Sunday, February 21, 2016

Aginsair – a caretaker god or agnishala?

Aginsair temple
The Chure hills in Saptari district of Eastern Nepal houses ruins of ancient temples and palaces supposed to be built by Sen kings.

While the ruins of a temple in Chandrabhoga and remnants of a palace in Kanakpatti village are famous and have drawn interest from Department of Archaeology, the ruins at Aginsair have not attracted any interest of historians.

Aginsair, considered as one of the Shira Thans (place of worship of many villages in the vicinity, located in the north of the settlements) by the locals, lies at about four kilometres east of Rupani and to the north of the East-West Highway.

Stones in front of the temple
Temple parts inside the temple

Idol worshipped as Bageshri
Lord Aginsair in the centre
Damaged idols
Damaged idols
Chiselled stones and baked bricks are found in abundance here. The locals have collected statues recovered from the site and built a temple that houses them. Among them is an idol of Aginsair with a damaged face and a tiger statue worshipped as Baghesri, the tiger goddess. Next to them are broken sculptures and remnants of a temple.

Sanctum to the north of the temple
Outside the temple is a collection of temple remnants and to the north of the temple lies an enclosure of chiselled stones thought to be a sanctum.

When I talked with locals, they said that it is an ancient well but looking at its structure and the way it’s built it must be a sanctum, says Prakash Darnal, Chief of the National Museum in Kathmandu. 

Like other Shira Thans, the locals gather here on the first of Baishakh, the Nepalese New Year and offer prayers to Aginsair and sacrifice animals and birds to evade any possible outbreak of epidemics in the villages and save themselves and their animals from being attacked by wild animals.

According to Sahabir Chaudhary, 60, Aginsair appeared in the dream of an old man and asked him to dig him out. The locals then started worshipping the idol on the first day of the year. Haleshar Raj Bantar was the first priest and till this day the Raj Bantars have remained the priest of the temple.

Raju, grandson of Jhanjhu bataha
The statue was thrown in a well by an insane man called Jhanjhu bataha (bataha meaning mad). It was retrieved from the well but its face got permanently damaged after the incident. Jhanjhu’s grandson Raju, 75, is still alive and lives in Sitapur village.

Musaharu Das, Thanpati of Sitapur

As per Musharu Das, the Thanpati (caretaker of the Than) from Sitapur village, the first offering to Aginsair comes from Sitapur followed by hordes of sacrifices from people from other villages.

Bhikhan Chaudhary, Sitapur

Bhikhan Chaudhary, 72, says that after they started worshipping Aginsair, the wild animals stopped attacking cattle and people in the vicinity.

With the belief that their vows will be fulfilled, people throng to the site on the new year’s day to vow and to offer prayers and sacrifice to the Lord Aginsair.

This temple part resembles the temple part in Chandrabhoga.
Art scholar Kashinath Tamot opines that the name Aginsair must have been derived from Agnishala which later became Agnisair and finally Agnisair. The ancient kingdoms had provision of running yagnas and they constructed agnishala for the purpose.

Interestingly, one of the temple part (a row of shikhara style temple tops) housed in the temple resembles with the temple part in Chandrabhoga. The stone blocks and baked bricks found here also match with the ones found in Chandrabhoga.

Aginsair can be another piece in the jigsaw puzzle comprising the Shambhunath, Kanakpatti, Kanchha Khoriya and Chandrabhoga. If excavated and researched further, this area can perhaps unravel the story of an ancient settlement like Lumbini.