Himalayan Yoga Academy

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Bihars & Bahis of Lalitpur

11 Mar 2024 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy

Bihars & Bahis of Lalitpur

What is Bihar and Bahi?

Bihars and Bahis are the places where Buddhist monks and nuns stay and carry out different activities like praying, meditation, the leering and studying, teaching, and so on so forth. In Lalitpur district people call Mahabihar to Bihar. Before the emergence of Bihars and Bahis, Buddhist monks and nuns are said to be accommodated in the caves and natural forest areas. Bihar is open for every religion and caste people who follows Buddhism whereas Baha / Bahi is a place only designated for Newari Buddhists. Baha and Bahi are used by Newar people. Bahal and Bahil are the term used for Baha and Bahi by non-newari community (Parbate – out of Nepal Mandal people)

Generally, the word Bahi denotes the same meaning as Bihar indicating the smaller in size in comparison to the Bihar. However, there are distinct differences between a Bihar and Bahi as:

  1. Bahis are supposed to be the earliest places than Bihars,
  2. Bahis are usually built far away from the residential area, whereas Bihars are made amidst the residential area, and
  3. Bahis are built over a raised plinth. On the rooftop of the shrine room, a lantern-like structure marks the Bahi.
  4. Bihars do not usually possess the lantern like structure above the roof top. Bihars do have the quadrangle courtyard usually paved by the stones or bricks. Bihars consist of residence of families.

Bihars and Bahis in Lalitpur

There are one hundred and sixty seven Bihars in Lalitpur town. The majority of them have now been remained only in name and nothing. According to the historical facts, there were 15 Bihars and 15 Bahis as the major Bihars and Bahis in the early period. During the Malla period the extension of Lalitpur included Chovar and Kirtipur as well. Another Bihar named Shree Vatchha Maha Bihar built up by the Malla rulers has also been added in the list. The total number of Bihars has reached 18 which are still remained. As a major Bahis, there are 24 Bahis including Kirtipur, Bungamati and Ba Bahis. Among these, the Bihars and Bahis which happen to be in the present Lalitpur town are 16 Bihars and 21 Bahis. These Bihars and Bahis do have the names in both Sanskrit and Newari languages.

Sanskrit and Newari names of Bihars of Lalitpur

1.Jestha Barna Maha BiharTanga Bahal
2.Hiranya Barna Maha BiharKwa Bahal
3.Dharma Kirti Maha BiharTabahal
4.Ratnakar Maha BiharHakha Bahal
5.Yasodhar Maha BiharBubahal
6.Data Nam Maha BiharDaubahal
7.Guna Laxmi Maha BiharDhumbahal
8.Chakra Barna Maha BiharChuk Bahal
9.Bajra Kirti Maha BiharWan Bahal
10.Jyoti Barna Maha BiharJyo Bahal
11.Baisya Barna Maha BiharGuji Bahal
12.Mayur Barna Maha BiharBhinchhe Bahal
13.Rudra Barna Maha BiharUku Bahal
14.Jaya Manohar Maha BiharSubahal
15.Baladhar Gyupta Maha BiharYachhu Bahal
16.Shree Batchha Maha BIharSibahal

Bihars are not similar to one another in several terms e.g. area, Sangha members, art and architecture, branch Bihars, and others. Among these, Yashodhar Maha Bihar possesses the largest area (5 Ropanies) and Chakra Barna Maha Bihar holds the smallest area (3 Ana 2 Paisa). Hiranya Barna Maha Bihar commands the largest number of Sangha members (more than 5,000) and Jyoti Barna Maha Bihar consists of only 22 Sangha members. The Bihars which have only Bajracharya Sangha include Guna Laxmi Maha Bihar, Chakra Barna Maha Bihar, Dharma Kirti Maha Bihar, Dat Nam Maha Bihar, and Ratnakar Maha Bihar. Four Bihars namely Yasodhar Barna Maha Bihar, Bajrakirti Maha Bihar, Mayur Barna Maha Bihar and Hiranya Barna Maha Bihar have both Shakya and Bajracharya in their Sangha. Remaining seven Bihars have supported only Shakya community. Most of these Bihars have branch Bihars. There is variation in number of branches by Bihars. Rudra Barna Mahavir has earned 33 branch Bihars, Hiranya Barna Maha Bihar has 25 branch Bihars and Yasodhar Maha Bihar has 15 branch Bihars. Besides, three Bihars namely Hiranya Barna Maha Bihar, Rudra Barna Maha Bihar, and Ratnakar Maha Bihar do hold the exact outlook of Bihar as such being bounded by the total complex of own buildings whereas others have been surrounded by the residential houses of the Sangha members and others.

