The temple of Tudal Devi is located in Baluwatar, Kathmandu. The goddess is more
commonly known as Vaisnavi Devi, the consort of Vishnu, and the origin of the name
Tudal Devi is unknown. The temple was established during the Lichchhavi era, but
the present construction is from the medieval period and is adorned richly with
fine examples of Nepalese art and craft.
A Jatra for this deity, known as tudaldevi Gahana Khojne Jatra (a festival to search for jewelry) commences every year on the lunar calendar’s Chaitra Shukla Astami with the raising of the ceremonial pole, or lingo, and ends a month later with its lowering. The festival is observed over several days and is observed wntill bashakh nawami. On the main day of the Jatra, the idol of Goddess Tudaldevi Baishnavi is placed on a chariot that is pulled from her temple at Baluwatar and taken through the ancient town of Hadigaun by devotees. On the way to Gahana Pokhari, the chariot is stopped multiple times at the doorsteps of the houses where red mud is painted in front. This is a symbol for the chariot to halt and devotees take their time to pay respects and make various offerings to the goddess. One of the interesting offerings is umbrella that is hung on the top of the chariot. Once the chariot
arrives at Gahana Pokhari, two men take three rounds of the pond with a silver pole (like a specter) on their hands. Scores of musicians playing Dhime and Nyakhin follow the two men and make three rounds. Following the lead of a man with a torch, devotees pull the chariot into the pond. They also take three rounds pulling the chariot deep into the pond.
The main chariot is accompanied around the pond by another chariot of Goddess
Mahalaxmi, the youngest sister of Tudaldevi, which is also called Manekhat. Manekhat is placed to the dabali (a platform or open space), waiting for Tudaldevi to arrive. When Tudaldevi finds her jewels and comes back to the dabali, the chariot of Mahalaxmi take three round around Tudaldevi chariot. The idol of Mahalaxmi is then returned to Naxal. The chariot of Tudaldevi is placed at the oldest dabali at Hadigaun for two more days and prasad and flowers are sent to the goddesses of Nuwakot and Manamaiju as news that the lost jewels have been found. According to the lore, Tudaldevi had lost her jewels in Gahana Pokhari while she and her three sisters Mahalaxmi, Manamaiju, and Nuwakotdevi were swimming. As it was getting dark and their homes were far, Nuwakotdevi and Manamaiju went to their respective homes while their elder sister Tudaldevi stayed back searching jewels. The other sister, Mahalaxmi from Naxal, gave her company as her home was nearby. After the jewels were found, both sisters returned home.
The most popular myth — the kind grandfathers tell bright-eyed children — speaks of a time when four goddesses (or sisters, depending on whom you ask) Tunal Devi of Chandol, Mahalaxmi of Naxal, Mana Maiju of Balaju and the Nuwakoti Devi were visiting a large ‘ocean-like’ lake’ where Ghana Pokhari is today located. While bathing in the waters there, Tunal Devi lost her ornaments to the water and a frantic search ensued. Mana Maiju and Nuwakoti Devi, having had come from afar, left early asking Mahalaxmi to keep watch and to send word to them regardless of how the search concluded. The festival, this myth supposes, is an annual reenactment of this event. While Tunal Devi’s chariot descends into the water in search of her lost jewels, the chariot of Mahalaxmi circumvents the pond, keeping watch. Once the search is completed, the news in the shape of flowers and prasad, is still sent to the Mana Maiju temple and to Nuwakot, where jatras are conducted simultaneously.
Yet this folklore completely omits the role of Bhat Bhateni, who plays a central role during the buildup to the Jatra. Another myth, one that chroniclers prefer, speaks of a Bhramin couple Bhat and Bhateni who were residents of Handigaun, and famed for their piety towards Vishnu. Such was their devotion to the Lord that they were blessed with a son with all attributes of Vishnu. As it turns out, the family was entrusted with a staff bejeweled with precious ornaments, by a Bhramin Suddhadev who was leaving on a twelve-year pilgrimage. The couple agreed to keep the stick in their safekeeping until the Bhramin returned.
Months turned into years, and the couple fell into hard financial times. Certain that the old Bhramin would have perished by then, the couple sold the jewels to alleviate their situation. The Bhramin, however, did return, and was aghast to find that his jewels were sold off by the couple famed for their trustworthiness. nfuriated, the holy man instigated an eagle to swoop down and take away their only child. The couple, mustering all their previous religious karma, took to the skies after the bird. At this moment, the child revealed his true form — Vishnu astride the Garuda— and bestowed upon his worldly parents divine status and freed them from the cycle of life and death. A seemingly happy ending that explains the unusual placement of BhatBhateni who remain suspended at their temple, their feet never touching the ground. The Handigaun Jatra, however, shows that the chronicle did not end there. Every year during the festivities, a reenactment is done, where Bhat and Bhateni visit the powerful Tunal Devi to solicit further intervention. Bhateni, who is the daughter of Tunaldevi, along with her husband Bhat are taken down from their perch, are repainted and taken to Chandol in an elaborate procession. Tunaldevi, at their behest, descends down to Gahana Pokhari to look for the Bhramin’s lost jewels, which had somehow been deposited there. She, thus, returns the jewels to the Bhramin and restores the couple Bhat Bhateni’s divine status once again.