We get back to our hotel in Kathmandu to be warmly welcomed by our co-yatri-s who have arrived earlier. That includes Siva the Australian, and his better half. We, the new arrivals, look like tramps – unshaven, wild eyed, ragged… We would sink into the luxury of hotel facilities and eventually look presentable to the God of mirrors. But those wild-eyes would stay with us for a long time.. As would the floating feeling, the lightness of life, the joy of having been accepted as apprentices to the select group of wild denizens of Siva – the siva gaNA-s…
We have a couple of days in Kathmandu before we head back to Delhi.
The first day is thanksgiving. We go to Pashupathinath temple… It feels so good coming back to the Lord here… We had been here some ten days ago, praying for successful Yatra to his abode in Kailasa. And He has fulfilled our prayer. And how… And now, we are back in his presence, in absolute awe of Him, his power. his compassion….. And Pashupathinath, in his infinite kindness, blesses us by allowing us to chant Sri Rudram once more in his Holy Sanctum. Once again, we are there till the noon time aarati takes place. Our hearts filled with happiness, we go around the temple – ever so slowly… Taking in every sight… Gazing at the fast flowing Bagmati… The shrine of Adi Shankara, where the attendant priests bless every pilgrim with a bead of Rudraksha – the eye of Siva… The shrine of Vasuki… The open shrine with the maze like walkway having hundreds of Siva Linga-s. A Nepali priest who had been in the main Sanctum when we had come the previous time, and had chanted the Rudram with us, is met somewhere during our wandering in the temple. He recognizes us. And we chat. Om Nama Sivaya! Collecting Prasada, we return to the hotel.
Evening sees us go to the Nag Pokhri…. The lake of the snake, the shrine of Santoshi Mata…. We heart-convey our immense gratitude to her. We chant some more… The litany of names of Uma – the consort of Siva….
The next day sees us hire a cab to go to Bhaktapur…. One thing that strikes you in Kathmandu is the level of air pollution. It is unbelievable. So many vehicles, so many of them belching unacceptable levels of fumes… A recent article in The Guardian ( Click here to read ) says that “during surges in Kathmandu traffic congestion, the level of small particulate matter can measure over 500 micrograms per cubic metre, or 20 times the World Health Organisation’s safe upper limit.” … Now, what can one say…. A nose mask is a useful armor, however fragile…
Rationing our breath, we make our way out of the city and onto Bhaktapur.
And what a beautiful place this is. One day would hardly suffice to experience this place. Also, these are “living cultures” and so one should experience such places during festive occasions that are celebrated so wonderfully here. But then even a short visit is rewarding in itself, and so a visit to Bhaktapur is heartily recommended.
Let’s start with a picture from there…
Welcome to Bhaktapur…
Bhaktapur ( literally, the city of devotees of God ) was the capital of Nepal until the mid 15th Century. This was the theater of royalty of the great Malla Kings of Nepal.
Now, some quotes from the Wikipedia entry on Bhaktapur…
“Bhaktapur has the best preserved Palace courtyards and old city center in Nepal, and is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artworks….It is the home of traditional art and architecture, historical monuments and craft works, magnificent windows, pottery and weaving industries, excellent temples, beautiful ponds, rich local customs, culture, religion, festivals, musical mystic and so on. Bhaktapur is still an untouched as well as preserved ancient city that is itself a world to explore for tourists….. From time immemorial it lay on the trade route between Tibet and India. This position on the main caravan route made the town rich and prosperous…”
So, Bhaktapur has seen many a yatri traveling between India and Tibet for hundreds of years… For the Kailasa Yatri, this town has been a pilgrimage halt en-route….
Let’s take in a few key sites shall we… Wiki quotes followed by pictures…
“Bhaktapur Durbar Square is a conglomeration of pagoda and shikhara-style temples grouped around a 55-window palace of brick and wood. The square is one of the most charming architectural showpieces of the valley as it highlights the ancient arts of Nepal. The golden effigies of the kings perched on the top of stone monoliths, the guardian deities looking out from their sanctuaries, the wood carvings in every place — struts, lintels, uprights, tympanums, gateways and windows — all seem to form a well-orchestrated symphony.”
The Lion Gate: Dating as far back as 1696 AD, this gate is guarded on either side by two huge statues of lions. Alongside there are two stone images of Bhairab (the dreadful aspect of Shiva) and ugrachandi (the consort of Shiva in her fearful manifestation).
“Lu Dhowka (The Golden Gate) is said to be the most beautiful and richly moulded specimen of its kind in the entire world. The door is surmounted by a figure of the goddess Kali and Garuda (mythical griffin) and attended by two heavenly nymphs. It is embellished with monsters and other mythical creatures of marvellous intricacy. In the words of Percy Brown, an eminent English art critic and historian, the Golden Gate is “the most lovely piece of art in the whole Kingdom; it is placed like a jewel, flashing innumerable facets in the handsome setting of its surroundings.” The gate was erected by King Ranjit Malla and is the entrance to the main courtyard of the palace of fifty-five windows”
Here’s a zoom-in to the top of the gate… A closeup of Kali Devi, with Garuda above.
Here’s a freeze in stone of the Great God Narasimha, the ManLion …
This five-storeyed pagoda was built by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1702 AD. It stands on five terraces, on each of which squat a pair of figures: two famous wrestlers, two elephants, two lions, two griffins, and Baghini and Singhini — the tiger and the lion goddesses. Each pair of figures is considered ten times stronger than the ones immediately below, while the lowest pair, the two strong men Jaya Malla and Phatta Malla, were reputedly ten times stronger than any other men. This is one of the tallest pagoda-style temples in Kathmandu Valley and is famous for its massive structure and subtle workmanship.
And here’s a side view of the wrestlers, the elephants, the lions etc on successively higher steps
Ok… How about a quick picture cruise…
Here’s a gallery.. Click and browse… Catch a hurried yatri’s glimpse of the Glory that is Bhaktapur.
Signing off this post with a couple of pictures…
First one… A side view of the Serpent and the Siva Linga, near the serpent lake in Bhaktapur.. Lovely isn’t it…
And a picture of an elderly Nepali lady… Taken by my co-yatri, the healer, Sanjeev…. You can spot the same lady in the gallery above in the last picture…. With a hand powered weaving machine..
Here she is… With her spinning wheel… Now isn’t that one of the most beautiful smiles you have seen…Contentment, happiness.. that money can’t buy….
… And we now come towards the end of this special Yatra series….
Om Nama Sivaya! Om Mani Padme Hum!
*** To be continued ***