Gahwa Mai Mandir Birgunj, Raxaul

Bumping along on the worst ever roads across Raxaul for many hours, once inside the Nepal Dwar, the amazingly broad roads and organised scenario come as a huge respite and a pleasant surprise. A crowded market reaches up to the Gahwa Mai temple in Gahwa colony, Birgunj, Parsa district of Nepal. Approximately 250 years old, the pink sandstone temple structure contains seven forms of Goddess Durga in pindaroopa and is a Siddhapeetha. The uniqueness of this temple lies in the transfer of divine power of original pindas to new ones by a special religious ceremony called Shankarshan Punarsthapna Shat Chandi Maha Yagya. Now devotees are allowed to see and worship only the newly established pindas on the first floor, while the original lie in the basement covered with silver, with a statue of Goddess Durga and a silver Sheshnag behind. These are connected with the dummy pindas with the help of a silver wire to protect the original ones from damage as a large number of devotees visit the temple and tend to touch and press them while offering puja. The sanctum is opened only on special occasions and only the local priest is allowed to do puja.

Goddess Dwara Devi Mai, which means Goddess of the international border gate is how the Goddess is referred to by locals, many of whom come here with the desire to be blest with a child, while still others can be seen in absolute submission as their wishes have been fulfilled. Bhajans in both Nepali and Hindi languages constantly play in the temple compound as devotees pile hibiscus flowers and bel patra around the pindas. It is said that during the rule of Veer Shamsher Singh, a worker of the royal family Chulaai Chaudu, who was leader of the labourers, indulged in stealing and was given capital punishment.

"The influence of Buddhism can also be felt here as there is a yellow stupa of the Buddha."

He came to this spot and prayed forgiveness, after which he made a temporary temple here. Later, a bigger structure came up and rituals of bali started. Ninety years ago, a government officer of Nepal, Hiranya Shamsher Rana made a cemented structure here with surkhi-chuna and covered the pindas with silver foils. He also made a silver structure of Sheshnag above the pindas, the grand background structure too completely made of silver. Constantly in renovation mode, many crores have already been spent on creating a more robust temple structure.

There are several statues of other Gods and Goddesses in the temple complex, like those of Ganesha and Goddess Saraswati. The influence of Buddhism can also be felt here with a yellow stupa of Buddha to the east and four statues of Buddha sitting in different forms of meditation. A black stone Buddha Chaitya is octagonal in shape on which eight different meditation forms of Buddha are inscribed. Also there is a Chaturmukhi Shivalinga to the east of the main temple.

The pink sandstone main big dome called gajur is surrounded by nine smaller ones. Four brass nagas, a group of serpent deities rest on the gajur, while rest of the nine have copper flowers on them. The walls of the main temple are octagonal. Says the 96- years- old priest of the temple, Pandit Nand Kishore Upadhyaya, Navratra is its main event. On Maha Ashtami, eighth day, a special prayer is organised, which is started with the bali of male sheep. This ritual ends with the sacrifice of pig. On this day at least six thousand animals are sacrificed and offered to the Goddess. A steady stream of devotees, queue up here to offer their prayers.