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
Posted in Travel
Tagged #bagmati, #bhawani, #durbarsquare, #goddess, #kathmandu, #kumari, #melamchi, #nepal, #river, #southasia, #thamel
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
Posted in Travel
Tagged #bagalamukhi, #buddha, #lalitpur, #lamp, #mahabuddha, #maya, #nepal, #patan, #sakyamuni, #temple, #vajra, #vihar, #vihara
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!
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.