A Flight of Fantasy
Morning light streaked through the apex of Dattatreya temple. Slurping hot, sugary tea, I sat on a corner of Dattatreya Square, watching a dog that was stuck in its puppy hood – it ran amidst a flock of pigeons trying to catch the fluttering birds.
Meanwhile, in rest of Bhaktapur, devout women worshipped flat stones that laid in front of their houses with flowers and food. These offerings were a favourite with local fauna like feral pigeons, stray poultry and dogs.
“The stones represent Kul Devata (family deities)”, one shopkeeper had explained.
Women also placed offerings at various street corners and places… those might have been statues of Gods that fell during the 1934 earthquake. Durbar Square or Palace Square had lost a third of its monuments and buildings in the same earthquake.
Durbar square housed the palace of Malla Kings. The palace had been converted to a museum and it housed Taleju Temple (Goddess Durga) and Kumari Chowk (Living Goddess’ residence). The square became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
Griffins or Garudas Engulfed in Smoke
A pair of Griffins sat on guard at the southern entrance of Changu Narayan Temple. Their piercing eyes were unfazed by ritualistic smoke that engulfed them. Stone steps, which separated them, led to a door with a gilded torana. An ornate triangular oil lamp holder hung between these creatures. Elephants, Lions and Sharabhas (similar to griffins) guarded other three sides of the shrine. Oil lamp railings, intercepted by four-entrances, ran around the perimeter of the structure.
Changu Narayan Temple
The two storeyed wooden-temple was oldest in Nepal and was established in 4th century A.D. It displayed elaborate wooden and stone carvings of Vishnu and his ten incarnations, other Gods, Demi-Gods and mythical creatures. I was not surprised to learn that this temple was a UNESCO World Heritage site.
My unplanned day began, not with the serenity that I witnessed at the shrine. I waited at the precincts of Bhaktapur, to take the 6-kilometre long bus ride to Changu Narayan Village. This was my first bus ride outside the bus, rather on top of it. It had been an hour. The dusty bus stop had accumulated at least a score of commuters. I just hoped that they all were awaiting different rides.
Loss of breath and creaking of the knees, that was what the faithful might have experienced. The 365 steps leading up to the temple was a challenge for the strong-hearted. Occasionally, macaques snatched bottles of water from the hands of careless ones – no wonder you were heading towards Monkey Temple. At the top of the flight was a huge Vajra (thunderbolt), a symbol of resilience and spiritual power.
We took the less scenic and touristic car-route from the southern entrance. I blame it on Thara, my high-heeled friend; otherwise, I was game for the arduous climb.
No sooner had we walked towards Swambhunath Stupa than a waft of incense and fumes of yak-butter lamps overwhelmed our senses. Spinning prayer wheels, reading Om Manee Padme Hum, circumnavigated the stupa. Fluttering prayer flags converged at the pinnacle of the dome, which was glistening in the evening sun.
Enormous eyes looked through us. We stared at the, Devanagari numerical one shaped, nose between them. These non-prejudiced, Buddha’s, features were present on all the four sides of the spire atop the stupa.
Who said trance involved only electronic music?
According to legends, the site was the spot where grew a radiant lotus. It later transformed into a stupa hence, it was called ‘Self-created’ or Swambhunath. The city of Kathmandu has grown around this site.No wonder this is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu valley.
Hippopotamuses in Mara River
Herds of wildebeests jumped in the river, landing into the open jaws of nile crocodiles. They were not alone. Zebras had an urge to dive in and some of them managed to dodge death and swim across. Vultures were having a feast of the carcasses that lay galore on the shore.
These were the scenes; I had imagined seeing, at Mara River.
What we really saw was a rather placid river. We sighted a few floating carcasses and were informed that the endless influx of willing-dinner occurred sporadically. A few crocodiles laid on opposite side of the river, well away from a pod of hippopotamuses that were frolicking in the water. The shore reeked of rotten flesh and dung but it was hard to imagine that seemingly calm river could become an arena for life and death.
The landscape of Mara was open savannah grassland. In its vastness, we saw migrating wildebeests, thousands if not millions. These herbivores are the Big-Mac of Masai Mara. Twice a year, gazelles, zebras and wildebeests migrate to Serengeti, Tanzania (in January to March)and back to Masai Mara,Kenya(in July to August). These herbivores are responsible for the unkempt-stable-like stench of the savannah.
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Tagged #elephant, #greatriftvalley, #hippo, #hyrax, #kenya, #LakeNakuru, #lion, #lioness, #masaimara, #migration, #riftvalley, #serengeti, #vervetmonkey, #wildebeest, crocodile