Geography of the Kaskikot Kalika Temple
Kaskikot Kalika Temple is located on the northern side of Fewa lake, approximately at a distance of 18 km from Lakeside. The temple also falls on the trekking route to the Annapurna region, 6 km far from Sarangkot. It sits on a mountainside ridge with an altitude of 1,788 meters that offers panoramic views of different snow peaks. From the northern side of the Kaskikot, Mount Dhawalagiri and Mount Annapurna are visible towards the far west. Other mountain ranges such as Panchase, Bhimdikot
Macchapuchre, Manaslu, and Annapurna can also be seen from the area. On the eastern side, a clear view of Pokhara can be seen across Fewa lake. You can see almost all of the boundaries of Kaski district from Kaskikot.
Origin of the Kaski Name
According to Padam Puran, a Sacred Hindu literature, Kaskikot Kalika Temple’s name ‘Kaski’ is associated with the famous sage Kashyap. In Chapter 1 of Utara Khanda, from verses 16-35 of the Puran, there is mention of the sage praying to MahanKaleshwor or Lord Shiva due to the scarcity of water in the Madhya Chetra area. The current Kaskikot area is described as ‘Madhya Chetra’ in the Puran. Due to the sage’s intense prayer, Mahadev was having a difficult time maintaining his meditation or posture. Mahadev shook a strand of his dreadlock(Jata) and as a result, the Ganga River, Shukla Gandaki, and Kali Gandaki Rivers originated. It is believed that Sage Kashyap’s intense meditation ended the drought and eventually the place was called as ‘Kashyap’ that changed to ‘Kashya’ to ‘Purana Kaski’ and finally as ‘Kaski’. The origin of the name ‘Kaski’ is associated with the same place Kaskikot where Sage Kashyap’s prayers were answered. In another version, the Sage Kashyap writes a precious Ayurvedic Literature named ‘Kashyap Samhita’ in Kaskikot, and gradually the name ‘Kaski’ was derived, due to this legendary attainement in this place. Some of the other stories associate the name derived from the word ‘Kash Khib’ of the Gurung language which translates to the people that wear specific cloth material named ‘Kachad’. Another story associates the derivation of word ‘Kaski’ with ‘Kaskut’, a metal alloy that was produced in the same region.
History of the Place
The word ‘Kot’ direct Nepali meaning is ‘Durga’. Its meaning directly translates to the area where soldiers are stationed. Kaskikot Kalika Temple was also used to store weapons and it was an important stronghold for soldiers. So, it is also referred as ‘Kotgar’. Historically, this place was used to worship battle weapons as the soldiers believed they were the means to protect dharma. It is an excellent location as ‘Kot’ according to Vastu Sastra, an ancient Hindu system of architecture and design. The innermost sanctuary, sanctum sanctorum called as“Garbha Griha in Nepali, is Gupta Kalika Devi. There is also an ancient meeting hall for special discussions known as ‘Bhardari Kakshya’ used by Kings. On the east side of the courtyard, there is a ‘Hom Kakshya’ used for chanting mantras and prayers. Alongside the wall, there are many artificial tiny holes that were used to look out for enemies. There are also discrete rock formations around the temple area called as ‘Aad’ and ‘Pyad’ made for teaching about ways to attack and defend against the enemy. You can still find many old bunkers spread across the area.
Structure, Origin and History of the Temple
Kaskikot Kalika Temple is made up of traditional and naturally occurring materials. The Saal wood provides the foundational strength of the temple. Brick dust and limestone were used as core ingredients in the construction of this temple. The roof of the temple is made up of stones. All of these building components showcase the richness of the temple’s architectural art that is restored in the same Shikhar and Pagoda design style as the original. The goddess of this temple is also called ‘Gupta Kalika’. According to a local mythology, it is believed that a huge blaze of fire originated from Alam Devi, Syangja, and passed from Alam, Nuwakot, Kali Rohini, and finally reached Thumko and stayed hidden there. A mysterious voice from the sky said that Kalika Goddess wanted to remain hidden in this place. Thus, the goddess of the Kaskikot Kalika temple is called ‘Gupta Kalika’ which translates to ‘Hidden Kalika’.
