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 The Exchange at Halesi : A Sacred Place and a Societal Context
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Posted on 05-03-09 5:16 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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The Blessing (and Curse) of Shiva 

Ethan Gohen 
Academic Director Christina Monson 
S.I.T. Nepal 
Spring 2008 

1. Introduction

    Halesi is a small, but growing village located in the Khotang
District of  Eastern Nepal. In many ways it is rather normal. As is
typical in this area of  Nepal, its inhabitants are mainly Rai Hindus,
although there is a substantial 

community of other Hindu castes as well. Less typically, there is a
small, but very  important Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Halesi. The
reason for this monastery is  even less typical still. In the rocky
terrain around Halesi there are many caves. But  in the central rocky,
tree covered hillock of Halesi bazaar there is one cave of  particular
importance. By Hindus it is called Halesi. It gave the village its name.  By Tibetan Buddhists it is called Maratika. This cave, which is a naturally formed  cavity in every sense of the word, is thick with spiritual significance. It is 

uniquely important religious site for both Hindus and Buddhists though,
as yet,  the events that transpired here are not well known. But these
events, as well as its  very naturalness, make Halesi one of the most
important spiritual sites for these  two religions and perhaps the
world. It is a great treasure in the hands of a little  village.  

The purpose of this study is to illuminate what ways the presence of
such a  significant temple has and will continue to affect the lives of
the people in Halesi. It begins with the necessary historical and
temple information to provide a basis  for understanding and then goes
on to look at more recent phenomenon and the  dialogue in Halesi, a
multifaceted exchange of belief and desires. One man, who  recognizes
the inextricable connection between

Halesi’s fate and the very  presence of the temple, jokingly referred
to this relationship as the blessing of  Shiva. I would add that not
everything that has happened in Halesi has been easy  for its people.
At certain times, the presence of the temple may have seemed like  more
of a curse than a blessing. This paper is an attempt to look at the way
that  religious and practical realms interact in the little known story
of one very  important place. 

  2. Methodology 

     After arriving in Halesi, my primary means of understanding this
place has been through casual interviews. I have tried to talk to
representatives of very  diverse social perspectives in Halesi society
in order to get a rounded picture and  allow the people themselves to
identify the issues and distinctions that were a reality to them. I
worked with a translator to conduct most of my interviews. The 
communicational flaws of translation are obvious. But there is still
more to say  about my quest for information through the medium of a
Nepali person. Nepali people are highly sensitive to caste and class
hierarchies and may have edited  some attitudes according to the class
and caste identity of my translator.  Fortunately, my main translator
was an outsider from this community, lessening 

the potential severity of this. One bias evident in my fieldwork is
that most of my interviews come from male informants. This is because
women, more often than men, were very busy in Halesi. Even if they were
present, they often deferred to  the men or were dominated by the men
in speech and thus refrained from  contributing much. 

  3. The Myths, Discovery, and Ordering of Halesi 

     It is not the purpose of this paper to give a full mythology and
history of  Halesi temple and the surrounding area in the centuries
prior. I am more concerned with recent history, present, and future
projection. For a fuller 

explanation of history and myths in Halesi see Buffetrille 1994, in
English language, and for stories especially see Bhattarai 1984, in
Nepali language.  However, some familiarity with the history and
stories that define Halesi are 

necessary to understand these more recent happenings and I will give a
general  overview in this section using information gathered from by
own fieldwork,  reinforced by the previous work of others. 

    4. Shiva and the Caves in Halesi 

    There are several caves in Halesi, some of which connect directly
to the  story of Shiva, which is told by many people to varying degrees
of specificity.  The two main caves are located in one forested hillock
in the center of Halesi.  Shiva and his family first came to Halesi
when running from a monster that wished to kill him. He fled into one
of these caves, which I will refer to as the  Lower Cave since it has
several names according to tradition. This cave opens  onto the low
fair grounds of Halesi. Inside the cave, Vishnu defeated the monster 
while Shiva, bursting through the ceiling of the cave, fled to safety
in another  cave near to Argaule, a town on the road from Lamindada to
Halesi. The Lower  Cave has features that tell the story of this event,
although some are interpreted  differently by different traditions. A
large stone in the opening is sometimes  called Shiva’s ox, which
guarded the cave from the monster. It is alternatively  called the body
of the dead monster himself. The pattern of his intestines can be 

seen stringing over the arc of the cave’s ceiling overhead. In the back
of the cave the ceiling opens up, letting in light through a large
vertical channel from near to the top of the exterior hillock. The
footsteps of Shiva are clearly imprinted in the side of the cave as he
fled upward and blew out this hole according to the story. 

Shiva returned to Halesi when everything was safe and made his home 
with Parbati, his wife, in the upper cave. This is the main Shiva
temple in Halesi,  where the power and presence of Shiva and Parbati
are felt. They remained here until the current era of humanity.
Sometimes they would leave the cave disguised  as Kiranti children and
play in the forest or down by the banks of the Sun Khoshi  and Dhudh
Khoshi rivers, two major rivers which flow on both sides of Halesi
region down from the mountainous north. Inside the cave is a natural
Shivalinga,  a stalagmite that rises from the cave floor. This is
considered to be the  embodiment of Shiva. There is another rock that
is believed to be the embodiment  of Parbati. There are in fact many
rocks and passageways imbued with special 

powers inside this cave. But the Shivalinga and Parbati are the main
objects of  worship in the cave. Many people come simply to do darsan,
meaning “to greet  god.” Others come to ask for blessings. Another
common practice is called  bhakal, where a devotee asks for something
and promises offerings to Shiva if, by  his grace, that wish comes to

  5. Padmasambhava in Halesi 

    Specifically Buddhist history in Halesi begins with the story of 
Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche as he is referred to by Tibetan
Buddhists.  Compared to the story of Shiva this is relatively recent
time, in the time of 

humans. There exists both a biography of Padmasambhava and Mandarava
that  describe their experience in the cave of Maratika, its Tibetan
name.  Padmasambhava’s biography describes Maratika as a place where a
“rain of flowers constantly falls. Enveloped in a dome of rainbows, the
scent of incense  permeates the air. It has a grove of sandalwood trees
and is blessed by Lords of  the Three Families” (Tsogyal 1999, pp. 45).
Mandarava’s biography describes Maratika as a “sacred power spot where
the outer, inner, and secret mandalas were complete… a wish fulfilling
jewel that surpasses any other sacred place in India for the practice
of spiritual attainment” (Chonam and Khandro1998, pp. 152).  

Padmasambhava came to Maratika with his consort, the Indian Princess 
Mandarava, to perform the practice of vidyadhara longevity. After three
months  of practice they had a vision of the Buddha of Long Life,
Amitayus. Buddha  blessed them, pouring from a “nectar-filled vase of
immortal life” into their open

mouths (Tsogyal 1999, pp. 45). He made them “immortal pure awareness
holders” (Chonam and Khandro1998, pp. 153). Following this they
practiced the  Hayagriva Mechar Cycle on the union of Hayagriva and
Vajravarahi in order to  eliminate any further obstacles. Upon
successful realization, Mandarava  “compiled a treasury of more than a
thousand extensive and concise longevity  methods, including essential
pointing-out instructions” (Chonam and 

Khandro1998, pp. 153).  For Buddhists, Halesi cave is most famous as a
special spot for long-life  practices. This is particularly true of the
site of the Parbati stone, called chhepuma  in Tibetan. The water that
drips from the stones in several places throughout these caves,
originating from the rock itself, is collected and considered to be

equivalent of the Amitayus long-life nectar. It is called umbrik in
Nepali, the anti- poison. It is also called jal, holy water, and is
valued by Hindus as prasat, a god- blessed substance. The lamas at
Maratika prepare a pill with this umbrik and call  it the “Maratika
Long Life Pill (‘Liberation of Tasting’).” 

