Situated in a valley at about 4800ft, above the sea level Banepa, the historical town, is about 26km east from Kathmandu. "After having had the favors and directions of goddess Chandesvari, king Anandadeva founded seven cities, viz, Banepur near Chandesvari Pitha. Panauti near Prayaga Tirtha of Nepal, Nala near Nala Bhagavati, Dhulikhel, near Narayana, Khadpu, near Dhanesvara; Chaukot, near the resident of Chaukora Rishi; Sanga, near Nasiko Pitha". Anandedeva united the scattered villages and made modern Banepa surrounded by eight gates with a Ganesh (the elephant - headed god of good omen) at each of the gates in eight different directions in kaligat year 4197. He also built a temple of Chandesvari and arranged a trust fund for the goddess.
"Chandesvari, the guardian deity of Banepa, has been called by several names such as Jagajjanani; Bhagavati, Durga, Chandika, Mahisasur-mardini, Bhavani, Kalika, Chanda-munda Binasini, Chandasur-Hanti, Ugratara, Ekajati, Sarasvati, Chamunda, Kumari and Dumaju. But to the people of Banepa, Chandesvari is all of these deities".
As to the emanation of Goddess Chandesvari as mentioned in the mythology, it was at the time of the Great War between the deities and the demon Chandasur. The demon king was beheaded and from the corpse of the demon the stream of light had come out and it became Chandesvar linga. But the people of Banepa are of the opinion that the Shiva linga enshrined in a temple close to the temple of Chandesvari at the outskirts of the town was installed by Chandasur just before the time when he was about to be beheaded.
People have the idols of Chandesvari in Bhaktapur at Chasukhyo, in Patan at Ikhalakhu and Sonihma at Tokha. The people of these places have celebrated their festivals in different months. It is said that Chandesvari of Banepa is the daughter of Svetakali (Naradevi) of Kathmandu. The mask dance of Svetakali is brought to Banepa once every twelve years.
Festivals begin in Nepal with the beginning of the New Year. The festival of Chandesvari is celebrated in honor of her victory over the demon. It takes place on the first full moon day of the New Year’s festival in the country. Many things are to be done for the preparation of the Jatra. To ward off evil spirits and to sanctify the place for the jatra. 'bau' made of beaten rice is scattered by a 'kasain' accompanied by the performances of temple of Chandesvari. This puza is begun only after the 'dewali-puza' of Bhochhibhoya caste of Banepa eight days before the full moon. There are some other 'puzas' such as 'tak puza'; 'panchabali puza (the sacrifice of five different creatures such as buffalo, a goat, a sheep, a duck and a cock) and 'mata puza' (the ritual procession of torches) prior to the chariot festival. Early in the morning on the day of full moon, mata puza' composed of several hundred peoples with torches in their hands begin from the old palace and after talking a walk round the temple of Chandesvari ends in Jayesigal, The source of a sacred river. This festival of lights processed by different kinds of musical instruments such as 'Dhimaya', 'Bhuchhyas', 'Mayekhins', 'Chhusyas', 'Kahas' and 'ponga' is welcomed to goddess Chandesvari.
A very huge colorful chariot that rest on four big wooden leg is made by the Manandhars of 'kha-guthi' at Tin-dhara, the center of the town. Each side of the chariot has five big poles in order to be carried on the shoulders of human bearers. At noon there gathers a crowd of peoples to see the 'jatra'. The empty chariot is carried to the temple of Chandesvari. In the late evening a very old idol of the goddess artistically made of precious metal is kept with ritual performances into the chariot when different kinds of musical instruments are played and hymns to the goddess are recited aloud. Next day, i.e. the day after full moon, the chariot is carried back to the city of Banepa. At woku tole, the goddess is welcomed with different kinds of musical bands and hymns with loud voices, when two virgins of Bhochhibhoya caste worship and welcomed the goddess by removing the white veil covering the body of the goddess.
On the way to old palace, women offer oil-lamps, and puzas, and some other scattered biscuits, bread and edible things from the windows over the chariot. Soon the chariot is carried back to woku tole where special puzas is offered by Bhochhibhoya to the goddess. At that time pieces of the meat of goat sacrificed to the goddess on the previous day are scattered over the crowd of people. Those who can have the pieces of goats' meat are considered to be fortunate for the whole year to come. Then the goddess is carried back to the temple. Next day the deity is worshipped with 'sagun'. For only two days the door of the 'Dyo chhe' where the metal-made goddess is kept open for offering the puza. Then it is closed for the whole year to come. The legend tells us why Chandesvari appeared and why she destroyed the demon king, Chandasur.
The Legends of Nepal - Jnan Kaji Manandhar
Provided By: Nhuj Naka:mi
Photographs: Gautam Shakya