Goddess Tuljabhavani: A link between Maharashtra, Karnataka and Nepal


Tuljapur, an ancient Shaktipeeth in Maharashtra is the seat of Devi Tuljabhavani, the Kuldevi of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his inspiration who empowered him to build Hindavi Swarajya.

The goddess has been the Kuladevi of various royal clans all over Maharashtra and Karnataka. One such clan known as the ‘Karnatas’ migrated to Mithila in 1097 A.D under the leadership of Raja Nanyadev(As the name suggests, they originated from Karnataka). He was a vassal under the Pala kings of Bengal and established his independent authority in Mithila at the first available opportunity. It is said that he built a Temple for Devi Tuljabhavani in Mithila, which is not yet historically confirmed.

In 1314 AD after being persecuted by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, the then king of the Karnata Dynasty, Harisinghdev took refuge in Nepal. In 1324 he won Nepal and established his capital at Bhaktapur (also known as Bhatgaon) and established a temple of Tuljabhavani right after his victory as a tribute to his Kuladevi. Similar temples were erected at Kathmandu and Devapatan by his successors.

Taleju Temple, Source: Wikimedia Commons

The dynasties succeeding the Karnatas such Mallas and Gorakhas also accepted Tuljabhavani as their Kuladevi. She is referred to as ‘Taleja’ by her devotees in Nepal.

The Golden Gate at Bhaktapur Temple, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Every year the Ruling head of the dynasty has to visit the Temple and get his ‘ Tilakvidhi’ done by the hands of Kumari Devi, as a mark of being the representative of Devi Tuljabhavani and ruling the kingdom in her stead. This similar feeling of the ruler being the servant of the Kuladevata is echoed across India, including prominent temples like Jagannath Puri and Padmanabhaswami temple and also in the rule of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

The famous Hindu king of Nepal, Raja Prithvinarayan Shah (1730-1772) has inscribed a stone slab, marking the building of his new palace in which he praises Devi Tuljabhavani as Mahishasurmardini, and marks himself as her humble servant.

The Hindu King, Raja Prithvi Narayan Shah, Souce: Wikipedia

The inscription on the stone slab is as follows:


“On the Panchami tithi of Shukla Paksha of the Vaishakh month,in the Shaka year of 1691 (10th May 1769),Saturday,the king Prithvinarayan completed the building of his palace and arranged a great utsava to mark it.”

“This Prithvinarayan is a mere bee drinking the nectar from the lotus feet of Devi Durga,with whose blessing he was ruling the kingdom of Nepal.Many scholars have praised this generous king and many kings have accepted him as their overlord.May he always scale new heights of prosperity.

The kings of Nepal had a unique relationship with the Goddess. It is said that Raja Jayaprakash Malla used to play the game of dice with Devi. Every night she used to manifest as a beautiful woman and play the game with the king till morning. Once the king leered at the Goddess for which she cursed him with Sarvanasha – The ultimate curse destroying all signs of prosperity. She also cursed him that he would never see her in her human form again. When the king begged forgiveness, she instructed him to find a ‘Kumari’ a pre-adolescent girl, and worship her as the Goddess until she comes of age. This marks the beginning of the famous Kumari Pooja tradition of Nepal.

Raja Jayprakash Malla Playing dice with the Goddess Taleju

The Kumari is selected from the Shakya caste of the Nepalese Newari community. The term Newari is a local version of the word Nayar – a caste native to Karnataka which migrated along with the Karnata kings, marking a strong connection between the original temple of Tuljapur and a deep tie between Nepal and Karnataka. The tales of Goddess playing Dice with her devotee are also famous in Tuljapur and a few other Shaktipeeth in Maharashtra.

Kumari from Shakya Caste of Newar Community, Source: Dolmatours

Another similarity between the two Temples is the offering of Naivedya cooked by a farmer. It is a one of a kind ritual in the two temples as the preparation of Naivedya everywhere else is a meticulous process requiring the following of various strict rules, involving caste-based preferences.

The similarities between the two temples so far apart and the evidences of dynasties migrating across India truly echoes the spirit of one Rashtra and reiterates the fact that Nepal has always had a special place in India’s heart, and this fact cannot be masked by any amount of ‘Red’ coating.