6. The Rai People in Halesi 

      The area of Halesi, and the entire Khotang district in Eastern
Nepal as well  as parts of Solu, is remembered by Rai inhabitants as
their original homeland. The Rai are a mongoloid ethnicity of Nepal.
They identify with a unique cultural  tradition called Kirant (which
also encompasses Limbu people). They use this  term synonymously with
varieties of Rai language, religion, and as an alternate  name for the
Rai people themselves. The Rai people also call themselves Bhumi  Putra, a Sanskrit term that means “Sons of the Earth.”
It is a worship and  closeness to nature that the Rai pride themselves
on. However, since the nation of  Nepal was unified for the first time
by Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1769 much of this  distinction has been
lost. The Rai people identify themselves as a Hindu people  with the
same beliefs as other Hindus in Nepal. This is because Prithvi Narayan 
Shah knew that the only way to politically unify such a diverse country
as Nepal  was to unify it culturally as well. For ideological reasons
as well, he envisioned a  purely Hindu kingdom that would distinguish
Nepal from a tainted India  (Whelpton 2005, pp. 56). Rai informants
told of the clever tactics with which he undermined their own Kirant
beliefs. Local Rai leaders, hired into the ranks of the new kingdom
(and thus dependent on it), were made to enforce Hindu worship in 
their communities and replace the Kirant cosmology.  

Rai people still celebrate two unique annual festivals that they say
are  links to their past traditions. Ubowle-Chadipurne (The first term
translates to  “going up hill,” a recognition of the difficulty ahead.
The second term translates  to “full moon day”) takes place around May
and the Nepali month of Baisak, but  shifts according to the lunar
calendar. This is an Earth worship puja held to bless  the planting
season, which will determine their fortune for the rest of the year. 
The second festival is Udhaule-Dhanipurne. It is the day of the new
moon and the 

harvest, held around November. At this time the Rai give thanks to the
Earth for  their food. It is a happy time when plenty can be enjoyed.
However, a characteristic of both these festivals is community wide
music making and circle 

dancing, an event that is fun for everyone. Despite these instances of
“Earth  worship,” the Rai in Halesi say that the world’s primary god is
Shiva, Paruhang  in Kirant language. Shiva’s wife Parbati, known as Sumnina in Kirant, is also  revered
by them. These two Hindu deities are the main deities of Halesi Cave. 
This area, previously a Rai Kingdom, used to be almost entirely
forested  and the Rai people, the only inhabitants of this wild
territory, were famous  huntsmen.

7. Discovery of Halesi

    The story of how Halesi temple was rediscovered in more recent
history, the late 18th century, involves one of these famous Rai
hunters. It is  popularly told by the inhabitants of Halesi. Bagbashi
Rai was hunting in the 

rugged territory around Halesi with his dog when he spotted a golden
deer with  three eyes and one antler. He chased the deer through the
forest until it fled into the enormous black opening of a cave that
Bagbashi had never seen before. It was difficult for him to descend
into the cave, but when he finally did, he discovered  that the cave
was the home of Shiva. The deer had in fact been Shiva himself
exploring the outside, but inside he was manifest as a Shivalinga, a
stalagmite on  the cave floor.  

8. The Mahanta Giri Line 

    At this time, the Rai were a fully Hindu people. For several years,
nothing  was officially done with the cave. But after a while it was
decided, some say relayed by Shiva himself, that there should be a
pujari, priest, to manage worship  at this cave. According to Hindu
tradition priests are always either of the Brahmin or Jogi castes.
Therefore the Rai could not be priests over this temple and a Giri 
family was sent for from another district. The first Giri pujari of
Halesi was  named Manohar Giri. In the early 19th century, he and his
family were appointed  by the King of Nepal, Shri Shri Shri Maharaje
Griban Yuddha Brikam Saha  Bahadur Sumser Jung, and confirmed with a
Tama Patra, an engraved metal plate  that gave them the right to
officiate in Halesi. The land around the temple was declared guthi
land, a term that refers, in this case, to national land reserved for 
the preservation of a religious site. Other uses, such as living or
farming, were prohibited. After this declaration, The Rai inhabitants
who had since settled 

nearer to the temple were displaced down a steep hillside descending
from the ridge top of Halesi down to the Sun Koshi, a major river that
flows out of Solu  District. They formed the sprawling village of
Kattike, which is even now known  as a Rai village. 

   The history of the Giri family in Halesi is not flattering. It
lasted several  generations, roughly two hundred years, the son of the
family acting as the bal  pujari, child priest who performed the actual
worship, and his father as the 

authoritative priest. Locals say that the Giri family claimed Halesi as
their own private kingdom. They seized all guthi lands for their own
farming and forced all  local non-Giri families to contribute free
labor in their fields. The workers were  hardly even fed for their
service. Many people I met, including a high caste  Chhettri man,
remember working in the Giri fields. People who worshipped at the 
temple typically brought offerings of rice, money, and livestock. All
this was claimed by the Giri family for their personal use. For a long
time, the Giris were  the only people in Halesi who ate rice, since it
is too dry in Halesi to grow there.  The temple itself was only opened
to worshippers and pilgrims at the Giri  family’s pleasure. The temple
was so profitable that they maintained power in  Halesi using the very
wealth that the temple generated. The temple was used as a means for
the oppression of people and the Giris never intended to give that 
power up. Until the 1990’s, this reign was absolute.

to be continue........!

Posted on 05-03-09 5:36 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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as continued..........,

9. The Power of a Natural Temple 

    Halesi is distinctive because it is a natural temple. Men did not craft the  original cave in any way. However, this does not mean that it is linked to nature,  or some abstract natural power. I pursued this question of natural power versus  god power with many people. Most were confused by the distinction, did not  quite know what natural power could be. This includes the Kirant Hindus, the  Aryan Hindus, as well as the Buddhists. However, all were sure that it was not  natural power, whatever that might be, which gives Halesi its extraordinary  power. Natural things are everywhere. It is the power of God that helps you here,  grants wishes, and brings milk from the rocks. Nature itself is a creation of God, it  is part of God, as are all things, explained the dhami Jhagari Pariyar, a type of 
shaman. In the forested hillock that contains the caves Jhagari sees the wild haired  head of Shiva.  

It is worth noting that in Tibetan Buddhism the wilds of Nature have never  been pictured as an ideal, but must first be conquered and tamed (Buffetrille 1994,  pp. 56). This is a common motif in Tibetan literature, since wild places usually  serve as the preferred environment for demons. Dorji Sherpa, a young lama  studying at Maratika gomba, explained the inferiority of natural power in this way. People believe that god dwells in the soul. And without the soul, you cannot see nature. He offered an analogy. Nature is beautiful, but it cannot be green  without the rain. Nature is dependent on something greater, that which makes it  possible to begin with: the presence and will of God. Natural power can be  manifest in bad weather. He then went on to describe a terrible storm that recently  swept across a huge region in Eastern Nepal. There were landslides and lightening  strikes that caused great damage and many deaths. The storm occurred in Halesi  as well and lightening struck at the gate of the temple. Even so, there was no harm  to the people, trees, and buildings of Halesi. The only damage that occurred was  one cracked step. Dorji compares this with the devastation in other areas where  this storm had hit and is certain that it was the power of God that protected Halesi.  The cave itself should have been collapsed, he says.  

The Kirant dhami Prithvi Kumar Rai said that there is power in the natural  world. There are numerous small deities everywhere. But the god of absolute  greatest significance is Shiva. All other gods are students of Shiva. Even though  Prithvi Kumar is a Bhumi Putra, a Son of the Earth, it is Shiva that grants him all of his energy and guidance when he performs healings and pujas, worships. It is  Shiva who called him to be dhami and it is Shiva who gets angry with him if he  neglects his responsibilities. The same is true for all other dhamis I spoke with.  
The cave is a power spot of Shiva. Jhagari Pariyar said that the entire  world is created by the desire of God. This cave, most agree, was designed by Shiva as his home. In that sense, it is perfect. 

In 1982 King Birendra visited Maratika for the first time. On his way  down the steep and unstable path to the cave he slipped and fell. This incident  prompted him to fund the construction of a large staircase leading down to the
cave, as well as a smooth floor with stairs to different levels in the interior of the  cave. Just outside the gate to the proper interior of the temple there is a platform  for musicians of the Pariyar dalit castes to set up for their role in the daily pujas.  The most impressive feature is a tall staircase that reaches the high chamber of the  Parbati stone, from which one can look down on all the activities below. King  Birendra also ordered similar construction in the Lower Cave. This floor  smoothes out variations in the surface and molds around some of the larger rock  features that have significance in the cave.  

Even though the building inside the cave covers up some of the natural  design, possibly the design of Shiva himself, most people in Halesi are extremely  confident that this does not harm the cave and its power in any way. In fact, Shiva  is probably very happy because it is now very easy for people of all ages to come into the cave and worship him. People are trying to protect the cave in this way,  Jhagari says, and the most important things are still there. The Shivalinga itself  used to be in a depression that made it difficult for people to touch and difficult 
for the pujari to retrieve offerings. Now there is a small, gated enclosure built around it and the topography has been altered. The Shivalinga is on a slightly lower level and the worshippers bend over from their platform in front of it to  touch their forehead to the tip and arrange their offerings of flowers, milk, money,  tika, and rice among other things.  

