“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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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.