Pachali Bhairava: Recounting his strange love story

Pachali is a Bhairav temple situated on the banks of the river Bagmati in Kathmandu. It is one of the most revered shrines inside the valley especially for the locals Newars who still carry out various duties associated with the temple. This is a story passed by the old generation of Newars describing the origin of the temple. 

It is said that Pachali was the king of Pharping, a neighboring district of Kathmandu. He used to jointly rule the land with the goddess Dakshina kali, a revered goddess of Hinduism whose temple still stands at Pharping. Stories say that Pachali was an adept tantrika and also a Bhairava. In Hindu mythology, Bhairava is considered as a terrifying form of Shiva but the word is also associated with Tantra practitioners who use it as a designation for a highly qualified tantrika. It is quite possible that the connotation of Bhairava here is used in the latter context.

Pachali was such a tantrika that he had unimaginable supernatural powers. Every morning, he used to teleport from Pharping to Kashi just to bathe in the Ganges. Then, he teleported to Jagannath to eat his lunch and teleport back to Pharping to perform his daily austerities. At night, he teleported to Banepa to eat his dinner. After that, he came to Kathmandu disguised as a handsome Jyapu– a man traditionally belonging to the working class in the Newar society. He had many friends in Kathmandu none of whom had the slightest idea of his true identity. But the real reason behind his daily excursion was not because of these friends. It is said that, once, he had seen a nai girl, meaning a girl belonging to the butcher caste, and had been bewitched by her exceptional beauty. Soon the girl also started noticing the handsome man whose elegance enticed her all the same. Both of them fell in love and started dating in secret.  Pachali soon started visiting her in her house at night and expressed his love in every way a man normally does.

One day, the girl realized that she was pregnant and was very troubled. She tried to keep this in secret but her protruding belly could not hide it for long. Afraid of the consequences, the girl told to Pachali that she had become pregnant and therefore, they should consider marrying each other. Pachali was happy to learn this and willingly agreed to her proposal. He also decided to let her know the truth and revealed to her that he was actually Pachali, the king of Pharping. The girl became very happy to know that she would be marrying a king. Pachali told her that it was not the only secret that he kept from her. There was yet another secret which no one, not even the people of Pharping knew about. The girl became anxious and asked Pachali to tell her everything. Then, Pachali told her that in addition to being the king, he was also an adept tantrika and not just an ordinary Tantrika but a Bhairva. Hearing this, the girl laughed mockingly and did not believe a word he said. She demanded Pachali to manifest his Bhairava form if he really was one. Pachali tried to convince her saying that a Bhairava’s form is fearful and would only scare her out of her wits. But she was stubborn and was not going to compromise on her demands.

Realizing that there was nothing else he could do, he decided to show her his Bhairava form. He asked the girl to bring some rice grains and instructed her that once in the bhairava form, she should worship him with the rice grains in order to bring him back to his human form. The girl agreed. Then, Pachali transformed himself into Bhairava, something that the girl had never imagined. He had a terrible face with long fangs, long and shaggy hair and had three dreadful red eyes. He was wearing snakes as ornaments, tigerskin as the garment and severed heads as garland. Seeing the fiery form, the girl nearly collapsed to the ground and spilled all the rice grains. After regaining her consciousness, she started running away, away from the bhairava and the house. Pachali was left in a predicament as he could not come back to his human form without getting help from her. He did not want to encounter any people to avoid pandemonium that could arise. Therefore he chased the girl in hopes of persuading her to help him. But to his astonishment, the girl showed no signs of calming down but started running faster than ever. 

The nai girl started running westwards towards the river Bagmati. She kept on looking behind in hopes of losing Pachali but the bhairava was trailing her without a hint of slowing down. She then reached the banks of the river Bagmati and realizing that Pachali would not give up his pursuit, she decided to hide in the very place. Pachali also followed her to the river bank and was persistently looking for her everywhere. Soon the roosters started to crow and Pachali understood that it was the break of dawn. Afraid that he would be exposed to people coming to the river for the morning bath, he searched for a place to hide. He found a big crack in the ground nearby and shoved his body inside that only his buttocks could be seen from outside. The nai girl knew that Pachali was near and therefore dared not come out while Pachali without the help of his lover could not transform back to his human form. Both the lovers had no other option but to remain transfixed at the same spot which eventually became the shrine of the local deities Pachali bhairav and Nai ajima.

Like other tales, this one also has a few other versions which will be updated later.