Tag Archives: Kathmandu

Durbar Square – Patan

Durbar Square – Patan: Tuesday May 20th (out of order)

So this morning I moved all my stuff from my cute little hotel in Thamel (the tourist district) to the hostel in Kalinka. Language and culture classes for the volunteers started yesterday and are pretty great so far. We have all received our Nepali names, and mine is river. After class I headed to the third and final Durbar Square in Kathmandu Valley…

From high on a rooftop, I am treated to a spectacular view of Durbar Square Patan, the third and final Durbar Square in the Kathmandu Valley. Like many from this area, my tour guide today was very knowledgable and had a great command of the English language. Today as with other days, I was taken to sacred sites both Buddhist and Hindu. Everyone in Nepal stresses the harmony between all inhabitants regardless of their religion and it is certainly and obviously present in all the places I’ve been. Like the others, this Durbar Square represents a kingdom of times past. The kings of these places would build their towns very close to the royal palace so they could communicate and keep and eye on the people. Each royal palace has many windows they call eyes. From the inside, it is easy to see out, but from outside, one cannot see in due to the intricate woodwork. The Nepalese are very fond of festivals and in the middle of the square, there is a huge bell that can be heard for a one kilometer radius, and was used to call the people for any news, emergency, or festival.

As with the other squares, there is one temple in the middle that houses a linga and is held up by wood carved pillars of the Kama Sutra. Today, my guide explained it this way: “In the old times, girls were married at a very young age, like nine. After their wedding, their mother would tell them ‘go to this temple and look at the carvings, then you will know how to please your husband’.”

The Hindu Trinity is represented by the Gods Shiva (God of Destruction & Rejuvination), Vishnu (God of Protection), and Brahma (God of Creation). My guide told me when The God Shiva wanted to go someplace, he took the golden bull Nandi, that is why Nandi waits outside every temple to Shiva. He said “Just think of him as Shiva’s motorbike!” Also, the God Vishnu has Garuda, a bird like creature he rides, or turns into. Vishnu is often pictured as half man, half bird, a figure which is present in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology.

As I walked around, I saw many Hindu women praying to shrines of Ganesh, who is one of the forms of the God Shiva. Ganesh is depicted as an elephant and represents wisdom, good luck, and long life. The women are there praying for long life for their husbands.

Durbar Square - Patan
Durbar Square – Patan

The Monkey Temple (Swayambhu)

Entrance
Entrance
Alter
Alter

Saturday morning in Kathmandu. I don my Nepali pollution mask and hit the streets. I walk a few blocks away from my hotel, hire a rickshaw and head to the Monkey Temple. We’re basically 4 wheeling in a 1960’s bicycle with cart attached and on several occasions I’m more than glad we don’t go over. My driver has very strong legs and we make it up some impossible hills. Then he drops me off, points in a general direction and commands “walk”. SO, I head over some hills and up some steps through a stupa (temple), around some chickens, over some boulders and up a dusty street till I can see a big temple atop a hill. By my estimation it’s 30 minutes walk and I’m just guessing it’s where I’m supposed to be headed.

Saturday is the Nepali day of rest and worship, a time families spend together in the temples and parks. It’s a beautiful day already and as I approach the temple I can see the infamous stairs that lead to the top. What I don’t know, is that I can only see the first half of them! The Nepalese are walking fools. Climbing too. Even here in the Kathmandu valley. I consider myself a pretty motion oriented human, but I am already suffering several blisters and other wear and tear from the walking that to them is a leisurely stroll. Good thing I have a week and a half before I head to the mountains!

As I begin the ascent, I can see many huge painted statues of deities. And then, the monkeys arrive: playing and running, hanging on their mothers bellies as they race across the steps, doing both animal and human activities. It is obvious they have been watching the visitors and have picked up a few things. There are pools/ponds everywhere for them and they lean into the water and hang upside down to drink. One monkey has half a water bottle he is using as a cup, dipping into the water, then sitting up and drinking like a person.

