Hidden in plain sight

At the eastern entrance of Thamel lies Tri Devi Mandir. Tucked away by the roadside, it’s waiting to be noticed.

“Did you mean Tri Devi Marga?” asked people repeatedly as I walked across Thamel, trying to locate the temple that gave the oft-mentioned road its name. Half an hour and several helpful shopkeepers later, when I finally found my destination, Tri Devi Mandir turned out to be a trio of temples within a small compound beside the Sanchayakosh Bhawan.The three structures, standing in a row, are dedicated to the three Devis (goddesses) - Dakshinkali, JwalaMai, and KamaruKamachhya.

In contrast to the bustling street outside, it was quiet and calm in the compound. There was hardly anyone there. Sabitri Kuikel, whose family has been looking after the temple for the past fifteen years, informed me that it had always been this way. “When we moved here to take care of the temple, this was a very scary place,” she said. “I was told it used to be a hide out for drug addicts and criminals. But a lot has changed since then.”

Even so, despite being safer, Tri Devi Mandir still doesn’t see many worshippers. In fact, very few people know about the place. According to Sabitri, even locals are unaware of the existence of the shrine, and the few that do don’t know much about it. Thinking back on my difficulty in tracking down the temple, I had to agree. Most people I asked knew about Tri Devi Marga, but were clueless about the existence of the mandir.

The situation, it must be said, is changing. The temple is being renovated, and worshippers are slowly increasing. Sabitri, though, didn’t seem satisfied. “People go to faraway places looking for gods,” she lamented, “I wish they would start recognizing the deities that are right here.”

The temples are believed to have been built by Bada Kaji Amar Singh Thapa. Although the deities had already been established, he completed building the three temples only after returning from the Anglo-Nepalese war.
Erotic carvings that depict people and deities in different mudras (positions) can be seen on the wooden tundaals (struts) of the temples.
It is said that if you come to the Tri Devi Temple with a pure heart and ask for one single thing, it will be fulfilled within a year.