Short Description of few Bihars

Hiranya Barna Maha Bihar (Kwa Bahal)

Hiranya Barna Maha Bihar also known as Kwa Bahal is a historical, Golden colored, pagoda-style monastery of Shakyamuni Buddha. Which was built in the 12th century by King Bhaskar Varma and gold-plated with donations offered by the local merchants who did trading with Tibet. According to a legend, Hiranyavarna Mahabihar was built at a location where a rat chased a cat. Rats are still being fed at the site. The chaitya in the middle of the courtyard is worshipped as the lineage deity by the locals.

Ratnakar Mahabihar

Ratnakar Mahabihar also known as Hakha Bahal, is located on the way to the Patan palace, its current building was established during the reign of the Malla dynasty. The site houses the living goddess Kumari, who is the royal goddess of the Malla Kings. Thus, widely worshipped by the Hindus too. Kumari is believed to be the embodiment of the Hindu goddess Taleju and is a significant figure in Newar culture.

Yashodhar Mahabir (Bubahal)

Yashodhar Mahabir is also known as Bubahal is the ancient Buddhist monastery built by a converted Brahman called Vidhyadhar. Bubahal is situated in Gabahal area. There is a beautiful temple housing the Buddha’s icon which is facing north in the large courtyard.

Their Hindu relatives are still residing nearby Agnishala area helping each other in religion and social matters. This is a good example of religious harmony in Nepal, between the two great religions, Hindu and Buddhist. Their clan tree called Varuna briksa of both clans are still preserved in their respective monastaries.

Padmavati mahabihar (Na Bahal)

Na Bahal is also known as Padmavati Mahavihar is a significant cultural and historical site. This monastery constructed in the 17th century is known for its unique wooden carved sculptures, a hallmark of Newari craftsmanship. The big bell in front of the Patan palace was made by the artisans of this monastery. The architecture of the temple is typical of the Newari style with intricate wood carvings and elaborate roof structures. One of the most notable features of Na Bahal is its wooden carvings and bell-making.


Nagbahal is a vibrant and historic Buddhist area in Lalitpur. The large courtyard of Nagbahal serves as a gathering place for the large icons of Bipankara Buddha during the Samyaka festival which is held every five years. This bihar is associated with the Golden Temple or Hiranyavarna Mahabihar. It has a stone spout that dates back to ancient times and a large bronze image of a bull very much like a Nandi. According to the local legend, once Dipankar Buddha visited here and at that time the bull roared.


Nakabahil is also known as Lokakirti bihar is an ancient Buddhist monastery and until recent times it was a well preserved bihar structure. The bihar organizes the Astamatrika dance, which begins during Ghatasthapana the first day of Dashain festival. No violence or sacrifices are performed at Nakabahil, as the monastery follows the principles of non violence and compassion.

Jagamadu pukhu, Pimbahal

According to the local legend, the pond was built by Lakhey or demi god by piling up stones one after another without any mortar or clay to please his wife. It is thus called Jagmadu Pukhu, the pond was used to irrigate the agricultural land nearby. The locals believe if the pond gets dry and the magical stone lying in the northeastern corner of the pond is exposed to the sun it will rain soon.

Mahabaudha temple

Mahabaudha temple is dedicated to lord Baudha. The temple is often called the temple of a thousand Buddhas because a Buddha image is engraved on every branch, the temple dates back to 1585 and it was rebuilt after the 1934 earthquake. Mahabaudha’s design is based on the Mahabodhi temple of Bodh Gaya, as the founder of the temple Abhayaraj visited there. The Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya has long been an inspiration to the Buddhist community all over the world.