Historically, this place was reigned by King Kulamandal Shah. Shahrajas became kings from this kingdom and expanded it to Lamjung and Gorkha and later whole Nepal was unified. Kulamandal Shah’s youngest son Yasobram Shah became the king of Lamjung. Yasobram’s youngest son Dravyashah became the king of Gorkha. After that, his descendant Prithvi Narayan Shah united Nepal. In the surrounding of the temple, there are stones used by Kings to pay tribute to soldiers or other people. There is also ‘Gazal Thumki’, a place where Kings used to listen to Gazals. During the time of Chaubise Rajya, this region was one of the most vital states in all of Chaubise Rajya.
Daily Puja and Special Ceremonies
Along with Tantric and Vedic rituals, there is tradition of daily worship that is performed in this Shakti Peeth. On special occasions such as the Bada Dashain Festival, the range of worship rituals may differ and extend throughout the festival. There are a total of 18 pujaris for the festival which includes 6 banedars, 6 pandits, and 6 pada and they worship Goddess Gupta Kalika for the entirety of the festival. The goddess is worshipped from Ghatasthapana till Bijaya Dashami by both Baidhik and Tantric worshipping rituals. Within the temple, Tantric rituals are performed by playing the Malshree rag and the Baidhik rituals are performed by playing Sankha just outside the temple.
On the seventh day, (Fulpati) of Dashain, the traditional battle training of skilled soldiers called ‘Sarun’ is performed by playing different musical instruments. This battle of sword and shield is a display of battle skills and strategies that were used by soldiers in ancient times. 54 types of these battle training are performed at Dhupichaur Kulamandal Park near Kaskikot Temple on Fulpati. On the same day, you can see youths and old people singing the Malshree Rag (a type of melody) with great enthusiasm. On the same night known as ‘Kalratri’, during half moon, it is believed that the presence of Mahabali can be felt. The ninth day of Dashain known as ‘Maha Navami’ is celebrated by offering Panchabali and making secret holy vows or ‘Bhakal’. On the tenth day known as ‘Bijaya Dashami’, people put tika only after the ‘Bisarjan’ ritual.
On Chaitra Ashtami or ‘Chaite Dashain’, Nepal’s biggest musical instrument ‘Dhup’ is played while performing worship rituals. On the last day of Shrawan month known as ‘Shaune Sankrati’, Wali, Chandi, and Panchabali called as ‘Panchaparvi pujas’ are also performed.
Other Attractions around the site
Kaskikot Kalika Temple offers wide range of natural, cultural and historical attractions for all types of travelers. More specifically, different types of attractive flowers such as excellent quality of Rhododendrons, Golden Orchids and Noble Orchids market can be found around the Kaskikot area. Also, there are different lakes near to the Kaskikot area such as Harpan, Mardi, Shui khet, Ghatte and Madi rivers. There is also Kashyap Lake named after Sage Kashyap nearby. As for the traditions you can experience the ancient battle strategies like Sarun, Barsan, Bagdarjan and ways in which Ghuiyetro Barsa and Katari battles were fought. Other than that, different musical cultures like Naumati Baja, Bhajanchudka and Sorethi, Kauda are practiced by people on lower belts of Kaskikot. People from different cultures that play musical Instruments like Dhup, Sandhup, Nagara, Shahanei, Narshimha, Sarangi, etc. can also be found in the Kaskikot area. This temple also attracts religious and devoted worshippers as well as spiritually aware people. Other famous attracts are Mahankaleshwor, place where Sage Kashyap meditated, 300 years old Chap tree, Maula Pokhari, Rumal Jhankri, Khadakkot, etc. There is also a famous myth with many religious believers that the people that who pray in the temple with pure heart and unwavering determination can make their wish come true.
Source: Historian Thakur Prasad Tripathi, Pokhara Maha Nagarpalika Ward no. 24
Source: Historical side Written by Dr. Dil Bahadur Kshetridghara, Sidgh Shaktipeeth Sri Vindhyavasini and some monasteries in Pokhara, a brief introduction.
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