Ruins of the Palace in Tirta Gangga
In anticipation, my toes dug into the bed of the stream. It was going to be a treat. I inhaled the wet grass and relaxed. The plantain trees and boulders surrounded the spot; offering some seclusion. The stream burbled by, whilst we waited for our turn. Clothes on the rock meant someone was bathing behind it. Just then, ripples of laughter of children and their grandmother reaffirmed our belief that locals used the spring.
The previous evening, we had checked into the nearby Dau Homestay. On our walk, through the paddy fields, to our accommodation, we noticed the spring. Who cared if the homestay had no hot water? Besides, Tirta Gangga Palace was less than a few hundred metres away.
Ruins in Sacred Garden
“We can keep your backpack in the dickey”, offered the conductor of the crowded mini-bus heading from Lumbini to Bhairawa. Any space was welcome in the can of sardines, so I obliged.
Gosh! That is how tourists are mugged – it was pointless, my bag was gone. I said a little prayer. Thankfully, my passport and money was on me. My trip to Lumbini had been in a similar bus…a small price to pay for tranquillity.
The previous evening on checking into the Lumbini Lodge, I came across a man enjoying his evening drink. We got talking. He was a retired Nepalese Captian, who had served in the British Brigade of Gorkhas. He was full of stories.
He said that he was in the UK for training. At that time, supplies and toiletries became scarce. Thanks to the Oil Crisis, due to an embargo by OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries).
He spoke of the restroom of a reputed hotel; about a signage stuck next to the toilet paper. “Use both-sides” He chuckled. “What was the fuss about? We just washed!” I wonder, where he found water next to a water closet of 1970s’ Britannia?
“No photographs” cried one of the men who had ushered us inside the Kumari Ghar at Kathmandu Durbar Square.
A hush fell over, as Kumari or the Living-Goddess appeared from an ornate-wooden- central-bay window that faced the entrance. She was in her red -regalia. Her right palm was facing us in Abhayamudra and her eyes were emotionless. It was a surprise, as till that time I had not realised that only the Kumari of Kathmandu took visitors. I have seen that many photographers have taken a shot of Kumari, but I am aware that the privilege came at a high premium.
A Toran at Kumari Ghar Depicting Goddess Durga
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A Lady Sitting in front of Sakyamuni Buddha
On the door sill of the shrine, sat a rotund woman, basking in the light of butter lamps that burned on a pyramidal stand. A vajra sat directly aligned with the lamps, to strike admiration and spiritual tenacity amidst the faithful. Meanwhile, a Brazen Sakyamuni Buddha, enshrined inside MahaBuddha Temple gazed at our judgemental eyes.
The temple was built in 1600s by Abhaya Raj and was inspired by Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya,India. This temple was the first Buddhist temple built in Shikhara stye architecture. It was covered with floral motifs and terracotta reliefs of Buddha… no wonder this temple was an abode of thousand Buddhas.
The flickering lamps enchanted us and reminded us of sacred fires of Baglamukhi Temple(southeast of Patan). We had seen throngs of devotees sitting in front of Goddess Bagalamukhi’s shrine. The shrine complex hosted numerous temples dedicated to other Hindu Gods.
No sooner we were about to leave Baglamukhi Temple Complex than three children surrounded us.
“Photo, photo” they yelled in unison. Their smile was infectious, so we were glad to oblige. Why would these kids want to be photographed, may be to be showcased in a photographic magazine? Or it was there way of breaking ice with strangers!
Children at Bagalamukhi Temple
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Oil Lamps Outside Bhairawa Temple
The clamour of bells, drums and resonating vocals drowned the entire Taumadhi Square (City Square). Flickering oil lamps, lit during the evening prayers, devoured the darkness created by the daily power outage – well the headlights of the two-wheelers passing through the square were of some help too. The singing group was in front of Bhairawa temple, that stood next to the big pyramidal Nyatapola Temple, which was also my vantage point for the duel that was about to begin.
Exterior of Bhairawa Temple
They were in the middle of their song, when I saw the other group gathering right next to them. In no time, the second group started singing, not the same verse but something entirely different. I was not sure if it was a sing off. I wondered what the prize was, maybe an extended package in heaven… I wished I had earplugs!