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DEVGHAT (or Deoghat), 5km northwest of Narayangadh, is many people’s idea of a great place to die. An astonishingly tranquil spot, it stands where the wooded hills meet the shimmering plains, and the Trisuli and the Kali Gandaki rivers merge to form the Narayani, a major tributary of the Ganga (Ganges). Some say Sita, heroine of the Ramayana, died here. The ashes of King Mahendra were sprinkled at this sacred tribeni (a confluence of three rivers: wherever two rivers meet, a third, spiritual one is believed to join them), and scores of sunyasan, those who have renounced the world, patiently live out their last days here hoping to achieve an equally auspicious death and rebirth. Many retire to Devghat to avoid being a burden to their children, to escape ungrateful offspring, or because they have no children to look after them in their old age and perform the necessary rites when they die. Pujari (priests) also practise here and often take in young candidates for the priesthood as resident students. Suggestions that a hydroelectric project might be built just downstream of the confluence seem, fortunately, to have fallen by the wayside.

Dozens of small shrines lie dotted around the village, but you come here more for the atmosphere than the sights. Vaishnavas (followers of Vishnu) congregate at Devghat’s largest and newest temple, the central shikra-style Harihar Mandir, founded in 1998 by the famed guru Shaktya Prakash Ananda of Haridwar. Shaivas (followers of Shiva) dominate the area overlooking the confluence at the western edge of the village.

The confluence

To reach the confluence, turn left at a prominent chautaara at the top of the path leading through the village: Galeshwar Ashram, on your right as you walk down the steps, and Aghori Ashram, further downhill on the right, are named after two recently deceased holy men. One of them, the one-armed Aghori Baba, was a follower of the extreme Aghori tradition and was often referred to as the “Crazy Baba”, claiming to have cut off his own arm after being instructed to do so in a dream. Various paths lead upstream of the confluence, eventually arriving at Sita Gupha, a sacred cave that is closed except on Makar Sankranti, and Chakrabarti Mandir, a shady temple area housing a famous shaligram that locals say is growing.

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