There are lots of tourists from all over the world, but the majority of people here are locals who have come with their families for the day. Locals and tourists alike rest along the way as we climb the steps. There are large carved stone sculptures all the way up and as we get higher we begin to see the bright gold metal work of the entrance glistening in the sun. To either side there are many prayer wheels moving as each person spins them on their way by. As it is in much of Nepal, the air is heavy with the smoke of rituals. Incense, candles and butter burn everywhere as prayers are conducted to deities of both Buddhism and Hinduism. The dogs that run wild all over the city are often covered in butter from sleeping at the feet of alters and there is no exception here.

There are many beautiful colors to be seen all around Nepal all the time, but the women are dressed in their best today. I watch as a monkey approaches a woman in a gorgeous pink and turquoise sarong. He tugs lightly on the end of it, causing her to raise her arms in surprise and drop the ice cream out of her cone. He then grabs the ball of ice cream and runs off as everyone laughs in surprise. Everyone is in a playful mood today.

More pix later…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pashupatinath Temple Kathmandu, Nepal

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Pashupatinath Temple and cremation grounds on the Bagmati River: Here there is representation of the full cycle of life from birth to death and again.

Pashupatinath is one of the most important Hindu Temples in the world. It is a temple to The Lord Shiva: God of destruction and rejuvenation, who has over a thousand forms. Pashupatinath represents the animal form he took when he became the protector and Lord of all Animals. Hindus from all over the world make pilgrimage to this site. It is also the cremation grounds for the Nepalese people.

When I arrived at the gate and purchased my ticket, I was greeted by a man who informed me he would be my government tour guide for a fee. I accepted. He gave me an incredible history of the place and took me all over. We started at the cremation platforms which are arranged according to caste. There were several bodies finishing up at the lower end and the wild dogs were scavenging for bones. This is dry season in Nepal, and in the middle of the river there were cows just hanging out. As we moved up the line, I was lucky enough to witness the preparation of the royal platform which was being prepared for the king’s sister in law. There were two bodies waiting on the side of the river as people gathered for the funerals. Traditionally speaking, the oldest son lights the first fire in the mouth of the deceased, then goes around and blesses their feet. I caught this on film.

As I’m walking along the other side of the river with my guide, he suddenly turns to me and says “excuse me miss, are you marry?” Surprised I answer and he then says “Maybe you want to stop here and pray for fertility?”. I laughed and said “Thank you, no” then allowed him to tell me all about his kids. The Pashupatinath represents the full life cycle for the Hindus, and on the side of the river opposite the cremation platforms there are small pagoda looking temples that are for fertility. This is important not only for representation of the full life cycle, but because the Pashupatinath Temple is said to house the linga or phallic symbol of The Lord Shiva.

The small temples sit in a row that creates a mirror image as you look through the doors. In one of the last temples, the Sadhus, or Hindu Holy Men sit. I had learned about these men in my Comparative Religions class, and was more that excited to meet them. My guide did some introductions then the Sadhus invited me to sit among them. I got lots of great pictures but at one point my guide said something to one of them then told me “Move over, we make very nice picture for you.” Well, what happened next was a bit of a shocker. The Sadhu unrolled his dread locks that nearly touched the ground, and wrapped them around me! If you know me, you know I’m a germ freak and I was freaking out! But, I think when you look at the picture, unless you are looking very hard, you will only see a smile on my face. Truthfully speaking, you cannot be a germaphobe in travels like these…but seriously, I’d only been here for a few hours! Wouldn’t trade it for nothin’ though!

My guide then took me across the river to the other side of the Pashupatinath Temple where only Hindus are allowed inside, but he took me as close as I was allowed, then he took me around the side, told me to stick my arm in the fence and said “See, now you are inside the temple!” with a big ol’ grin!

…there will be more to this post later as I’m having some technical difficulties with loading pictures.