The mist that carpeted the surrounding mountains crept into the lake, and the moisture laden breeze chilled our bones. The white sky reflected on the rippled water surface that became the canvas on which stood the lady of the lake. Soon, it started drizzling, I opened my travel umbrella that had a phrase on it. It said,” I love Scotland”. It was my Excalibur and we were in Avalon!
Pura Ulan Danu
Pura Ulun Danu or the Temple of Goddess Danu stood on the western shores of the Lake Bratan. It was built 1500 metres above sea level on Beddugul plateau in the 16th century by King of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Putu. However, there were records of a shrine older than the current one at the same site. The Temple complex consisted of four temple structures. Three of them dedicated to the Hindu trinity, Brahma – the creator, Vishnu – the administrator, and Shiva – the destroyer. And the fourth one was dedicated to fertility Goddess Danu. Being built on an island, the last temple seemed afloat on water. In Balinese, Danu meant lake. In Rig Vega, Danu was the goddess of Dark waters and the mother of Demons or Danavas. Some scholars believe that the pro-Aryan deity inspired the name of the European river Danube.
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?
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.