The legends of the Budha Subba temple

I was visiting Dharan in Nepal for work.  I tried to call home to convey the message that I had crossed the border. A Nepalese colleague chuckled: “Yes, tell them you are safe. You Indians believe that anyone who enters Nepal is climbing Mount Everest!” For the record, Dharan is in the plains. Of course, it is surrounded by the beautiful Himalayan mountains, but I wasn’t climbing mountains on this trip!

On the second day of my visit, we had a few hours free before work started, and I was told  that it was enough time to see some of the temples in the area. Our first stop was the Budha Subba temple (pronounced बुढा सुब्बा).  It was a 15 minute drive from Dharan.

There are huge bamboo groves around the temple. The first thing which catches your eye are the strikingly bright colours. And when you look closely, you find that they are beautiful colourful threads all tied to the bamboos.  It is believed that people who want to be together for life must pay a visit here and carve their names on the bamboos. However as this was destroying the ecosystem, carving names is no longer allowed. Instead couples tie colourful threads to make their wishes come true. 

We walked towards the temple and stood in a queue with a lot of other pilgrims awaiting our turn. Surprisingly the queue moved rather slowly. A little while later, a man spoke to us in Nepali and gestured that we need not stand in the queue for the darshan. We moved across to the front of the temple only to realize a second later that we had taken the wrong route. 

A bloody chicken came flying our way! I narrowly escaped being hit by a headless chicken. While my colleague ended up with splashes of blood on his face. 

It was then that it occurred to us that the queue consisted of people with bags containing live chicken. Devotees were queueing up to sacrifice the birds to the deity.

A man sat in front of the deity with a bucket of water and a knife in his hand. Every few minutes, he would behead a bird and offer it to the deity and the headless bird would be thrown in front of the temple. It was rather gruesome to see the headless birds walking and fluttering, as the last breath of life escaped from them. As the birds ran around helter skelter, the devotees too jumped trying to avoid them and the blood splutter. And then the person who had offered the bird would pick it up and take it home to be cooked as prasad. I have pictures but they are too gruesome to be posted. I understood the origin of the phrase “running around like a headless chicken” that morning.

In the temple, a huge mound of mud is worshipped. I couldn’t figure out  much from the driver, so I came back and searched the internet for the legend behind this temple.

Subba means King in the Limbu language. So Budha Subba means ‘old king’. Apparently, one version goes that the Budha Subba temple is the tomb of Budhhi Karna Raya Khewang, the last Limbu king of Morang district of Nepal. He was tricking into coming to Bijaypur for a negotiation and assassinated here. The locals believe he is a friendly spirit, and worship him.  This is the version which the historians believe.

A more interesting legend is that a hunter called Budha Subba and his sister Subbini were trying to hit crows with slingshots. And they accidentally hit the tip of a bamboo instead of a crow. It is said that since that day the tip of the bamboo never grew back, and even today, bamboos in Bijaypur don’t have sharp tips. Even more unusual is that no crows come to this area although there are picnickers and offerings in the temple. The story goes that Budha Subba gave up hunting and started meditating there. The mound of mud is believed to be the spot where he mediated. 

Whatever the truth is, it was fascinating to learn of new traditions and customs. Each trip teaches you so much about the world. 

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