Baisya Barna Maha Bihar (Guji Bahal)

Guji bahal also known as Vaisha Barna Mahabihar is a historic Buddhist temple located near Sundhara of Patan. The temple was built in the medieval period. The temple features a pagoda style structure. The main shrine is dedicated to Shakyamuni Buddha and there are several smaller shrines and prayer halls within the temple complex. Trailokya Bijayadevi brought from Tibet is one of the important icons of this monastery.

Jestha Varna Mahabihar (Minnath temple)

Jeshthavarna Mahabihar is commonly known as Tanga Baha. Its Sanskrit name Jestha varna Mahabihar indicates its reputation as one of the oldest and principal vihars in Patan. This vihar was founded by Balarchana Deva at Tangal Tol, which is situated on the east of the road leading south from Mangal Bazaar. It is located just opposite Ta Baha of Karunamaya or Rato Machhindranath Temple. The principal deity of the Tanga Baha is a small and remarkable red image of Padmapani Lokesvara which is also revered as Jatadhari Lokesvar. Newar Buddhists call this deity Caku-baha-dya and Hindus call him Minnath.

Ta Baha of Karunamaya or Rato Machhindranath Temple

The Rato Machhindranath Temple stands about 400 meters south of Patan Durbar Square in a large courtyard known as Ta Baha, built-in 1673. The temple is a tall Newar-style Pagoda with three tiers of diminishing roofs. It honors Machhindranath also known as Matsyendranath, an influential early 10th-century yogi who credited the god Shiva as his teacher. In Nepal, in particularr, Matsyendranath has come to be known as a god of rain. Buddhists see the deity as an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, and Hindus as an incarnation of Shiva. In Lalitpur in particular the temple is one of two focal points of the Rato Machindranath Jatra, a ceremony that honors the role of the deity also called Bungadya in bringing an end to droughts, the image of Bungadya is pulled in a tall chariot in April-May, built on Pulchowk Road.

Haugal Bahal

Haugal Bahal is a historic community located near Patan Durbar Square. It is home to the Rajkarnikar clan, who are believed to have been brought from Kannauj, India by the Malla kings to make sweets for them. The Rajkarnikars have a rich culinary tradition and their sweets and snacks are still popular throughout Nepal. the bahal has a Buddha shrine. The inner chowk is dedicated to Harati, a goddess worshipped in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The icon is from the early Licchavi period.

Rudra varna Mahabihar

Rudra Varna Mahabihar is a historic landmark in Patan. It was built in the 7th century by Lichhavi King Shiva Dev and was completed by Rudra Dev. It is said that the Rudra Varna Mahabihar once served as a royal courtyard for King Rudra Dev. One of the most unique aspects of the Rudra Varna Mahabihar is its association with the recitation of the Namasangiti. This ancient prayer is said to have the power to remove the eight great fears or Asta Maha Bhaya, from the minds of those who recite it. Rudra Varna Mahabihar remains a vibrant and active center of Nepalese culture and spirituality.


Guita Buddhist monastery is in Patan. The temple which is said to be named after the number nine is a fascinating place that is shrouded in mystery and symbolism. It is said that nine nagas or serpent deities performed their sadhana or spiritual practice here. This is why, the temple is considered to be a powerful place of worship. There are nine chaityas or Buddhist stupas surrounding the temple. Another interesting feature of the temple is the nine water spouts that are located near the entrance. Therse spouts are believed to have been built during the Malla period and are said to represent the nine planets of the solar system.

Mayur Varna Mahabihar (Bhinchhe Bahal)

Bhinchhe Bahal, also known as Mayur Varna Mahabihar, is a Buddhist Monastery on the eastern side of Patan Durbar Square. This ancient monastery is known for its stunning architecture, intricate wood carvings, and ancient artifacts. The name Mayur Varna translates to Peacock-colored in Sanskrit. The monastery houses several rare texts and teachings, including the Prajnaparamita, one of the most important Buddhist texts, which dates back to the 12th century. It is the home to many stone carvers who have made stone sculptures in the past. Visitors still can witness the stone carvers at work.

