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Ratnakar Mahavihara (A Vajrayana Buddhist Monastery of Patan)

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Item Code: NAM713
Author: Shanker Thapa and Indra Kumari Bajracharya
Publisher: Adroit Publishers, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 9788187392668
Pages: 182
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 430 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

This book is about Vajrayana Buddhist Vihara of Nepal. It is situated in Patan. Since Vihara is very important in Newar Buddhism, the book focuses on theoretical aspect of Vihara in Buddhism. The book tries to trace out the history of Buddhism in Nepal. Lichhivi period was the golden time for Buddhism to prosper. A detailed analysis of historical aspect of Nepalese Buddhism is made. Similarly, general features of Nepalese Viharas are also analysed. Historical as well as ritual and Puja performed in the Ratnakar Mahavihar, which is popularly known as Hakha Baha among the Newars, is also analysed. Similarly, the architectural features as well as art of the Vihara is also dealt in the book.

The other important aspect of the book is about the Kumari of Hakha Baha.

About the Author

Dr. Shanker Thapa (born 1957), MA in Modern History, B.L. and Post-graduate Diploma in Buddhism from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. Ph. D. from Patna University. At present he is Associate Professor in the Department of History, Tribhuvan University. Recipient of Senior Research Fellowship, Academy of Korean Studies (1987 and 1997); Long Term Research Fellow ICSK Seoul (1989); Korea Foundation Research Fellowship (1998), Faculty Development Fellowship, Tribhuvan University and Research Fellowship of Sumitomo Foundation (1999). His research articles were published in Nepal, India, Taiwan, Korea and the Netherlands. He has written books on Buddhism, Agricultural History and Peasant Studies. Executive Editor: 'Voice of History' a research Journal of Department of History, Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

Indra K. Bajracharya : Lecturer of Mathematics in the Faculty of Education, Tribhuvan University. She did M.Ed. and Po t-Graduate Diploma in Buddhist Studies from Tribhuvan University. At present she has been doing Ph.D. from Tribhuvan University.

She is the Recipient of Faculty Development Fellow hip of FOE, Tribhuvan University. he has published re earch article on varied theme of Nepalese Buddhism in Voice of History, Rolamba and Nepal Traveler.


The study of Vihara culture in Newar Buddhism is very important in order to gain an understanding of Newar Buddhism. The role of the Vihara Sangha continues to be prominent in rites, rituals and other religious practices. All the Vajrayana Viharas are prototypes of each other.

Various researchers have showed a keen interest in the study of Vihara and studied using different conceptual paradigms and models, but very few researchers paid attention to the study of Ratnakara Mahavihara even though it occupies an important place in the history of Buddhism in Patan (Nepal). This Vihara was an educational center in ancient times. It is said that the famous Tibetan Guru Marpa had his Dekha initiation at this Vihara, where he lived for 3 years. This belief has made this Vihara even more important.

Different kinds of Buddhist rituals are performed in this Vihara throughout the year and it has several rituals that are unlike those of any other Vihara. This has made this Vihara unique in Patan. The living tradition of Kumari is one of the important features of this baha.

We regret that we could not access any of the written documents that were preserved by the Ajus in the Vihara. Not a single member of the Sangha gave us any kind of information during the research. We imagine that there must be bahi Dhala Pau records and other written documents in the possession of this Vihara, but in the name of secrecy, they are not accessible to anybody. Instead, we reconstructed the history of this Vihara from fragments of evidence. One should know that history is being destroyed in the name of secrecy.

The book is divided into nine chapters:

Chap. 1. This chapter contains the introduction, objectives, limitations and research methodology applied during the research. The introduction gives an overall picture of this book.

Chap. 2. This chapter discusses the conceptual aspects of Viharas in general and Nepalese Viharas in particular. It focuses on sub-themes such as the origin and historicity of the Vihara as well as various other aspects of ancient Nepalese Viharas. In this chapter, ancient inscriptions relating to the Vihara and the Bhikshu and Bhikshuni Sangha are described. It also discusses the functional role of the Viharas.

Chap. 3. In this chapter History of Buddhism in Nepal is dealt. In the beginning, it traces about Tibetan sources on Nepalese Buddhist history. Similarly, mythological tradition is also dealt to proceed to authentic history of Nepalese Buddhism. It is analysed on the basis of Swayambhu Purana and Bhasa Vamshavali. The historical context of Swayambhu Chaitya and visit of Emperor Ashoka are traced on the basis of classical texts. It further deals with Buddhist history during the Lichhivi and Malia periods analyzing existing inscriptional sources. Finally, history of Theravada tradition of Nepal is also analyzed to some extent.

Chap. 4. This chapter focuses on the general features and different kinds of modem day Nepalese Viharas, and describes various other Viharas in Patan.

