Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Kathmandu, Stupas and Mandala

Main Stupa (enlarge by clicking picture to see the eyes)

This Monkey is Drinking Upside Down
Swoyambhunath, a mouthful I know, is an old religious place. Confirmed dates show it was a religious site since about 500 BC. It is probably one of the oldest religious sites still in use today. Monkeys live around the buildings so many people know it as the ‘Monkey Temple’. It's a Stupa, a representation, seen from the sky, of a lotus flower.
Standing Buddha
2 Smaller Stupas at the Site

Steep Staircase Up
A Monk With His Offerings
It’s a Buddhist symbol of purity and growth. Yet many Hindus use this Stupa to also pray to their gods. It is an active place and was totally restored by a California Group just a few years ago. The ‘dome’ of the Stupa is overlaid with gold. Each side of the upper Stupa has the all-seeing eyes of wisdom and compassion. The place has a magical atmosphere about it.
Another Monk
Scents permeate from the offerings to the gods, colorful robes of the priests or monks give the area a glow, too. There are 2 large staircases leading to the top. We took the one less steep. While there are tourists, the place did not feel touristy. I think it is because the people praying or making offerings keep the Monkey Temple from becoming just another tourist spot.
Gurkha Knife

A Total of 7 Elephants in This Carving, (4 On This Side)
Sure there are shops along the long staircase and our group bought quite a few articles, including me. I bought, what is said to be an ‘original’ and true Gurkha knife. The seller demonstrated how this Gurkha knife can cut iron. Very impressive! The Gurkhas are special soldiers. One of their strengths was close, hand to hand combat using this kind of knife. The British found out how fierce those guys were when they tried to invade Nepal in 1814 to 1816. The British never invaded Nepal. The Nepalese soldiers, especially the Gurkhas, were so good that the British used them to form a Gurkha Regiment in the aftermath . Even today, there are Gurkhas in the British Army. And yes, all people in this Regiment are Nepalese and from the town of Gurkha. The last large action for those guys was the defense, or invasion, of the Falkland Islands. Needless to say the Gurkhas won. I always wanted one of those blades. The blade is a bit heavy but very effective, even today.

While I admired the Gurkha knives, Carol bought a hand carved camel bone depicting 7 elephants and an Om, a sacred symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norway Sherpa

1953 was the year Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norway Sherpa reached the summit of Mt. Everest in Nepal. We sought out the statue honoring those 2 men. It was a nice photo op.

Chopping 2 Meters Off the Front

On the way to the Stupa of Boudhanath, the largest Stupa in South Asia, we saw houses and buildings and shops being chopped by 2 meters. The road was being ‘widened’ and every building along the road lost 2 meters off the front. Just imagine taking 6 feet off the entire front of your house.
Throwing Gold Paint to Make Lotus Petals on the Boudhanath Stupa

The Boudhanath Stupa is a holy place, especially for the Tibetan community. After the 1959 takeover of Tibet by China many Buddhist Tibetans settled in and around Kathmandu. The Boudhanath Stupa was already a special place in their religion, representing, from the sky, a Mandala. Symbolism abounds within the structure. We were not allowed inside, we tourists could only walk around the periphery and that was OK with us. There are many shops surrounding the Stupa and on the small side streets.

My Mandala - Example of Miniature Painting
One building near the Stupa was a school for artisans, in particular the painting of Mandalas. A Mandala is a Buddhist representation of the Universe. Mandalas are produced with sand or flowers or are painted. Very small details are incorporated into one of those paintings. Each part of the ‘Universe’ depicting the many  aspects of life, with the center being the goal of existence, the state of total bliss, of understanding, of wisdom and compassion. Some Mandalas are used as visual mantras during meditations, others, especially the sand and flower Mandalas, after their lengthy creation are destroyed to show that nothing is permanent. Mandalas are teaching
Enlarge to See the Incredible Detail in this Mandala
tools, meditative and spiritual. I always liked those, so…. I bought one; to be framed and to keep, not to destroy.

After all this sight-seeing we had built up an appetite and on the program was a show of native dancing, drink and food. We took a bicycle rickshaw to the venue and our bicycle rider was a bit older (40?). He had trouble transporting us on his rig. His breathing was labored and he coughed sometimes. The air in Kathmandu is terrible. Even if physically fit, smog and dust are not healthy to breathe.

Our Rickshaw Ride
The food was basic food with, to me, odd spices. We ate legumes, potatoes and vegetables, stew-like.
The dancing, explosive, sometimes with humor, mostly, though danced in group setting, no solos. What did I think of the music; Drums, flutes and ‘medieval’ sounding.

Nepalese Dancing
It was another hectic day but we did see a lot of Nepal in the 3 days we were there. Tomorrow we are on the plane again, back to India.

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