A structure found in the Kathmandu valley is a divine relic that goes back 4,000 years to the time of the epic Mahabharata, says an Indian seer who is in Nepal for a month's rituals dedicated to Hindu god Shiva.
"For 4,000 years, people have been searching for the head of (Hindu deity) Kedarnath who assumed the shape of a bull to avoid the five Pandava brothers, the heroes of the Mahabharata," says Bhim Shankarling Shivacharya, the 54-year-old head of Kedarpeeth in India's Uttarakhand state who is currently in Nepal.
"While the body of the bull lies in Kedarnath, one of the holiest pilgrim destinations in India, now the head has been discovered in Kathmandu Valley's Bhaktapur city."
The legend goes back to the fabled battle of Kurukshetra fought between the five Pandava brothers and their cousins, the 100 Kaurava brothers, which is the pivot of the Mahabharata.
The Pandavas won, but sorrowed by the loss of lives, they renounced the kingdom they had wrested back and headed for the heavenly abode of the gods, believed to be atop the mighty Himalayan mountains.
"The brothers had sinned by shedding the blood of their own kin," the seer said, recounting the tale from his silver throne in Kathmandu's Pashupatinath temple. "They were asked to worship Kedarnath and get exculpated."
However, Kedarnath was not ready to expiate their sins and assumed the form of a bull to avoid them. The brothers realised who the bull was and tried to arrest it by pulling its tail. At the mighty wrench, the head got separated from the torso and vanished. The hump-backed structure at Uttarakhand's Kedarnath is worshipped as the torso of the holy bull.
Now the seer of the math says a smaller structure found at the Jangam math in Bhaktapur is the missing head.
As proof, the holy man points out the amazing similarity in the traditions of the monasteries in two different countries.
The priests in both shrines are selected from India's southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Both priests affix the word 'ling' after their names to convey their proximity to the god as his worshipper and both temples have a cluster of five Shiva shrines.
The Kedarpeeth seer, who has arrived in Nepal for a month's rituals during monsoon, says the main deity of both priests is Birbhadra, a companion of Shiva, according to Hindu scriptures.
On Aug 22, the seer will formally install a two-foot image of Shiva, also called Doleshwar, at the Bhaktapur shrine. It would be regarded as Kedar math's official recognition of the Mahabharata relic in Nepal.
Famed for the Pashupatinath temple, Buddhist sites and other ancient shrines, the former Hindu kingdom of Nepal is looking to attract more Hindu pilgrims from India and across the world with the discovery of the divine relic.
Two thousand Indians, mostly from the south and Maharashtra, have already reached the Pashupatinath temple, the temple authorities said. "We expect at least 3,000 pilgrims during the installation of the image."
Besides the boost in religious tourism, the claim should excite archaeologists and historians as well.
There is already a Mahabharata range in the Himalayas in Nepal while the Terai plains in the south are said to be part of the ancient kingdom of Virat, the king at whose court the five Pandava brothers lived incognito after gambling away their kingdom to the Kauravas.