The power of faith has instigated tourists from across the globe to travel in search of exploring destinations and embark on a journey which most of us quote as “ Religious Tourism”.
With a population of 1.2 lakhs, Dharan is home to a diverse sect of groups comprising majorly of followers of Hinduism and Buddhism. This would come as a surprise but there are over 25 holy sites in and around the city of Dharan.
Each site brims with stories. The mythology and history that precedes each institution intrigues the traveller and brings you closer to the roots of the Nepali people.
Barah Chhetra holds significance for Hindus right from the ancient Vedic period. The figurines in this Shikhara styled temple belong to the fifth century. The temple is a forty-five minute drive from Dharan. As you reach the site, a lovely walk through nature and shops selling an assortment of offerings for worship, await you.
The throng of pilgrims arriving at the temple from remote mountainous sites in western Nepal confirms the holiness of the site. The rush increases during the month of November when there is a religious fair.
It was at this site that Lord Vishnu took the incarnation of a wild boar by the name Lord Barah to kill the demon Hiranakshyipu. Legend has it that Hiranakashyipu had hidden the earth in hell which led to Lord Vishnu’s incarnation to a wild boar to rescue the earth
The temple lies at the confluence of the Kokaha and the Kaushiki river. There are a flight of stairs that lead to the river below. The water from the river is considered to be holy and pilgrims take a bath in these waters.
The Dantakali temple is another tourist spot to visit. The temple is situated at Bijaypur hill and is a 15 minute drive away from the city of Dharan.
Mythology has it that a forlorn Lord Shiva had wandered aimlessly around the world carrying the corpse of his late wife Sati. It was in these moments that her jaw fell off. The spot on which her jaw fell was considered holy and a temple was constructed in her honour. Her teeth are still preserved in a silver casket and you could request the local priest to give you a glimpse of it.
If you are in the heart of the city, you must make it a point to visit the ancient Kiranti shrine known as the Buddha Subba. It is a pilgrimage for devotees and lovers. The myths and history around the place never fail to fascinate me.
Historians state that the tomb was built-in the memory of the last Limbu King, Buddhi Karnaraya Khebang after he was defeated in 1775 by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The positive energy drawn by the spirit of the King drew locals to worship him, eventually leading to the Buddha Subba.
The other story which locals believe in is that of Buddha Subba and his sister, Subini. The duo used to often play and hunt with a slingshot at Bijaypur hill. On one such occasion instead of aiming at a crow, they accidentally hit the tip of a bamboo tree resulting in the tip never growing back.
This grieved Budha Subba making him give up hunting and turn to meditation. The site where the temple stands today is believed to be spot where Buddha Subba meditated.
Legend states that couples inscribing their names on the bamboo trees surrounding the shrine, are bound to be together till eternity. However, as an environment friendly initiative couples now tie thread on the fence surrounding the shrine. This is believed to help wishes come true and unite true lovers forever.
To conclude your visit, a visit to the Vishnu Padhuka temple would be a cherry on the cake. The temple is hidden in the serenity of the forests of north-western Nepal. The obscurity in its location has preserved the aloofness of the temple. Vishnu Padhuka is a half an hour drive away from the city of Dharan.
It holds significance as the site where Lord Vishnu had carried out the death ritual of the demon, Hiranakashyipu. The death ritual as known as “Sharada” in Sanskrit is believed to free the soul to rest soundly in peace.
Dharan has a hoard of pilgrims coming from all parts of the world to embrace the scenic view of the mountains. For some the journey is a path to self-discovery and for others it is a way to unwind from the hustle of their daily lives and rejuvenate themselves. You don’t have to religious to enjoy your visit, even if you enjoy art and love embracing new cultures, you need to pay Dharan a visit.