Chap. 5. This chapter is devoted to Hakha baha, which is the main body of this work. This chapter discusses the heritage and significance of Ratnakar Mahavihara and describes various inscriptions, Kacha baha, baha Sangha and its organization.

Chap. 6. This chapter mainly focuses on the types of rituals and worship which are performed at Hakha baha, and describes several kinds of initiations such as Barechoegu, Achaluyegu and Dekha. It also describes Guthis such as Sandepuja Guthi, Lainkebhu Guthi, Sana Guthi, Bicha Guthi and other Guthis which operated in Hakha baha. The roles played by the Sangha members are also described in this book.

Chap. 7. Hakha baha has a distinct place among the Viharas of Patan due to the Institution of Kumari. This chapter deals with the tradition of Kumari at Hakha baha and mainly focuses on the selection procedures and cultural and ritual aspects related to Kumari. Along with this description, other Viharas' relationship with Hakha baha which relates to Kumari worship is also explained.

Chap. 8. The main focus of this chapter is the description of the structural features of Hakha baha. The architectural features, art forms, and images housed in Hakha baha are described in this chapter.

Chap. 9. This chapter concludes the book, and is followed by the glossary, appendix, bibliography and Index.

The research which we undertook was in fact a tough job for us, but many individuals inspired and helped us throughout. It would have been impossible to write this book without their help. We are particularly thankful to Mr. Milan Ratna Shakya for his help.

We are very much thankful to Mrs. Millicent Allysa Pugh (Thapa) who edited this manuscript. Her meticulous effort to go through with tiresome writings is really praiseworthy. Especially, we must thank her for editing skills and comments she made at appropriate places.

We are grateful to Min Bahadur Shaky a, a visiting lecturer in the Department of Buddhist Studies, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur. He kindly permitted us to use his library.

We would also like to say thanks to We cannot forget the help of Hera Kazi Vajracharya of Bu Baha, Patan, who provided us with some material during the research. His assistance proved to be very helpful in writing this book.

We are also thankful to Gajanan Dhakhwa, for taking some of the photos of Ratnakar Mahavihara (Hakha baha). We would also like to thank Hasana Shakya for typing a part of the manuscript.

Last but not the least, we must thank Yen. Prajnamurti of Anandakuti Vihara, a common friend of us and a student of Buddhism at Chulalongkorn Rajkiya Mahavidyalaya, University of Bangkok for his best wishes.


The term Vihara is called baha or bahal in Newari, but local people pronounce it ba instead of baha. In the Kathmandu Valley, many Viharas were established at different times. Since, Patan is predominantly a Buddhist city, it has many prominent bahal which were established by various individuals. At present, there are fifteen main bahal in Patan. Most of the bahal have Kacha baha and Nani affiliated with them and each baha has two names, one in Sanskrit and the other in Newari.

The bahal are the centers of religious activities, and played a role of immense significance in Buddhist cultural development. The Sangha of the followers exists in each Vihara within its boundary. In modern times, the major function of a Vajrayana Vihara in Nepal is only to perform elaborate rituals. Nepalese Buddhism has turned into a type of ritualized Buddhism rather than emphasizing philosophical values.

The bahal in Patan are prototype of one another; there are no major differences, however, minor variations may occur in Ratnakar Mahavihara, one of fifteen main Viharas in Patan. Its Sanskrit name is Shri Laksmi Kalyana Varma Samskarita Ratnakar Mahavihara, but it is popularly known as Hakha baha or Ha baha. It was also called Hatko baha, and it is situated at ward no. 18, Ga bahal, in Patan.

Ratnakar Mahavihara is one of the most popular bahals of Patan. It has preserved its typical Buddhist art and architecture as well as its ritual heritage. In this Vihara, there is the tradition of the living goddess, called Kumari. This practice is unique among the Viharas of Patan. Ratnakar Mahavihara Sangha has only Vajracharya members whereas other Vihara Sanghas in Patan have both Shakyas and Vajracharyas as members. The Sangha members become Dyopala at the shrine of Kwapadyo in turns, from the eldest to the youngest. A Dyopala is appointed only for the period of fifteen days. The Sangha has a committee of ten elders who are called Aju. One person is always in reserve, and acts as the Ajus' helper. The eldest Aju is called Chakreshwar. He plays an important role during the Barechuyegu (initiation) and Achaluyegu ceremonies. The Ajus meet once a month on the full moon day for tantric puja (Agam puja), and again on the tenth day of the dark half of each month for a ritual feast. This Vihara has Sangha Bhojan Guthi (Sandey puja), Acharya Guthi, Sana Guthi (death Guthi) and Bicha Guthi. Various other rituals are also observed at this Vihara from time to time.