One of the only activities that may have affected the power of the cave is  theft. But again, only very slightly, people are quick to say. It is said that when the  cave was first discovered the interior was bright as day because the walls were  covered with glittering stones. Over time, people stole them all and now the cave  is dull and dark. It is said that the special rocks dripping water inside the cave  used to drip milk, but people were too greedy collecting it and now it is just water.  In more recent times, foreigners are said to have stolen pieces of stone or 
stalactites and stalagmites for souvenirs. But there is no power in these things,  Jhagari is quick to point out. Prem Shrestha, a resident of Halesi, said that once a  Mahanta Giri tried to steal the Shivalinga itself for sale. He broke it off the cave floor but as he carried it further from its natural place it grew heavier and heavier.  He could not take it from the cave and had to return it. It was Shiva’s power, he  said. If anything, this last story shows that despite all the greed and petty thefts of  the past, the power of Shiva still protects this cave. 

In fact, this cave is still considered to be one of the most powerful temples  in the world by the inhabitants of Halesi and pilgrims alike. Another name for this  temple is Purbako Pashupati, the Pashupati of the East. Pashupati is one of the  most important global pilgrimage sites for Hindus, located in Kathmandu. Some  people in Halesi say that their temple is even greater than Pashupati. Pashupati is  a man-made temple. It is still a special place, as are other man made temples that  are built with pure intention, explained Ujan Giri Naga Baba, the saddhu who has  taken up residence in Halesi. One can achieve God anywhere, he says, because God lives in the soul. But natural temples are different. Pashupati pleases the ascestics of people, but it was only people who made it. God did not have a hand 
in its creation and God never had a presence there. This latter point is the reason  why people believe that a natural temple like Halesi is so powerful. This was and  still is the dwelling place of Shiva. It is imbued with his power because he himself  lives here. Many spiritual people still have visions of Shiva, Vishnu, and Parbati  in this temple today. Spiritual people of Hindu and Buddhist backgrounds say that  the energy in this temple makes it easier for them to practice here than in any other place.  

 10. Hindus and Buddhists in Halesi 

The Beginnings of a Religious Conflict:

    From the time of its discovery by Bagbashi Rai and the establishment of  the Mahanta Giri pujari line, Halesi was known as a Hindu place. The inhabitants  around this place were Hindu and despite Padmasambhava’s history in Halesi  caves there was no permanent Buddhist presence, although there were some  pilgrims. Lama Ngawang Chophel Gyatso, known as the original Maratika Lama,  was the first Buddhist to come to this place and try to establish a Buddhist  presence here. He was born in 1922 after his parents came to Maratika to ask for 
children. Though he lived far away, the connection was natural. In 1968 he suffered from an illness for which he practiced long-life exercises in Halesi under  the order of his teacher. Later, in 1980, he was sent back by one of his teachers  and was given a small plot of land by the Mahanta Giri family (Sherpa 2000, pp.  40-47). This land was only intended for a small shack appropriate for a religious  hermit. Locals recall how he tricked the Giris by somehow signing a large area of  land, including the area right at the mouth of the cave, over to his name. Powerful 
rinpoches requested that he build a monastery and with their funds he did so in  1980. The monastery at Maratika is called Maratika Chimey Takten Choling  Monastery and stands at the mouth of the cave.  

From this point onwards the relationship between the Giri family, backed  by local Hindus, and outside Buddhist practitioners was full of conflict. It was  wrong of the Giris to seize guthi lands for their own personal use. But people felt  that Ngawang, the Maratika Lama, had committed an equally unjust offense when he claimed land to build the monastery, although he did sign the land from his  personal name to that of the institution. In his short autobiography, he frames the  conflict of place that ensued with this phrase from the Buddha: ‘where religion is profound, the dark demons are equally profound.’ He summarizes the anti- Buddhist sentiments, which he calls “envious and hostile…lying words,” of the  Hindu community as follows, “First of all, this holy place being a Hindu site by  nature, nobody except this lama has ever said that it was a Buddhist holy place.  Next, it is forbidden to set up (posts carrying) vile Buddhist inscriptions…in this  sacred place. Lastly, Buddhists are forbidden to live in this place (which belongs  to) us, Hindus and so on” (Sherpa 2000, pp. 49). Local Hindus resisted all  Buddhist constructions. Statues that the Maratika Lama erected in the cave were  continually vandalized and are now no longer there. The monastery was also  subject to violence. There were serious threats on the lama’s life. Ngawang writes  that “every year the Hindus with their hostile spirit have spoiled and destroyed  things” (Sherpa 2000, pp. 49). But he was persistent, kept rebuilding, and did not  run. 
This is because the Buddhists, for their part, felt that their ownership over  this site surpassed Hindu rights. Ngawang felt that “this place was discovered by  Padmasambhava…and Shiva is only a guardian of it” (Buffetrille 2000, pp. 23). 

From a normal Tibetan Buddhist perspective Shiva is known as a dharma pala, a  world protector deity, named Wong Chuk Chempo. He is respected by Tibetan  Buddhists but is certainly not the equivalent of Guru Rinpoche, the man who brought Buddhism to Tibet and is considered second only to the Buddha himself.  When Ngawang would explain the conflict to visiting Sherpas he  described their reaction as “astonishment, not to say stupefication, at the  ‘wickedness’ of these Hindus who did not immediately recognize that this sacred 
site was Buddhist and that Shiva was merely a guardian of it” (Buffetrille 1994,  pp. 31). Buddhists say that once they came to the cave, they researched its  significance and discovered the powers of the different rocks and passages, which  the Hindus were in ignorance of. They say that Hindu people then translated  Buddhist deities into Hindu ones. In the back of the Lower Cave, there are several  spots on the rock wall that are sprinkled with tika and routinely worshipped. One  is said to be Ganesh, another is Brahma. But Dorji Sherpa says that these practices 
only began about ten to twelve years ago. In his opinion, and that of fellow  Buddhists, there is no religious significance to this Lower Cave. It is only where  Shiva fled the monster.  

11. The Hindu and Buddhist Dialogue 

    Katia Buffetrille, a French anthropologist researching Halesi in 1994,  wrote that “what is at stake in the present struggles between the lama and the  Giris is, it seems, the supremacy of Buddhism over Hinduism or vice versa” 
(Buffetrille 1994, pp. 47). In 1994, this conflict over who understood most about Halesi caves was raging. As in the communities surrounding many contested  religious sites around the world, the presence of Halesi temple brought problems to the community that would not have existed otherwise. But this is a process in  motion, as is evident from reading Ngawang’s earlier writings and talking to  Buddhists and Hindus in Halesi today. All Buddhists and Hindus I talked to in  Halesi, including an old, retired Giri priest, said that they had no problem with the 
other religion’s presence and activities in the temple. In Stan Mumford’s study of  the relationship between Tibetan lamas and Gurung shamans in the Manang  District of Nepal, Himalayan Dialogue, he uses a model that is of use in this  religious “dialogue” as well.   Mumford draws on Mikhail Bakhtin’s book The Dialogic Imagination 
(1981) in which Bakhtin divides sociocultural time into three “chronotopes:” the  ancient matrix, the individual life sequence, and historical becoming (Mumford  1989, pp. 16). Each stage refers to a cultural state of mind in which there is  successively greater awareness of the exchange between self and other in an  evolving and complicating society of contrasting ideals. The first stage describes a  period of uncontestable truth, the second contestable truth, and the third an  awareness that all ideologies “interpenetrate” (Mumford 1989, pp. 17). Mumford’s book identifies isolated shamanic society with the ancient matrix. It  describes the process by which a newly founded and neighboring Buddhist  settlement is first forced to comply with some aspects of the shamanic worldview 
that are in direct contrast with their own, namely the practice of animal sacrifice.  Finally, it describes the arrival of a powerful lama from Tibet who frames all  people in one worldview, not only righting the wrongs of the Buddhist settlement,  but attempting to influence the shamans as well. It is an analysis of the dialogue 
between past and present, relative to the desired futures of those involved and no 
one group or individual can be said to belong to just one chronotope.  