Jaya Manohar Mahabihar (Su Bahal)

Su Bahal, also known as Jaya Manohar Mahabihar was built over 1000 years ago by King Indra Dev. The temple of the monastery was said to have been constructed by removing a cremation ground that previously stood in the area. Thus, on the ninth day of Dashain a main Hindu festival, people offer a tiny piece of their flesh to Mahakal, a deity believed to reside in the cremation ground to pay homage to the deity and ask for blessing.

Yempi Bihar (IBahi)

Yempi Bihar, locally known as Ibahi is a heritage site near the Kumbeshwar Temple. It is said that the bihar was once visited by Guru Padmasambhava, who is believed to have stayed there for six months and went to Tibet to spread the teachings of Buddhism.

Yempi bihar also plays a vital role in the annual Rato Machhindranath Jatra, a popular festibal that takes place in Patan. The Jatra is believed to bring good luck and prosperity to the city, and it is said that any work related to the Jatra must first begin at Yempi bihar.

Sanskrit and Newari names of Bahis of Lalitpur

S. N.SanskritNewari
1.Yampi Maha BiharIbahil
2.Lalit Barna Maha BiharKonti Bahil
3.Napi Chandra Maha BiharDuntu Bahil
4.Gopi Chandra Maha BiharPintu Bahil
5.Askchheswar Maha BiharUpper Pucho Bahil
6.Raskchheswar Maha BiharLower Pucho Bahil
7.Lokakirti Maha BiharNabahil
8.Mani Mandap Maha BiharDhapagal Bahil
9.Saptapur Maha BiharChink Bahil
10.Jestha Barna Maha BiharJyaba Bahil
11.Raja Shree Maha BiharIbaha Bahil
12.Lokkirti Maha BiharKinu Bahil
13.Chandra Surya Maha BiharNhyanka Bahil
14.Kamuk Nam Maha BiharLarger Khwaya Bahil
15.Kamuk Nam Maha BiharSmaller Khwaya Bahil
16.Gustal Maha BiharMain Guita Bahil
17.Pratham Shree Maha BiharLarger Guita Bahil
18.Basucha Shil Maha BiharSmaller Guita Bahil
19.Iti Raj Maha BiharIlaya Bahil
20.Jaya Shree Maha BiharUba Bahil
21.Sthabir Patra Maha BiharThapa Bahil

The functions of Bahis are systematic but vary by Bahis. The Bahis have Sangha perform the same activities as in Bihar. The largest Saptapur Bihar has 156 Sangha members whereas, the smallest one i.e. Jesth Barna Bihar has only one member. Now seven Bahis have no Sangha members. Some Bahis has own branch while in Saptapur Bihar there are 4 branch of Bihars. Lokakirti Bahi possesses only Bajacharya Sangha and the remaining are captured by the Shakya community. The condition of Bahis is not well. Except few, all Bahis have been badly damaged in the absence of regular care and maintenance. Furthermore, there are some Bihars in Lalitpur town which do not happen in any group but these Bihars have been performing the similar activities like in Bihars and Bahis through Sangha as usual. The number of these Bihars is eight.

The existence of Bihars and Bahis in Lalitpur town has witnessed a great prolonged period to come at the present condition by crossing several ruling periods. The location of these Bihars and Bahis was certainly controlled by the then environment of Lalitpur town. Therefore, a good deal of understanding of the present spatial distribution of Bihars and Bahis in Lalitpur town could provide the probable true situation of that time and the existing relationship at the present moment with the changing spatial landscape of Lalitpur town.

Additional Bihars of Lalitpur

1.Layan Chaitya Bimba Maha BiharHenu Bahal
2.Yonkuli Maha BiharYoku Bahal
3.Chakrawarti Maha BiharKhwakha Nabahal
4.Gawarma Pinth Maha BiharMubahal
5.Shree Watsa Maha BiharAtha Bahal
6.Subarna Maha BiharIkha Chhen Bahal
7.Chaitya Barna Maha BiharMichchhu Bahal
8.Dwarik BiharDwarika Bahal

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