Statement of the Problems

The study of Viharas is of immense significance in the study of Nepalese Buddhism. The Viharas of Kathmandu Valley in general and Patan in particular playa major role in the cultural and religious activities of the Sangha. The Sangha organization and its functions, rituals, art etc., are important components of a Vajrayana Vihara. If one intends to study the Sangha, the Viharas require a detailed study.

The Ajus also play a significant role in Vihara activities. They are the ones who are responsible for preserving Buddhism in its traditional form.

The tradition of the living goddess Kumari at Hakha baha is a significant feature of this Vihara, which has made this Vihara more prestigious than other Viharas in Patan. All of these factors have made Hakha baha in Patan important.

Vihara, as the source of cultural tradition and its continuity, requires a detailed analysis. As for the Hakha baha, empirical research is always lacking in the analysis of its role in society and culture.

Review of Literature

Viharas play an important role in Buddhist religion and culture, but researchers have not yet studied them properly. It is possible to study them from different perspectives, but there are only a few researchers who have written about this Vihara.

The book entitled Buddhist Monasteries of Nepal mainly deals with the monasteries of Kathmandu Valley. In this book, Hakha baha is also described briefly. The description mainly deals with the historical aspect of baha and some of its ritual activities, but lacks an indepth analysis.

Another book, entitled Ratnakar Mahavihara Ka Sankshipta Parichaya, in Newari, describes the history of the baha art, architecture, Guthi and includes a list of the recipients of the acharyabhisheka. Although this book is informative, but it is not academic and is very brief. It does not even cover the main aspects of Hakha baha.

The book Yalaya Bauddha Vihara Sankhipta Parichaya is mainly about the Viharas of Patan. It also deals with existing Ajus, Kacha baha and gives a brief history. It is in the form of a compiled book.

History of Nepal is also about Buddhism in Nepal, and mentions that Hakha baha was tom down and was rebuilt at its present location by the order of King Siddhi Narsingha Malla, in order to extend the palace complex. No other facts are available regarding the topics in this book." The Cult of Kumari Virgin Worship in Nepal also deals with the Kumari of the Hakha bahai, which is also an important aspect of the baha.

H. A. Oldfield's book Sketches from Nepal also gives a brief introduction to Hakha baha.

An article written on Hakha baha by Indra Kumari Bajracharya describes the history of Hakha baha, the structural characteristics of the baha Sangha, Guthi, Kumari, and so on.

Aside from these works, no other separate work has yet been done on Hakha baha. The baha is mentioned in various contexts in independent studies. No other books and articles have been written so far. The present research is different to all these published works in terms of themes and the area of study.


The general objective of this research is to analyze different aspects of Hakha baha. Some of the major objectives are as follows:

1. To analyze the conceptual aspects of Buddhist Vihara.
2. To make an assessment of general features of Nepalese Buddhist Viharas.
3. Critically analyze the historical aspect of Hakha baha using available inscriptions.
4. To make an assessment of rituals and worship organized in Hakha baha.
5. To describe the Hakha baha Sangha.
6. To examine the tradition of Kumari at Hakha baha and her role in Buddhist rituals in Patan.
7. To describe the structural characteristics and evaluate the art and architecture of Hakha baha.
Limitations of the Study

As the title suggests, this study is confined to Ratnakar Mahavihara (Hakha baha) of Patan. The historical aspect of the study is about its establishment, and was mainly based on the basis of historical evidence. However, the other aspects of the Viharas focus on current data, and most of the worship rituals, Guthi, Kumari etc. were studied based on present activities. The analysis are mainly descriptive.

Research Methodology

Both primary and secondary data are used in this book, and conclusion has been drawn based on these. Most of the information has been derived from primary sources, which comprised of historical documents such as metal, wood and stone inscriptions. Senior Ajus and other Sangha members of Hakha baha were interviewed, and the information they provided proved to be useful. During the interview the legends and stories related to this baha were also collected. All the research is based on an analysis of the cultural heritage of Ratnakar Mahavihara.

Observation is another important method that was used to collect information. The researcher observed various rituals and ceremonies that were performed in the Vihara during the research and collected relevant information. Secondary sources were also used in order to authenticate the description. Other sources include various published and unpublished thesis, related books, and journal articles. These sources support the interpretation and analysis of various themes.


1Introduction 11
2The Rise of the Vihara in Buddhism 16
3History of Nepalese Buddhism 34
4General Features of Nepalese Viharas 64
5Ratnakar Mahavihara of Patan 72
6Rituals and Puja in the Vihara 112
7The Kumari Tradition 124
8Structural Characteristics 133
9Conclusion 146
Glossary 153
Appendices 157
Select Bibliography 167
Index 177

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