Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Walking the Tharu Heritage Trail – Ghodaghodi Lake

Driving westwards from Nepalgunj in the Western Nepal, you will come across the beautiful Ghodaghodi Lake adjacent to the East West Highway. The lake is one of the nine wetlands of international importance in Nepal, enlisted as a Ramsar site. Other eight are Jagadishpur Reservoir, Beeshazari Lake (Twenty Thousand Lake) and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in the Terai; Gokyo Lake series, Gosaikunda, Rara Lake and Phoksundo Lake in the Himalayas; and recently enlisted Maipokhari in the mid hills.

The lake is of around 10 sq. km and covers three Village Development Committees of the Kailali district. The lake comprises nine different lakes, namely, Ghodaghodi, Ojhuwa, Purbi Ojhuwa, Chaitya, Baishawa, Sunpokhari, Nakhrodi, Budhi Nakhrodi and Ramphal, all of various shapes and sizes separated by marshes. Of the nine-sister lakes, Ghodaghodi is the largest and a concrete dam regulates its outlet.

The myths surrounding Ghodaghodi Lake
Ghodaghodi literally means male and female horse. It is believed that the lake took its name from the clay horses offered by the Tharus to the Goddess at the bank of the lake. One popular belief says that a sage cursed Shiva and Parvati turning them to horses. As the pair circled round the lake, the lake got its name. Another belief is that the lake was too big for a horse to cross the whole distance in a day, so the lake was awarded the name.

On my way to Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, I met Sukhram Das Tharu, the head priest of Ghodaghodi Lake and Tularam from Deukhar. They told me a totally different story of the Ghodaghodi Lake and Temple.

“Many years ago the consort of the Sun God Surya Narayan, Savitri descended to Patal Lok (the world beneath the earth) in disguise of a mare. Following her, the Sun God also went to Patal in search of Savitri. As the Sun went underneath earth, it was dark everywhere. All the Gods then went to Brahma, the Creator for help. Together they went to Vishnu to seek help. Vishnu disappeared while searching them. The Gods in despair then went to Mahadev, the God of Gods. He also disappeared. Finally, they went to Gauri Mata, who meditated and found out about all disappeared Gods. With her might and power, she was able to summon all disappeared Gods near Ghodaghodi Lake.

She then announced that whoever will offer her horses, elephants, tigers made from clay at the Ghodaghodi Lake will get their wishes fulfilled. The Tharus from the area have followed this tradition till today. Chamari Geruwa was the first Tharu priest who could get inside the lake, bring out the offerings and distributed to farmers who used to stay there whole night praying the Goddess. Then the farmers used to take those offerings and establish in their houses. Shitla Geruwa was the second successor, but he was not able to get inside the water. Then Prerna Geruwa from Bakloi succeeded him. All of them were Tharus. Till this day Sukhram Das is continuing the tradition of worshipping the Ghodaghodi Mata, one of the disguises of Gauri.”

You will still find clay horses and tigers offered to the Goddess in the temple. The Tharus gather and worship here in large numbers during the Agahan Panchami and Maghi festivals. They also perform marriage and other rituals here.

Conservation – the need of the moment
Ghodaghodi Lake is an important prime habitat for migrating and resident birds. Around 140 species of different birds can be sighted around this wetland, some birds migrating from as far as Siberia and Mongolia during the winter season. The lake is home to different species of fishes, reptiles, mammals and amphibians. The lake area also houses unique flora and fauna.

People of this area have been depending on the lake and the surrounding area for fishing, irrigation, grazing livestock, collecting fodder, fuelwood, wild fruits and vegetables, and for recreation. Adding to the woes of the lake and surrounding area, hill people from the adjacent hill districts have migrated to this area in search of better opportunities. The large influx of people has resulted into haphazard grazing, unsustainable fishing and illegal logging besides collecting firewood, fodder and wild mushrooms. The rampant use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has led to the percolation of chemicals into the lake waters posing threats to the biodiversity. The lake also faces the potential danger of eutrophication.

Looking at the possible perils to the lake, it is the need of the moment to join hands and save the Ghodaghodi Lake and its associated lakes and ponds - not only to save the biodiversity of the area but also to save one of the pearls in the Tharu Heritage Trail. And of course, the age old Tharu tradition of offering clay horses to the Goddess Ghodaghodi.

1 comment:

  1. Tre interesa taglibro, mi certe revenos al ĝi
    amiko el Polujo, Piotr