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.
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.
“Is this the bus-stop for Changu Narayan?” I crossed referenced with a bystander. He narrowed his eyes, while nodding his head. Either he thought that I was a cheap back-packer or he was worried that the bus was late.
The mini-bus arrived. It looked like a can of sardines. Desperate times call for desperate measures; we swarmed like locusts. Women folk gathered at the door, and I found myself with a group of men, ascending the roof of the creaky vehicle. Our journey was far from smooth. Watching out for electric wires and tree branches, that waited to ambush us, we sat on mundane articles like a chicken coop and an old bicycle…
Amidst this clutter sat this long-haired man, who called himself Rasta Man. His motto ‘American life, Nepali knife and Japanese wife are the best!’ was unaffected by the fact that his Japanese wife had left him for someone else.
“Do you have any plans?” he enquired and proposed that I joined him for a drink of rice beer. I declined! It was early in the afternoon. No wonder he called himself Rasta Man.
Changu Narayan Village sat downhill to the east of the temple. Thankfully, the shrine was not a major pilgrimage centre like Pashupati Nath, or maybe I was there during the non-festive lull. The stoned pathway that lead to Changu Narayan Temple was lined with shops selling wooden works, metal works, pashmina fabric, yak bone amulets, Thanka paintings and more. A few hundred yards from the shrine, a dazed teenager was etching different Buddhist heavens and realms of existence on a Thanka painting. Maybe I should have introduced Rasta Man to him.
Changu Narayan was an experience to remember. Now, I truly believe in what Lao-Tzu had once said, “A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”