The original, uncompromising conflict between Hindus and Buddhists is  more characteristic of Bakhtin’s second chronotope. The compromising dialogue it fed into is more characteristic of his third. But we cannot neatly divide the  entire conflict between Hinduism and Buddhism in Halesi into these three  chronotopes. The model of an evolving dialogue is very useful, however.  Mumford calls it a process of “interillumination” (Mumford 1989, pp. 23). Some  of the parallels between this history and Mumford’s are strikingly similar. When  the Maratika Lama first journeyed into the Hindu region of Halesi caves he saw  himself as the bearer of a new and correct ideology that he needed to impress on the local population. In his autobiography of many years later he writes that he  was “well known for having imposed on hunters and butchers the promise to stop killing” (Sherpa 2000, pp. 45). Buffetrille sites the work of a British anthropologist, C. Ramble (1989), who also wrote about the Maratika Lama’s 
attempts to forbid hunting and felling trees in the area (1994, pp. 35). A variation  of this practice is still visible in Halesi today. Visiting wealthy lamas sometimes  buy the livestock of Hindu families. They do not take the animals away, but leave them with the original family to take care of, only receiving their promise that they will never kill these animals that the lama had paid for. A practice with  similar results has its origins in Hindu culture. Worshippers in Halesi temple often  offer animals to Shiva, everything from pigeons to cows. The pigeons live in the  caves and their calls can be heard all day long. But goats and cows must be cared  for by the temple committee, understanding that, as offerings to god, they must  never be killed. Its offspring, however, do not fall under this contract. In this, you  can see Buddhists using something similar to a pre-existing Hindu model to  impress their ideals upon a Hindu culture in a process of ideological  encroachment.  

As noted, there is great cooperation between Hindus and Buddhists in  Halesi temple today. Perhaps the greatest reason for this is because Halesi is a Shiva temple. Shiva does not receive red offerings, sacrifices, something that
Buddhist doctrine could never accept. In Mumford’s study, the practice of  shamanic sacrifice was the central point of contestation in a lengthy dialogic  conflict. In Hindu religious culture, sacrifice is also significant. In Hindu 
sacrifice, the power of the life to death transition of the sacrificed animal is most  important and must be witnessed by the intended god. The meat is then taken  home and eaten by the sacrificing Hindus themselves. Meanwhile, the Buddhists  at the Maratika monastery do admit to eating meat, but only twenty-four hours  after killing, when the breath of life has left the flesh and blood, explained Dorji  Sherpa. Though meat eating can still be a sensitive issue for Buddhists, what they attempt to do is remove the immediacy of a life to death transition from the desire
of their consumption. In this very practice, one can see the simultaneous existence  of past modes of living and intended ideals in dialogue. Though this discussion of  killing is in one sense irrelevant, the very absence of sacrifice in Halesi is  important in making this place accessible from the very beginning for both Hindus and Buddhists to compromise. 

This absence allowed for further dialogue to continue, a dialogue that  extends to the Halesi god himself. Earlier Hindus rejected that Buddhists had any  spiritual rights in Halesi. Buddhists asserted their primacy, relegating Shiva to the  position of a mere guardian in Halesi (Buffetrille 1994, pp. 23). Buddhists today  fully accept the story of Shiva and Halesi cave and they recount it readily. Even  more significantly, Hindus and Buddhists alike have done away with the hostile  division of deities. They say that Shiva and Guru Rinpoche, or Padmasambhava,  are one and the same god. Guru Rinpoche is just a later incarnation. This fusion of  deities is not at all typical. Though Shiva is not equivalent to Guru Rinpoche in  the texts, there is a strong equivalence here in Halesi. Shiva is the greatest god of  the Hindus and Guru Rinpoche is the greatest god of the Tibetan Buddhists. To  say that they are equivalent as the locals do is a translation of concept or terms. It  eliminates a sense of hierarchy in purpose and makes the purpose of Hindus and  Buddhists in Halesi one and the same. When talking to Buddhists in Halesi they 
often used the name of Shiva interchangeably with that of Guru Rinpoche. It  comes to represent an equivalent for their greatest god, a god that is shared.  Perhaps under the tremendous pressure of past conflict this translation has served  as the basis of cooperation in Halesi. But the encompassing translation does not  end here.  

Prithvi Kumar Rai told me that Halesi temple is not just for Nepalis, but  for the whole world. It is the opinion of the Hindu inhabitants here that Shiva,  being their greatest god, is in fact the god of the entire world. All global
traditions, though different in their rituals, appeal to the same god. Therefore,  anybody may come and do puja in the temple. This includes Christians and  Muslims, though they never do come, note the locals. The popular Buddhist long- life rituals are just one of the many possible requests a worshipper might hold in  his of her heart. This openness to outside tradition and a willingness to equate is in incredible contrast to the exclusive attitude of earlier years.   It is important to see how the diversity of approach found in different  religions is then understood as appropriate here in Halesi. In addition to simple  life-style differences, Buddhists and Hindus have strikingly different ways of  respectfully preparing themselves and doing puja. First of all, Hindus must  shower, wear clean clothes, and may never eat before going to greet god.

Buddhists on the other hand, do not have such concerns over cleanliness and often  eat during the puja itself since one of their main activities during puja is the  offering of foodstuffs to god. The food is then distributed and eaten as prasat. Ujan Giri Naga Baba, the Hindu saddhu who lives next to Halesi temple, explains  that these methods do not conflict. God is not offended by Buddhists because it is  their “karma” that they worship in the way that they do. All religions have their own karma for how to worship. Even a person who ate cow and came to do puja 
would be acceptable if that was that person’s karma, meaning acceptable in the  religion and culture that he came from. As if to signify this, there is a sign that  hangs on the last gate before entering the temple. It is written in Nepali, Tibetan,  and English but is so faded, rusted, and bent that it is hardly recognizable as a sign  any more. One day, after a great deal of effort, I was able to make out a message  requesting that all leather goods be left outside the temple. Apparently conveying  this message is not so important anymore. Just the other day I had seen a Buddhist  pilgrim walking in leather shoes as he toured the temple with a local lama. What  is sacrilegious and offensive to god for a Hindu was apparently okay for this man.  The most important thing for all people, however, is that when you go to greet  god you must be chokho, or pure, in your heart. 

In the past Dorji Sherpa remembers how the local Hindus disrespected the  lamas, calling them by the denigrating term Bhote, a word that stereotypes dirty,  meat-eating Tibetan-like people. Now, as I observed day-after-day, he and other lamas have easy social relations with just about everyone in the village. People, though of a different background, are regarded as people, especially in common  affairs and the mind of a working-class villager or student monk. However, I  would argue that not everything is as resolved and static as it might seem. 
Followers still have ultimate hope and faith in their own tradition. In Mumford’s  study shamans were eventually found second-guessing themselves on some issues  and “taking into account the lama’s ethical arguments” even though these ethics  are imported (Mumford 1989, pp. 77-78). It is this kind of desire to win over that  representatives from both Hinduism and Buddhism still harbor in Halesi, though it  is very low profile, perhaps unconscious for many that do not lead a religious life.  It operates under the understanding that both traditions are valid and in fact  interconnected and equivalent in many ways, a characteristic of Bakhtin’s third  chronotope. This subtle dialogue for supremacy can be seen as what Mumford  calls an “ironic interplay” that is “conscious rather than unwitting” (Mumford  1989, pp. 23).  

.......to be continued!

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12.  Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche wrote a short pilgrimage guide to Maratika in  which he accepts the presence of Hindus but goes on to assert that Buddhists  alone possess a true and deep understanding of this place: “Outwardly it is the  blissful play of Shiva and Umadevi. Inwardly it is the place of Chakrasamvara. Secretly it is the celestial mansion of the deities of immortal life and most secretly  it is the pure land of great bliss, the absolute Akanishta realm” (reproduced in  Sherpa 2000, pp. 7-8). Therefore he is saying that the interpretation of Shiva here  is the mostexoteric of many more significant levels. He goes on to discuss such  methods by which Buddhists can bring Hindus to a deeper understanding: “As all  individuals have their own perceptions it is not right to harbor wrong views and speak maligning words. We should practice pure vision, accept their views,  perform praises, and thus we shall establish karmic links which will lead them to conversion. Calumniating gods is the basis of misfortune. By narrating stories the  mind can be clarified. I have said this at the very outset to create trust in non- Buddhists, Buddhists, and ordinary people, and moreover to refute arguments  about this holy place” (reproduced in Buffetrille 1994, pp. 59). Chatral Rinpoche  envisions a subtle and civil dialogue that will eventually “convert” Hindus to a  
Buddhist understanding in Maratika. Meanwhile it does not attack the validity of  Hinduism and interpretation of Shiva in this place, just the superficiality of it.  Hindu perception of the Halesi god as Shiva is an understanding of god in a lower  state of mind.   

