was built over time, starting after the 10th C, but with buildings still built within the last hundred or so years.

There is an annual ritual that takes place opposite the overturned chaitya on a relatively small flat spot on the hillside. The images of Vajrayogini and her two guardians (Simgini –female white lion and Baghini –female red tiger) from the building with the eternal flame are taken on platform chariots down the hill to the main square of the town, about a couple of kilometers away on the Full Moon in March.

 The main Vajrayogini Temple has bronze plates with images above each of the doors and on the sides of them.  The plates have Vajrayogini encased with a Naga crown above her and a crescent moon under her.  On either side are images of Garunda.  Above her are – from left to right looking at the plate – Ratnasambhava, Akshobya, Vajradhara, Vajrasattva, Vairocana, Akshobya, Amogsiddhi.  On the sides behind the stone painted lions are Tara on the right and Manjushri on the left.

Above in Newari wood carving are the Mahanagaranas, above them the Dancing Deities, and in the middle of the Nagas, Chyapu, who was seen when Manjushri drained the waters from the valley.

On the outer part is an image of Vasudhara , with Laksmi as the counterpart on the left.  Under the peacocks are the sun with cows and moon with a mythic bird. Then there is Kubera, Sakcharya, Statcharya and Saracchuri and Prajnaparamita, each recognized by their different mudras.  The peacock beaked guardians are left Kakasya and right Ulukasya.

In the upstairs temple, Vajrayogini has a lotus in her left hand and a sword in her right.  She obtained the sword and became Khadra yogini after the Shankacharya destruction as a means to protect her temple.  She also has a cobra in the middle of her chest on a breastplate with images of the four yoginis.  She is flanked by  the lion headed Singara and tiger headed Baghara.

There is large stone head lying on the ground that may be that of King Vikramitra, but it has a Dharma bun, which would seem to indicate a Buddha rather than a king. Some people say that the King was said to have worshipped Vajrayogini on a daily basis and due to his sacrifices he earned special treatment, but because of the top knot other scholars believe that the head must be of Dinkara Buddha – one of the Adi (wisdom) manifestations.

 Inside the Gum Vihara Temple is a small chaitya, but no one knows for sure when it was constructed.  It was mentioned in a 5th C text by King Mandeva, the geneology “Gopal Raj Vamsavali”. There is also a legend of treasures under the Temple. According to Manish, initiates must take their orders in front of this Temple and worship as a monk for four days.

 There are a number of chaityas on both the upper and lower levels. It seems that

there are two main types of chaityas in the Kathmandu Valley: Dharmadhatu and Vajradhatu.  Overall there are twenty-seven different types.

On the first of the chaityas in the complex behind the temple, Amitabha is above on the Western side, Amogasidda on the North, Vairocana on East and Ratnasambhava on South. I was told that the type of mandala element placed inside the chaitya indicates the differences in the chaitya/stupa style. For example.

Sahririka contain relics of the Buddha; Paribhogika have items used by the Buddha; Dharmika house manuscripts; and Uddesika are where objects for the ancestors are placed.

 The whole hill is a sacred place.  The buildings above the Vajrayogini Temple level were mostly constructed during the Rana period (last 120 years).  She was a deity of the royalty and only they could worship her.  In the monastery she is naked with only a necklace of 50 human skulls, but here she is now clothed with lots of red and gold shawls.

 Of the four main Vajrayogini sites in Kathmandu Valle y, (this one, Pharping, Kathmandu and Patan,) the Sankhu and Pharping Vajrayoginis are the most prominently worshipped today, even though they are the two that are the greatest distance for most people to visit. 






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