This year we were planning to go trekking to ABC (Annapurna Base Camp) but most of my friends couldn’t get holidays from their jobs or universities and the plan fell through. The friend who was in charge of organising everything said it was not feasible for just 4 or 5 of us to go as the trip would be expensive for a small group. So, I went somewhere else, somewhere amazing, a temple on top of a big hill in eastern Nepal, close to my home district. A temple of Goddess (Devi) Pathivara which is very well known and revered in these parts. It was what I really needed most.
A little back history. The eastern part of Nepal is the Limbuwan region. Initally, these were Limbu kingdoms before King Prithivi Narayan Shah conquered them and made a unified Nepal. Predominantly, the Limbus which is my tribe, live here. We are one of the ethnic people of Nepal and have our own language, script, scripture, culture and religion. Though we are influenced by Hinduism, we are not entirely hindus. Kirati rituals are different from Hindu rituals; especially the birth, marriage and death rituals. Also, the people of the hills and mountains are in someway nature worshippers, they worship the rivers, mountains, the forest God etc as mothers (mata, mai, devi).
But Pathivara mata(mother) is worshipped by all who know of her; the Hindus, Kiratis and the Buddhists. I personally think if a person believes in all Gods or a God and respects every religion and wants to pray in a monastry, a church, a temple or a mosque, irrespective of his/her religion, he/she should be allowed. It seems anyone can go to a church or a monastery, there are no restrictions but some temples and mosques are stricter on rules. I have seen boards outside some temples in Kathmandu prohibiting foreigners (people of other religions presumably Christians and Muslims) from entering. Similarly, non muslims are not allowed in Mecca and Medina. It must be because people while visiting these places, which are not their holy places see these as tourist attractions first and foremost. I speak from my own experiences ofcourse. When I have gone to churches and monastries, and the first thing I did was say “How beautiful!!!!” Maybe someday we will change.
The temple of Pathivara mata (mother) is in Taplejung, a neighbour district of Panchthar. But for all the years I have lived in Phidim I had not ventured beyond Hewa river. My mom and dad have made the journey to this temple once, albeit separately many years ago. It had taken them many days as the roads were rough then, and the site was not even developed as a temple.
They came back with so many great tales that we listened to with awe. How there were money and gold everywhere in the holy site, that people had offered to the Goddess and they had to step on those to get to the praying place. It is believed that She will grant you your wish if you go to her temple and pray. You know how you are not supposed to lie when you promise. And then there’s ‘Mother promise’ which you believed as a kid, will effect your mom if you broke it. And then there’s ‘Pathivara promise’ which is the most fearsome of all. People rarely if ever use it. That is how powerful the Goddess is believed to be.
If you say you will visit her temple then you must. This is the reason we must never utter our intentions to go. If we say it outloud then we must go anyhow. It’s like a promise we make her. Few years back, my aunty asked me if I wanted to go to the temple with her. When I asked my mom for permission she scolded me for even asking as I was going to return to college in few days and I shouldn’t have harbored such thoughts.
So this time since, we had an extra day before we returned back to Kathmandu, we set out to go the temple. It was an impulsive decison. And I didn’t inform my mom, dad or aunties… Only my brothers (cousins) knew of my plan. You are one lucky sister to have brothers who love you and do everything for you. My brother R’s motorbike had some problems so his friend lent us his. No problem there but they (he and my bro) had some work in Kathmandu and were going to take the same bike all the way to Ktm the day after so we had the bike for a day only. We were to go to the temple and come back in a day.
I was gonna go with my kid brother Abhi. He was with his friends for most part of the day. When he came home I told him “Let’s try to go to the temple and return. Eveything is set. We are leaving at 5 or 6 in the morning.” My kid brother loves riding. And because he loves me too, he was excited. But more because a biking opportunity was presented to him, I think.
My brother “Abhi”
There are so many tales about mother Pathivara. They say people who have sinned beyond redemption cannot make it to the temple. They fall ill or even die on their way to the temple. My cousin (sister) taught me to say it like “I will go and return back”. Apparently some woman promised to bring her child back to the temple if she was blessed with one. And when she brought the child to the temple, the child died. You are supposed to say I will bring and take back.
We started our journey without declaring our intention. This was my first time and my brother’s second time going to the temple. He had gone before with his parents when he was a little child. So, basically we didn’t know the way to the temple when we set out. This is how our 90-95 km of bike ride on the spiral road up and down the hills began.
We were going to the top of the hill like this one. I thought this was the one my brother pointed out to me. Apparently, I was mistaken. The one we were going to was more pointy and taller which I didn’t photograph. This is near Kabeli river where Mechi ends and Taplejung begins.