Dakshinkali Temple: Home to Kali, The Black One
Greetings from Pharping, where I’m staying at the elder care home on the grounds of the Shesh Narayan Temple and the Buddhist monastery!
It’s wonderful to be back. This is my family and I’m incredibly comfortable here in Pharping — anywhere in the valley, really — and I adore our elders that are being cared for here.
Pharping is a hotspot for pilgrims of both Buddhist and Hindu faiths. Today, we’ll visit Dakshinkali, the temple devoted to the goddess Kali, who is also known as The Black One. I have a lot more info on her in my book, Drowning in Now, but for now let’s just mention the fact that many Hindus believe that if they sacrifice animals to Kali, she will grant them their wishes. Keep in mind that not all Hindus practice animal sacrifice; this is a relatively new practice when we consider how long humans have made this geographic area their home. The original tribes of this land we now know as Nepal did not — and still do not — practice the ritualistic slaughter of animals to appease various gods and goddesses.
The crowds at this temple can number in the hundreds of thousands a day during holidays. You have a long walk before you even get to the gate which takes you to the walkway which takes you into the temple. First, you walk along the once-magnificent, sparkling river. After 35-plus years of Nepalis dumping sewage, garbage, and construction debris in it, though, it has turned it into what you see above: A toxic waste. Still, devotees to the temple will wade into it, bathe in it, and even sip water from their hands.
This is my third trip to the temple, with the first two trips taking place in 2017. During my first trip, it was overrun with worshipers as I was there on a critical day during Dashain, a 15-day religious holiday. On that day, the ground was awash in tika paint and blood from the sacrifices. Also on that day, I had the luxury of keeping my shoes on.
In the photo below, you can see the sacrificial building behind this statue in the water.
Below, one of the two walkways leading into the temple. Today, everyone was taking their shoes and socks off, which I’d not seen done on either of my other visits. Not wanting to offend anyone, I did the same. The last thing I wanted to do was walk onto these grounds in bare feet.
In the photo below, on the other side of this building, the devotee approaches the man who is to perform the ceremony. He is seated, cross-legged, on the ground to the right of the man who is crouched down in khakis. First, Kali is offered fruits and flowers and asked for her blessings. Then the ritual begins, and the animal sacrifice is performed.
Regardless of whether one is offering an animal for sacrifice or not, each devotee stops at the gate to the statuary to light incense and pray before entering. Photo above and two below.
Here is a peek inside the statuary. You can just make out the golden statue of Kali to the left of center in this picture. Photos aren’t allowed in here, and I’m surprised I made it this far considering I’m obviously not Nepali, nor am I even Hindu.
Once devotees have completed their mission, it’s time for selfies and photos of each other to post on social media. I took photos of folks preening and posing…but you get the idea. No need to show you.
As I was walking around taking pictures (there’s A LOT to see — these photos are just a fraction of the overall site), I tried not to focus on the blood and small bits of entrails that had washed down from the sacrificial building above. Remember, I was barefoot. I tried to rise above it as I have before, but my efforts weren’t working. I began to feel as if my vision was getting darker, and that the walls were closing in. My head and chest began to hurt. I was starting a panic attack.
I hurried back up the stairs to the walkway leading out of the temple, found my shoes on the rack and sat down to wipe off my feet, then focused on leaving it all behind as I began the long climb up the stairs through the forest and out of the valley, to the road above. From there, I walked through the market and the shops selling everything and anything. I replied to their offerings by replying, “Paisa choina,” meaning, “No money.” It was true. I’d brought only my camera, no money. Here a sample of the market. Sorry it’s blurry. It’s the best my photo editing software could do; I was still trying to shake off my panic attack.