Buffetrille refers to the Myth of the Submission of Shiva to illustrate this  mentality. He says that in this process “there is no murder but a subtle  transmutation and possible liberation for every being, since even such a hostile  
being as Shiva can obtain illumination and become Buddha” (Buffetrille 1994, pp. 53). Meanwhile, the lamas in Halesi practice patience. They distribute prasat to all the local Hindu children who come flocking during a Buddhist puja for no other reason than the free treats. And even though these same kids sometimes disturb  them in their meditations for the sake of childish amusement, the monks never  respond with hostility. Currently the only Buddhists in Halesi are those lamas,  mostly from Solu District, that come to study and live in the monastery.   

Naturally, those Hindus in the greater community have a similar attitude  about the scope and presence of Buddhism in Halesi. Hindus expressed the belief  that Buddhism is a branch of Hinduism. They are in fact one religion. But also  implicit in this wording is the foundational character of Hinduism. Ujan Giri Naga  
Baba says that this place is a relatively new spot for Buddhist belief. It only  became significant to Buddhists in the past 2,500 years. Padmasambhava is recent  whereas Shiva was here before the world. Shiva created the world and its people.  Hindu dharma is the biggest of all dharmas, he says. In Hinduism this current age is called the Kaliyug. It is a period of worldly and religious decline prior to total  collapse. Though he believes in the Buddha, the fact that Buddhism evolved in a  period of inescapable degradation makes it seem somewhat insignificant.  
However in the spirit of cooperation that characterizes Halesi today, the Baba  expresses his equal love for both Hindus and Buddhists. The only casual  complaint about Buddhist spiritual activities that I ever heard is that they hang  prayer flags in some places that some feel should be left without, around the  temple for example. Other Hindus I met were eager to have their pictures taken  with the colorful flags as a background.   

13. The Social Dialogue 

    Issues in the sphere of religious matters are just one side of the Buddhist  impact upon coming to Halesi. The Buddhists have also had a large impact on  Halesi’s society, aside from the old contestation of their very presence. Though Hindu and Buddhist spiritual relations may be at ease, these social impacts are not  quite as innocuous. Many Hindus today say that it was jealousy that drove those  in their community to fight against Buddhists in years past. The Giri family was jealous for their power and the average Hindu was jealous because the Buddhists 
were so relatively wealthy. Most Hindus today say that that fighting was  misguided and wrong. But the Buddhist power and wealth has had lasting and  continuing effects in the Halesi economy and the public psyche.  

  If there is any anxiety about Buddhist activities in Halesi, it is a vague fear  that they might buy up the whole place, explained one of my informants. He feels  it is necessary that Buddhists convince the people otherwise. They have bought a  lot of land around Halesi, including a lot of high ground. One hillock opposite the  entrance to the Lower Cave is draped in prayer flags. It is very rocky, and there is  talk in town that these rocks, which can be found in other areas of Halesi, are  specially suited for making cement. But the Buddhists bought this hill from its  owner after discovering that there was a large man-eating snake inside it,  explained Dorji Sherpa. If the hill was broken up to make cement the snake would  be released and only bad things could follow. This hill is called Chetmadorji Rhi 
and is one of three holy hills in this area, says Dorji.  

The Buddhist buying of land, aside from baring some economic ventures  as cement making, has inflated the price of all land in Halesi. Because initially  Buddhists paid such high prices for the land that they bought, now nobody will sell for cheap. They have set a precedent and the prices in Halesi are nearing those  of land in Kathmandu, said one informant. Though Buddhists do buy a lot of land  with conservation in mind, buying is not one of the big activities in Buddhist  dharma. It is giving. Some of the very first social work initiated by the Maratika  Lama was to build paths in the town. At first some Hindus said that it was  because he was feeling guilty for having taken guthi lands and having built the monastery in a Hindu holy place. But as the pattern of giving continued the 
complaints stopped. On a more practical side, this growing association of  Buddhism with monetary benefits may have played a very large role in the  disappearance of the Hindu resistance to the Buddhist presence.  Buddhists give according to their ability. The more that they can give, the  more merit they can accrue by alleviating the hardships of others. In Buddhist  pujas, as mentioned earlier, a large pile of food is amassed for offering to god. 
After receiving god’s blessing it is distributed, not kept for oneself. It is the act of  giving that is important. The average monk in the Maratika monastery is not  wealthy. But many Buddhists, particularly those visiting from far away, are.

One day in the temple I was offered a five-hundred-rupee note by a Buddhist pilgrim  visiting from Sikkim. I felt silly and wrong accepting it in front of all these kids  who habitually begged me for money, to who I always said I couldn’t give. This woman was far from the wealthiest Buddhist to visit Halesi. Reincarnate Lamas  visiting Halesi are particularly famous for their charity. Locals say that when  these big Lamas come they call for all the people in the town to line up and share  their needs. The Lamas have stacks of money on hand and assistants that can run 
to the stores and make purchases. Though they are practicing their dharma with good intention, people in  Halesi say that these practices are directly responsible for creating a culture of  begging among the town’s individuals and organizations. All agree that begging  was not a problem until reincarnate lamas began visiting Halesi. Now for visitors, one man said, Halesi might seem like a place where only beggars live. In the main  square of town near the temple there are always many adults sitting, waiting for  visitors to flock upon with greetings, stories of hardship, and requests for help. Another man said that begging is like a bad habit. They don’t understand that everyone who comes here is not of the same means and the same purpose. People do not just come to give. One man approached me to ask for money to help finish the roof on his house. We later learned that he had received thirty five thousand rupees from a visiting lama and his house was already re-outfitted with a brand  new tin roof. Aid also comes to villagers in the form of easy jobs for inflated prices. 

14. The idea that the coming of Buddhists might provide some employment for the people of Halesi was recognized by Buffetrille in 1994 when he said that the “presence of the lama has brought work opportunities to the poorest, mainly as  porters for Buddhist pilgrims” (Buffetrille 1994, pp. 23). These days many  wealthy Buddhists come in to Halesi by helicopter. Even though the landing pad  is only a couple hundred yards from the monastery, a local who acts as porter for  that distance can easily expect a thousand rupees for the job, said my friend. And 
if they offer to give a tour they might receive three or four thousand more. Doing  standard manual labor in Halesi it takes three hours to earn fifty rupees, the price  of a single meal. The inflation of wages when working for the Buddhists is enormous.  It is ironic that these days, if not back in Buffetrille’s time as well, these  seemingly spectacular work opportunities and gifts are actually forming a barrier  to the economic success of these poor people in Halesi. When my Nepali assistant  and translator was trying to leave Halesi to make the trip back to Kathmandu she  had difficulty finding a porter to carry her bag. My friend said that if I were  leaving there would be a line of potential porters competing to assist me. When the time did come for me to leave I never asked for a porter since I planned to  carry my own bags, but I still had several offers. Rather than working as hard as
they would need to for an average Nepali employer, these people are waiting for a  visitor who they think will basically hand the money over for nothing. Prem  Shrestha, a prominent businessman in town, says that he always needs help in his shop. Even though there are many people lazing around town, they never come. 

He says that there is a lot of work all over town, but these people are not willing to work for normal wages because of the precedent of easy wages set by visitors. Despite all the begging, there are no truly destitute people in Halesi. All people  own land that they can work and a home that they can return to. But their needs  are imbalanced because of the sporadic nature of their work schedule. The same man that received thirty five thousand rupees for a new roof on his home later  approached me to buy him some rice. He said that his family was hungry and  there was no food at home. 

Buddhists look at this persistent poverty in the face of many opportunities  to escape it as a characteristic of karma. A visiting lama from Tibet said that in  their last life these beggars may have been wealthy men and women, but did not  pay attention to dharma. Now they are reincarnated as poor people in a holy place.  It is a way of forcing them to face their sin. Prem Shrestha framed his argument  using the term ‘luck’ instead of karma. If it is your fortune to be poor than you  will always be poor, he says. To him it makes sense that these poor people are  born in a holy place like this. The poverty of these people is in God’s hands he said. Even if you break your head for these people you cannot raise them up. Prem Shrestha says that most of the poor people around here used to own a lot of 
local land. They sold it and squandered the money. They should be well off but  instead they are struggling. However, this discussion of karma and luck does not  discount the significance of the interaction between Buddhists and the villagers  that is the topic of this section. Most villagers say that this is the main instigation 
for begging in Halesi.  

