Sankhu Vajrayogini Temple

Vajrayogini Sankhu

This Vajrayogini Temple is a well known Tantric power places in the Kathmandu Valley and would have been familiar to many of the the mantrayana practitioners passing down through from Tibet to India searching for teachers and teachings. It is said to have been the meditation place of Marpa and many other great sages and is known as the place of the Eighty Siddhas. There are four of five caves around this Vajrayogini Temple area where the Mahasiddhas of India are said to have stayed and done their Vajrayogini Sadhana Practice. One cave in particular is said to have been the practice cave of Nagarjuna, the great Indian philosopher and tantric Practitioner.

The Sankhu Vajrayogini is the eldest of the four sister Yoginis of the Kathmandu Valley. Sankhu Khamdga Yogini, Guhyeshvari, Phamthing Yogini and Vidyeshvari. Her principal Identification is Ugara Tara, the wrathful emanation of Tara the goddess of devotion and a very terrible protectress. Buddhists and Hindus have their own separate tantras and Sadhanas of Ugratara. Sometimes she is referred to as Blue Tara, one of the three wrathful forms of Tara. The Tibetans consider her to be a superior wisdom goddess and a female Buddha. She is identified as Ekajati, a particularly terrible protectress, and guardian of the Dzogchen dharma.

Sankhu lies in the North East corner of the Kathmandu Valley on the old road coming from both Bhaktapur and Boudha through Helambu and on to Tibet. This small village is sometimes referred to as Sankhu Vajrayogini and the Hindus refer to it as Sankhu Narayani. It has for a long time been a meeting point between Tibet and India. It is definitely a place where the Tantras and Sutras would have passed through on their way to Tibet from India.

The Earliest Tibetan mention of Sankhu occurs in a fourteenth century revealed terma biography of Padmasambhava. Tibet’s Great Guru was on pilgrimage to the Kathmandu valley and stayed at Sankhu and practiced at this Vajrayogini Temple. Here he encountered a young girl, whom he took as his mystic consort. Her mother had died in childbirth and she had been left alone in the cremation ground to be taken and reared by monkeys. Guru Padmasambhava took her from this Vajrayogini power place in Sanku to Yanglesho where they practiced Yangdak Heruka and Vajrakilaya tantras in his enlightenment meditation retreat. She is known as Shakya Dema or Shakya Devi. During Padmasambhava's meditation here in Sankhu and around the Vajrayogini Temple he concealed, many treasure texts for future yogis to reveal. The same text mentions the visit of the first Tibetan practitioner of Dzogchen Vairotsana who offered a golden icon to the monastery of Sankhu.

Nearby in the village of Nagarcot, one can see the footprint embedded in rock of the great Tibetan saint Milarepa where he meditated and practised for 3 months. It is written in a terma of Yeshe Tsogyal, detailing her life story that she was in the nearby village of Bhaktapur where she took a spiritual consort by the name of Atsara Salé back to Tibet.

Sankhu is an incredibly energetic and active place of worship, preserved and maintained by modern day Newari families and is the place where they hold the Kumari Puja of the living goddess every year.The Image in the main Vajrayogini Temple here is said to give extremely powerful blessings. It is an ancient temple where the Vajrayogini manuscripts in Newari have been discovered and dated as far back as the 11th century. However it is thought that the practices existed there long before that time. The main Symbol of this “Power Place “ is the Goddess Ugra Tara and is refered to as Ekajati in the Tibetan understanding of the place. The deity of Vajrayogini is the same as the deity of Ugra Tara. This Vajrayogini temple at Sankhu in Nepal really contains an image of Ugratara, more popularly known as Maha-China-Tara which is believed to have carried over there by Bengali priests from a village near Dacca about A.D. 1350, when the Mohammedans ravaged portions of Eastern Bengal. This image is held in the Pagoda Bellow which houses this particular statue. She is red in colour with one face and four arms. Two hands hold a skull cup (kapala) and knife (karpatra) to her heart . The remaining two arms are holding a Sword(khadga) and an utapala Lotus. Both Buddhist and Hindus have their separate tantras and sadhanas for Ugra Tara She is considered to be a superior goddess of wisdom.