Sanctuary of Unending life
It was at Maratika that the Lotus-Born Guru and his consort Mandarava achieved immortality. It was here that they met with Amitayus, Lord of Infinite Life, face-to-face. It was in this place, blessed for its special association with the Guru and his consort and their accomplishment of unending life, that they set the stage for lifetimes of enlightened activity throughout India, Nepal, Tibet, and countless other realms. As such, this holy site carries immense blessings. For practices connected with the mandala of Amitayus, for the empowering and extending of life and longevity, Maratika is unmatched.
Words from the Masters
The significance of this site is captured in the following works:
Melodious Tambura of Delight: A Guide to Maratika Cave, Supreme Site of Immortality - Chatral Sangyé Dorjé Rinpoche
Le’u Dünma - Tulku Zangpo Drakpa
How to Get there
By Jeep: We recommend you to travel by jeep in a small group. Jeep taxis to Maratika are offered by various travel organizations in Kathmandu. A jeep taxi can hold 5 – 6 people comfortably, and the ride will take about 7 hours, depending on road conditions and traffic. Thus, the journey to Maratika and back to Kathmandu will take one day in each direction. In order to explore the various sites, we recommend you to stay a minimum of two days in Halesi, thus making a four-day trip. The jeep drivers will also help you organize food and accommodation.
By Plane: Flights are available from Kathmandu (Nepal) and Biratnagar (India) to Lamidanda. The flights take about 30 – 45 min. from both airports. However, flights may be delayed and sometimes even cancelled due to bad weather or mechanical problems. Once in Lamidanda, one can hire a vehicle to get to the Maratika caves. The ride will take another three hours.
By Helicopter: Through travel organizations in Kathmandu it is also possible to hire a private helicopter. Although this would be the quickest and most comfortable trip, it will be definitely be the most expensive.
By Bus: Adventurous low-budget travelers can also reach the caves by bus. Buses can be booked via the local travel agencies in Kathmandu. Please be aware that the ride will likely be uncomfortable, take a long time, and possibly be dangerous due to the unique driving style common in Nepal and India.
Food & Accommodation
Food and accommodation are readily available in the surrounding villages. Please be prepared to encounter low-quality accommodation.
Buddhists particularly like to visit Maratika around the time of Tibetan new year, since this date for them marks the principal event of the sacred site.
The Upper Cave of Maratika: 27°11'33.5"N 86°37'20.1"E
Here, at main sacred cave of Maratika, we find a large rock naturally shaped like a vase, said to be the tsebum—the long-life vase that Amitayus placed in blessing on the head of Guru Rinpoche and Mandarava. The walls are covered in naturally-arisen syllables, and a host of blessed objects are there to discover.
Four Gates of Liberation
These four gates are said to purify those who pass through them from a variety of downfalls and negative karmas.
The first gate, found in the center of the cave, purifies the karma of taking birth in both the hot and cold hells.
The second gate, in the back of the cave and to the right, purifies the karma of passing through the intermediate state between birth and death.
Moving around the cave clockwise, past two huge stalagmites (linga), you will reach the third gate, where you may pass under a large slab of rock and out the other side. This purifies the karma for taking womb birth, and accumulates both merit and wisdom.
The fourth and final gate lies just beyond. There is a stalagmite protruding from the cave wall to form a small space that the faithful may slip through. This purifies all damages and breaks in samaya, the vows of the tantrika, as well as the vows of the lower and bodhisattva vehicles. Travel all four gates, and they liberate from taking birth in the eighteen hell realms.
Amitayus Body Imprint
Found to the left of the vase of Amitayus.
Known in Tibetan as the yang ga’u, this self-arisen prosperity casket grants all wishes.
Guru Body Print
Behind the tsebum and against the left wall of the cave, a natural imprint of Guru Rinpoche is there for those with eyes to see. Some see Guru Rinpoche in his form of Sampa Lhundrup, and beside him Guru Dewachenpo; others see Guru Rinpoche in his usual form.
The Lower Cave of The Eight Herukas: 27°11'33.6"N 86°37'15.9"E
The Eight Herukas Cave is located at the foot of Avalokiteshvara Hill, to its western side. Here, Guru Rinpoche is said to have subjugated a demoness and made a wide opening in the roof of the cave – known as the sky door. This is where he flew out out of the cave, leaving two huge footprints in the stone. Guru Rinpoche is believed to have hidden many treasures in this place. The cave is big and thus could probably hold more than five hundred practitioners. You will also find naturally-arisen conch shells that pilgrims can blow, and nectar seeping from the rock walls.
Inside the Lower Cave:
Body and Head of the Demoness
Guru Rinpoche’s Foot Print
Around and Above the Caves:
Body Print of Guru Rinpoche & Dakini Gathering Place
Guru’s Hat and Thighbone Trumpet
Three Protectors Rock
Guru Rinpoche’s Secret Practice Cave: 27°11'33.7"N 86°37'37.5"E
Often referred to in modern times as the “Manjushri Cave”, this is where Guru Rinpoche sometimes practiced in solitude. To reach the cave entrance, first go to the hill close to the monks’ quarters of the Maratika monastery, at the foot of Manjushri Hill. Walk anti-clockwise around the hill on a well-worn path until you reach a metal staircase which leads up to the cave.
Garuda Cave: 27°11'37.0"N 86°36'52.9"E
A bit farther from the main caves you will find the Garuda Cave, which Lama Zopa Rinpoche has recommended as a beneficial place to visit for those who suffer from cancer.
Mandarava’s Secret Practice Cave: [GPS to be confirmed]
Mandarava’s Secret Practice Cave is located about 2.5 hours on foot from Maratika. In order to get there, you first have to walk to the nearby village of Halesi and then continue for another 40 minutes. You can ask one of the monks from Maratika Monastery to be your guide. Upon arrival you will have to crawl into the cave, with your arms stretched out in front of you. Make sure to bring a torch and a candle. The water which drips down outside the cave is said to be the nectar of Mandarava. Many pilgrims bring a bottle and collect some of the nectar.