................to be continued!

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  15. There are two primary youth clubs in Halesi, the Jana Jyoti Club and the  Panchawati Pragati Youth Club. These clubs are dedicated to furthering  development in Halesi and have made the elimination of begging practices one of their projects. Many people in town, particularly the beggars, are eagerly awaiting  the next visit of the reincarnate lama who has made gift-giving visits to Halesi a  routine in his life. It is approaching fast, they say with a greedy twinkle in their eyes. Some people in town, however, suggest that the lamas should stop giving to individual beggars altogether.  

At this point a distinction needs to be made between giving destructively  and giving in a way that is productive to social causes and the community as a  whole. Halesi is a remote town with very little access to resources and a greater  economy. Lamas in Halesi, who can raise significant monetary funds from outside sources, have been the primary means by which this town has developed at all.  The school in Halesi was built under the direction of the Maratika Lama using  funds he raised from abroad. While many oppose lamas giving to individuals,
nobody opposes gifts to the school or other public works. The reincarnate lama  who has been most active in Halesi recently has promised that the next time he comes he will build a college for this village. The benefits of Buddhist  
involvement for Halesi are enormous. But it is not a total solution to the problem  because one individual cannot manage the needs of an entire town. The school in  Halesi is struggling because it is not recognized by the government and thus gets  no funding. It is entirely dependent on private donations. The school’s principal  understands that developing dependence is a major problem and expressed his  belief that even if the school receives aid it must still continue to work for and take responsibility for its own future and betterment.   

This is the kind of attitude that is necessary here. The very presence of the  temple is what brought the Buddhists to Halesi. With the Buddhists came money.  Buddhist practices of giving have created dependence in a group of individuals  who refuse to take responsibility for themselves. But the community-wide gains  far outweigh the losses. As long as they maintain a sense of self-responsibility  than the people of Halesi will benefit from a blessing that countless struggling  rural villages in Nepal will never receive.    

16. Recent History  
Rapid Change and the Maoist Conflict  
    Religious life in Halesi is not isolated from the community at large. Recent history in Halesi is fascinating and there has been a shocking amount of  change here in a short period of time. This area of Eastern Nepal was an  
emergency zone during the Maoist conflict period. Young people in Halesi who  did not wish to become embroiled in the conflict were forced to leave Halesi for  other areas since one of the Maoist tactics was to kidnap youth and attempt to  convert them to the cause. Halesi was a regular scene of conflict between Maoist  forces and the national police. The villagers were caught in the middle, always  accused of helping one by the other. In reality, they had no choice but to do what they were told. One man said that the Maoists were kind of like those beggars that pester us visitors. You had to feed them, house them. You couldn’t brush them off. But after they left the army was soon to follow with accusations about supposed Maoist sympathy. Aside from using the town’s resources, Maoists attempted to exert the influence of their ideology on Halesi, but were not able to  maintain a presence that could manage it. However the Maoists were just one  force in an evolving social consciousness and movement towards caste equality  that had been underway in Halesi. One man explains that the law and political  situation, not simply the ideals of the Maoists, was on their side. Since the 1962  national law in Nepal declaring the equality of all castes there was a precedent  and the disruption of the 90’s made it possible to make a difference in such a  remote place as Halesi. In 1995 the Maoists began running programs on caste  equality in Halesi, an attempt to diminish discrimination.    

Though low-caste people from far away villages could easily get into the  temple since they were unknown, it was the local low-caste that were  discriminated against most heavily. Even though they had grown up in this place theirentire lives they could not enter. One man recalls how it began. Local boys would enter the temple in pairs. The Giri priests could not exert any physical restraint at this point. They simply looked shocked and appalled. It was the  practice of low-caste families to do their puja just outside the temple gate. A Giri  priest would then carry the offerings in to the Shivalinga itself. About twelve  years ago a local man and his family decided to do their puja inside the gate. The  priests could not touch them, they simply stood behind them glaring.
Why are you  surprised? If you plant rice and get millet then you should be surprised, this man  said to them. But this should not surprise you.  

17. In 1999 the Maoists made another dramatic move in Halesi. They  confiscated all the town’s alcohol and threw it into the temple. Then they rounded  up all the town’s people, high and low caste alike, and forced them to enter the  
temple. They de-seated the Giris and formed a temple committee, which unfortunately, only consisted of Giri men. From this point on it was relatively  easy for low-caste members of the village to enter the temple. But temple
management in other respects did not change all that much since the same people of old were still in power. The national conflict was still raging and the Maoists  did not have time to focus on Halesi. The situation again declinedand Gajurman  Rai, a descendent of Bagbashi Rai, the discoverer of Halesi, went to the Maoists  
remote jungle headquarters for help in 2000. Over the next few years the Maoists  offered sporadic assistance in Halesi. They were involved in protecting Buddhists  as they built an expansion to their monastery by threatening any Hindu’s that  vandalized the construction. In 1994 the Maoists again visited Halesi and did  away with the Giri’s power altogether, as well as seizing all guthi land from their  personal hands. Later, they formed a new temple committee and made Gajurman Rai the president. They also made Gopal Giri and his son the new priests of the  
temple. Gopal is a direct descendent of the original priest of Halesi, appointed by  the king centuries ago. After four generations his family’s position was usurped  by another Giri family, headed by Raj Bol Giri. This new line chased Gopal’s  family away and dominated the temple until the Maoists interfered just a few  years ago.  

............to be continued!

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..................as continued.

18. The new temple committee, called the Halesi Mahadev Natural Temple  Preservation and Management Committee, has been running for two years now.  Its main source of funds comes from the temple offerings. Sixty percent go to the  school and 40 percent go to temple preservation and other village development  projects. This idea that the temple can be used to aid the practical and societal  needs of people in Halesi is exactly what people want. Whenever people discuss this developmental purpose, they always contrast it with the Giris, who the people
say never did anything for development and kept all temple money for themselves. The Maoists and their educational programs were instrumental in realizing the rights of all castes and people in Halesi as well as de-seating the  Giris. But people in Halesi are quick to point out that these ideals were something  they themselves had fought for for a long time. They only needed the Maoists power of force to make them a reality.  

Total caste equality is not a complete reality in Halesi, but most people are  hopeful, recognizing that this is a process that takes time. It is most difficult for  older people to make the change, which involves changing one’s learned culture.  It is still difficult for many low caste people to visit the homes of high caste  villagers. Some elders of the low castes are still hesitant to enter the temple, and  some elders of the upper castes, including the Baba, still feel that they should not  be allowed because it is harmful to god. But one hard-working Pariyar man, a low
caste name popular in Halesi, says that if you are clean then it should be no  problem. He believes that people should be judged by their character and not their  caste. Therefore the responsibility for decency is in everyone’s individual hands.  Pariyars, he says, comprise the vast majority of beggars in Halesi. The  responsibility to adjust to new opportunities is their own. Just as high caste people  might hesitate for a while, low caste people may hesitate as well. Time will tell.

As mentioned earlier Buddhist and Hindu relations, after a very difficult  beginning, are entirely at ease. This is the product of the Buddhists’ own efforts  and the aid of the Maoists to fight any kind of social stratification. Generally  speaking, old Giri priests that remain in Halesi are allowed to live but are not necessarily liked. Their kids, who are growing up under normal conditions, are  fairly well integrated.   
What is important to note here is that the temple is at the center of all this  conflict and change. It was the means by which one elite family dominated a community. It was also the emotionally and spiritually charged means by which 
the oppressed low castes could exert their will for equality. Its abuse was a source  of outrage for all people in the community and the impetus for Maoists to come to Halesi and force a change. It made Halesi stand out. After the new restructuring of  society and the recent Constitutional Assembly elections that took place last  month (April, 2008), the temple is also the embodiment of people’s hope for the  future. 

Halesi Temple and the Future of a Village 
     In the recent Constitutional Assembly elections the vast majority of  elected officials in Khotang are Rai people belonging to the Maobaadi political  party. They represent the same views as the Maoists, but are the tamer, post-
conflict version of that group. Khotang, the large region of Nepal of which Halesi  is a part, is once again dominated by Rai leaders. In the Rai memory and consciousness Khotang and part of neighboring Solu is the age-old homeland of  the Rai people. Today there are hopes to reclaim that kingdom after centuries of  marginalization. Most Kirant people in Halesi are hoping that this old homeland  will be reclaimed in the form of an independent Kirant State that operates under the national government. If all goes well in the Constitutional Assembly this will 
be the result. They envision Halesi as the future jewel and center of their Kirant  State. Halesi temple is a point of cultural pride for the Rai. It is their very own  discovery and one of the most powerful temples in the world. Some Kirants argue that a Kirant pujari is necessary at this temple, though not all Hindus would be  ready to accept this change.  

