Women not allowed in Nalanda temple during Navaratra festival
With the celebrations of Navaratra festival, which began on Saturday, the air all over is rife with the chanting of rhymes and mantras dedicated to the Mother Goddess, but there’s a temple in Nalanda where women are not allowed to enter in the temple during the festival.
Though the temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga, traditionally regarded as the symbol of woman power, the site, which is popularly known as the Ashapuri temple, remains out of bounds for women during the Shakti Puja.
Located in Ghosrawan village of Nalanda, it is believed to be a Pala age temple with strong connections with Vajrayaan Buddhism and Tantrik rites and rituals have been performed and practised here for centuries.
The temple gets devotees round the year even from the neighbouring states like Jharkhand, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh who turn up for the fulfilment of wishes and perform elaborate rituals. But during Navaratras, women are banned from the Garbha Griha, the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and its premises too and, are allowed only after the Navami Puja rituals.
“It’s an age old tradition and people here have been following it over the generations. Worship by women is prohibited during Navaratra,” Purendra Upadhyay, the head priest of the temple said.
It’s mainly because the Navaratra puja is observed here in pure Tantrik tradition. Elaborated Tantrik rituals are performed at the Garbha Griha. “It is believed that during the 9th Century Vajrayaan Buddhists used to do here Tantra Saadhna. This tradition has continued. These Tantrik rituals may not suit women,” Upadhyay said.
During Chaitra Navaratra, women are not allowed especially at the Garbha Griha, the priest said.
“The women are barred from entering even in the temple campus during Vaasanti Navaratra,” he said.
Rajeev Kumar, a local said Ghosrawan village has strong connections with Vajrayaan Buddhism. Located 12- kilometre east of Nalanda university in Giriyak block, it’s been also in close proximity to other ancient places like Tetarwan, and Pavapuri. it is also known for its ancient mounds, forts, tanks and ancient sculptures.
“History texts said that in 1848 a British official had found here an inscription which referred development of a Vajrasana Vihara by a monk, Viradeva at Yasovarmmapura. While the Vihara was patronized by Pala King, Devapala, monk too stayed here for a decade and was later appointed to govern the monastic establishment of Nalanda,” he said.
The inscriptions further stated that the village Yasovarmmapura was named after the King of Kannauj, Yasovarmana who had defeated the Magadhan ruler.
“The Yasovarmmapura is the modern day Ghosrawan, while so its inscription is widely known as Ghosrawan inscriptions,” he said. The village still has a large number of sculptures. Though some have been shifted to various museums, many Brahmanical and Buddhist stone sculptures are still at Ashapuri temple, he added.