Most non-Kirant people in Halesi are familiar with the general concept of  the Kirant State and do not mind that idea. As long as there is no caste discrimination then they are fine with it, they say. Whenever Kirant people  discuss the State they are always sure to say that there will be no discrimination.   The main purpose of the State will be to preserve Kirant culture, religion, and  language, mainly through programs in public schools. Many Kirant people in  Halesi are conscious that their culture is being forgotten and lost. They want to do  something about it. The two youth clubs mentioned earlier, the Jana Jyoti Club  and the Panchawati Pragati Youth Club, make preserving the Kirant culture one  of their missions. Members from these groups spoke passionately about the  importance of cultural identity. 

It is ironic that these same Rai officials pushing for a Kirant State are  members of the Maobaadi party. The official Maobaadi stance on religion is a  classic Leninist approach. One young member invoked Lenin as he espoused his  belief that dharma is like an addiction. He was followed by the impassioned retort of his friend and peer from the Jana Jyoti club, “Culture is the identification of a  people. So we preserve it.” It was simple, but firm. And it is representative of the  general feeling among Rai. This is something that the young Maobaadi committee 
member recognizes as well. He went on to say that right now his people are not  ready to give up their religion, they cannot escape the bounds of their culture. But  he has hope that one day they will be able to see that there is no God. This will  change everything, he says. Meanwhile, it is still very common even for members 
of Maobaadi and Maobaadi supporters to have religious belief and pray at Halesi  temple. The bottom line is that the Maobaadi is dependent on the support of the people. This is why during the insurgency period the Maoists never took steps to  hurt religion in Halesi in any way1. Even from an antireligious perspective Halesi 
temple is valued as an attraction of great economic worth. All agree that Halesi  Temple will never be harmed by the Maobaadi. 

Some old, upper-caste Hindus believe that the Moaist involvement in making the temple  accessible to all castes was in fact harmful to religion since it goes against tradition. They believe  that Shiva’s anger is manifest in decreased rainfall and the collapse of Kakani Cave a few years ago.  Ujan Giri Naga Baba is a proponent of this view but says that it is all part of the Kaliyug. Other middle-aged to young Hindus in Halesi had initial fears, repeating an old tale that the  Shivalinga would sink into the ground upon contact with lower castes.  When it remained where it  was they abandoned their fears and decided that this move towards caste equality was in fact a good thing characteristic of modernity.  

Regardless of whether or not the Kirant vision succeeds, it is accepted by  many people that Halesi is evolving into the new regional center in a natural  process that will require no governmental intervention.  Already, Halesi is a local  area attraction because its shops sell a wider variety of goods than any other  village nearby. Most of these shops have been built a maximum of seven years  ago, many within the year. When walking around Halesi new construction is visible everywhere. People are moving to Halesi by the day because they see  economic opportunity there. One man observed that owning a shop is a lot easier  than working fields and everyone wants to try their hand at some such business.  Pack mules are a common feature of Halesi’s streets, a business that arrived only 
two years ago and can greatly accelerate the rate of business. Most goods come  via Jairam, a small town on the Dudh Koshi that is the last stop on a vehicular road that can eventually reach Kathmandu (and even that road is somewhat  recent). There is only a walking path now, but a vehicle road connecting Halesi to  Jairam is nearing completion. This new mule business will become obsolete with the even greater ability of trucks to move people and goods. The road will be the  first ever road connecting Halesi to Kathmandu.  

People say that Halesi will soon become a large town, if not a city one  day. There are some fears. People mention the inevitable pollution that will  accompany unplanned urbanization, the vulgar dress and attitude of urban youth. 
One man expressed his fear that following the infiltration of foreign values he will lose control of his sister and daughter in the presence of so many outside boys.  Despite these fears the positivity and hope that accompanies this vision of a  growing Halesi far outweighs the bad. People in this small village are excited by  the prospect of development and modernization that growth will bring. Another  man added to this vision of Halesi as a modern town, hoping that Halesi would become a place of culture and scholarly research. He expressed the need to 
advertise about the power and history of Halesi temple because, even though the word is spreading, it is still relatively unknown. One man, after explaining the  inevitability of these changes, then explained to me the reason why. It is all  because of Halesi temple, he said. He said that nobody would ever harm Halesi  temple because Halesi temple is the “fortune and hope of the people.” All this will  happen in Halesi, but only because the temple is here. It is the blessing, or curse,  of Shiva that will carry Halesi into a different kind of struggle from years past. 
For the people of Halesi there will be new advantages, but there will be new  challenges as well. 

Works Cited 
Battarai, Radheshyam. 1984. Halesi: Poems of a Holy Place. Kathmandu, Nepal. 
Buffetrille, Katia. 1994. The Halesi-Maratika Caves (Eastern Nepal): A Sacred  

Place Claimed by Both Hindus and Buddhists. Institut Francais de  
Pondichery, Pondy Papers in Social Science. 

Chonam, Lama and Sangye Khandro, translators. 1998. The Lives and Liberation  
of Princess Mandarava. Wisdom Publications, Boston.  

Mumford, Stan Royal. 1989. Himalayan Dialogue: Tibetan Lamas and Gurung  
Shamans in Nepal. University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, Wisconsin. 
Sherpa, Lopon Karma Wangchhu. 2000. The Guide to Maratika. New Nepal  
Press. Kathmandu, Nepal.  

Tsogyal, Yeshe. 1999. The Lotus-Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava.  
Shambhala South Asian Editions. Boston, Massachusetts.  
Whelpton, John. 2005. A History of Nepal. Cambridge University Press, New  

Posted on 05-05-09 4:51 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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Posted on 05-06-09 9:36 AM     Reply [Subscribe]
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To get there, i flew to Lamidanda airport from ktm.

Lamidanda airport is the only option for the Khotang residents. This
district still lacks land transportation. Many people still walk for
couple of days to travel to other places due to limited seats, lack of
flights and unfordable price.

Posted on 05-06-09 10:12 AM     Reply [Subscribe]
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landing at Lamidanda airport, prepare to hike down the Lamidanda hill
which this airport runaway  is built on which can take 30 min to 1 hour
depending on your physical.
Upon reaching the base of the lamidanda
hill, walk some distance of uneven terrain and there you are at the
base of the Halesi mountain.
You look up and there you see the Halesi mountain which arises higher than the Lamidanda hill.
Then come the mother of all things of climbing up the halesi mountain if you want to reach the Halesi cave.
It requires 2 to 4 hours depending on your physical to reach the top.
Along the way you meet some local Rai people living and farming along the side of the mountain.
Only after seeing how these people work and live in this difficult terrain one get the idea of how brave
and strong these Rai people are.
I stop in one of their home and was served a chill millet drink(Tongba) which was the best thing in life to quench my thirst.
Fuel by tongba, i scrambled to the top of the halesi. From there view and scenery are unbelievable.
To the far distance one can see the roof of the world, Mt Everest or the Solukhumbu.
stop again for tongba and followed by Rai rokshi, distilled rice wine
which has similar taste and flavor like soju(Korean) and saki
(japanese) but best thing stronger in taste.
Sipping a gulp of this rokshi, you feel your heart being pierce through and the heart beat goes from 70 to over 100 per minute.
feeling is magic.  Being at so close to madadev and enjoying the
natural beauty of Khotang, sipping rokshi and tongba, it's simply

Picture where Great Mahadev reside.

Posted on 05-06-09 12:02 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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jpeg, are you from Halesi?
this is a very interesting and important collection about Halesi.

Posted on 05-08-09 12:46 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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Taken from a top of a hillside of Halesi bazaar.

Posted on 05-08-09 1:48 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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Thanks for the informative post. Unlike many other rubbish which are created by the minutes, yours was very interesting and relevant to not only the people from the Khotang region but also to others who come from different part of Nepal and outside Nepal.

One thing bothers me though but it has got nothing to do with you, it has got to do with the idiots who flagged your thread as inappropriate.

I would like to hear his/her reason as to why it was deemed not fit for the visitors.



Rai (Proud to be from Khontang !!!!)


Posted on 05-09-09 2:14 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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Last edited: 09-May-09 02:18 PM

Posted on 05-09-09 2:18 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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i miss trekking to Halesi, one greatest place in Nepal, long time ago.

Posted on 05-10-09 10:17 AM     Reply [Subscribe]
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Bringing goods to halesi bazaar.

Posted on 05-10-09 6:27 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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 Diktel as wonderland

My eye-sight even in the  broad daylight of December failed to decide whether it was Diktel Multiple Campus (DMC) or St Loreto College. When
I eagerly entered  the green velvety campus compound, it was DMC, Tribhuvan University rather than Loreto of Darjeeling. To be true, DMC is wider,
 greener and more wonderful than St Loreto. Diktel, of course could be Darjeeling's Darjeeling if it had road links and modern technology. Road link has become a nightmare for years and ages. Hopefully, it is going to be the Queen of Khotang when Bhimchandra Rodung's Electricity Project will be completed.

The district headquarters of Khotang was eventually moved to Diktel from Khotang Bazaar in 1964 AD. Geographically, the present headquarters is
more centrally located than the former. At present Diktel is the centre of 76 VDCs. To some extent, the headquarters has administrative,
educational and commercial links with Okhaldhunga and Solukhumbu also. Therefore, Diktel-Khotang is the second major strategic centre of the hilly
areas after Dhankuta in eastern Nepal.

Khotang has more distinct identity than its neighboring districts. The loco-toponym itself denotes historical importance of Majh Kirat amongstWollo and Pallo Kirat. It has been derived from 'Khot' a personalKiranti name and 'Hang' king in Kiranti-Rodung mother-tongue. Thus the
Kiranti king's name historically changed into district name later.Prior to the so-called unification of Nepal, Khotang was one of the
Kiranti nations known as Majh Kirat or Khambuwan. It is one of the most significant sights for historical, linguistic and archaeologicalresearch.

Moreover,it is also a holy land for pilgrims and theologians as well. One such well-known shrines of faith is Haleshwor Paruhang popularly known as
Halesi Mahadeu. The legend of Halesi Paruhang and Sumnima dates back to the Vedic period. Other places of pilgrimage are: Baraha, Indreni,
Panchakanya Pokhari, Sapsudhap, Kalika Bhagawati, Kalika Devi, J tedhunga, Gaiy -Siddhasthan, Temke and Maparung.

Once I had been to the Halesi Paruhang Fair when I was a boy. My memory clearly recollects
the picturesque and mysterious caves of the shrine even today. I had climbed down to the caves through a ladder and entered the shrine of
Paruhang and Sumnima. So far as I recollect, those caves are moremysterious than 'Marabar Caves' described by EM Forster in his fictionA Passage to India.
 I confidently reminisce that I was not afraid there like Mrs Moore and Ms Adela Quest inside the Indian resonating 'Marabar
Caves'. I was unknowingly frightened by the hanging bats and noisyswallows inside the Paruhang caves. The internal structure of those
caves appears as if it was formed by volcano scientifically. But on thecontrary, divine myths have their own account about the formation of these caves.

Demographically,more than 70% Kirantis dwell in all 76 VDC areas and their main tribal
and cultural identity is Sakela Sili. Although Lhosar, Gaijatra, Indrajatra and Tihar are celebrated annually, Sakela Sili is observed
twice a year known as Chhirnam and Dhirinam around in February-March and April-May. It must have perhaps been originated in Khotang since
time immemorial.

Linguistically,Kiranti-Rodung (Camling) speakers have occupied the second position
after Nepali. Other Kiranti tribes speaking their own minority mothertongues are Kirawa, Dumi, Sampang,  Sunuwar, Puma, Nachhiring,
Ba'yung, Koyu, Tilung, Khaling, Thulung, Wambule and Kulung. After a glimpse of these wonders of Khotang I am once again haunted by the
tranquil and untrammeled environment of DMC.

I was much inspired and impressed by the ecological balance between man
and nature. The campus in such inexplicable environment might have been giving birth to neo-IBs and neo-Parasmanis as in the first simile of
DMC and St Loreto. The only difference between the two is that Diktel has no road links like Darjeeling. Because of this problem Diktel is
inaccessible for many travelers and pilgrims. Instead of itsinaccessibility, Layalu Hotel's nutritious and delicious food makes any traveler energetic.
Paku's and my sore muscles were immediately relieved while having the enriched Layalu food. The bazaar is famous
also for Milan Chamling's stick- handicraft. We met him at the bazaar and saw his artistic sticks made up of local thorny plants and bamboos.
We praised his art but did not purchase any of his products since wecould easily have pony-race on the hills.

Now-a-days the hill people are in the process of modernization except for road
links. Diktel is situated in such a height from where many panoramic views can be visualized. We were able to see
many places of magnetic attraction but had hardly any time even for a night's stay there. My
heart leaps time and again to be Lewis Carroll's Alice to peep the wonders of Diktel.
Posted on 05-11-09 7:11 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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 More pictures of Halesi caves aka Maratika

By Hindus it is called Halesi. It gave the village its name. By Tibetan Buddhists it is called Maratika.
The myth said sometimes Lord Shiva and Parbati would leave the cave disguised as Kiranti children and
play in the forest or down by the banks of the Sun Khoshi and Dhudh Khoshi rivers, two major rivers which flow on both sides of Halesi region down from the mountainous north.

Last edited: 11-May-09 07:14 PM

Posted on 05-16-09 7:05 PM     Reply [Subscribe]
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An extraordinary example we all should follow:

He studied in India and the United Kingdom, joined the United Nations, and traveled to over 60 countries, but finally decided that his roots were in Khotang. He returned to his native district to become a farmer.

Madan Rai, 58, realized in 2004 that development begins from the village. "My long experience taught me that a village can set a development model," Rai, an agriculturalist by profession, said.

Rai's passion for developing the village has to do with a childhood filled with hardship and hope alike.

Son of a British army serviceman, Rai was brought up in a largely illiterate family. "I don't know why, but my grandfather hated education and tried to cultivate the same hatred in us." But Rai developed early a longing for education. By age nine he had a burning desire to go to school.

"As my friends joined school I simply could not resist the longing and started to insist to my mother to send me to school," he said.

With the completion of schooling in his village, Rai came to Kathamndu and got himself admitted at Tri Chandra College, where he pursued science. "I think it was a turning point in my life and I haven't looked back ever since," Rai said. He later on went to India to study for a Bachelors in Agriculture Science.

After completing his degree he got an offer at the UN as an agricultural specialist.

" Since then I have traveled to more than 60 countries, where I taught villagers about agriculture." But that teaching, in turn, taught him something invaluable: "Nepal's hill districts contain baskets of money and should be harnessed some time in my life."

Soon he landed in Khotang. "Actually, Khotang holds a lot of potential for agricultural development because its soil is still virgin and is good for cabbage, cauliflower, green peas, radish, carrots and other produce like spices, ginger, turmeric," he said.

With projects forming in his mind, Rai first established the Nahima Agriculture Research Center, an agricultural farm at district headquarters Diktel, in 2004. "While establishing the center, I invested some Rs 10 million under the name of Khotang Development Forum," he said. Ever since it was established, the center has been providing agricultural training to farmers in the district.
"We trained 40 youths in the first batch of our program," he said, adding, "The youths subsequently started visiting remote villages, training farmers in how to grow various agro-products."

For Rai, an Ashoka Fellow for 2006, transportation, communication and electricity are crucial factors for a village to continue developing. Now based in Lalitpur, Rai shuttles between Khotang and Kathmandu, to lobby government authorities for transportation, communication and electricity in his district.

"We have provided electricity to 26 out of the 76 Village Development Committees (VDCs) in the district," he said, adding, "Electricity is fast picking up and we plan to provide electricity to all the VDCs in five years."

Rai and his team are encouraging people in the villages to go for solar energy, besides micro-hydro, to meet the growing demand for power.

Rai, who was also winner of the World Bank's "Let's do something now" program, has a plan to computerize the VDCs once electricity reaches every village. "That way, village youth will get acquainted with the world through the internet, and they won't go astray," he said.

He also conducts some personality development and other awareness programs in the district. "I think it's very much important to empower village people in order to develop a nation," he said, adding, "Many projects in villages fail to meet their targets due to lack of awareness among the people."

We need people like Madan Rai to run Nepal. This is one true example of extraordinary person whom we all should follow.


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