Unesco World Cultural Site, outside Kathmandu.
10.01.2011 10 °C
“You’re back is all white”, I heard in a Hindi accent. I’d been sitting up against a chalky stupa at the Bodhnath Temple meditating and reflecting. My face was in the sun my back against the stupa while hundreds of pilgrims circumnavigated the massive dome.
With the my eyes closed and my mind deep in thought I could hear the shuffling of little feet back and forth in front of me. I opened my eyes and two little girls were cheekily trying to take a peak under the brim of my cap to see my eyes. I already had a smile on my face and they were shocked and shy when they saw my eyes half opened staring at them. They looked at me and looked at my camera. They wanted their photo taken… So I took their photo and we thanked each other and they danced and hopped away. I meditated a bit more before getting up and moving on.
The dome is pure white. The hundreds of prayer flags dyed red, white, blue, green, and yellow, contrasted nicely with the cloudless, sunny, blue sky. I took many photos of the flags, the stupas, the people, and the buildings.
I walked around the dome myself and spun only a fraction of the hundreds of prayer wheels, and observed life in this little community.
The massive stupa itself used to be an important stop along the trade route from Kathmandu to Lhasa, Tibet. The stop was for the traders who would pray for a safe journey before riding their yaks through the steep passes of the Himalayas.
Nowadays, hundreds of people make the daily pilgrimage from nearby villages to pray. Most of the people living in this area are Tibetan refugees that escaped China in the 60’s. The rest are Sherpas and Tibetan tribes people.
After spinning prayer wheels, and watching in fascination as people prayed, I sat down again and looked down at the village square in front of me. There were many maroon robed monks, old tribal women, children, and pigeons before me.
I watched the day unravel. The children chased the pigeons, the monks kneeled on wooden boards facing the stupa praying, and the old women sat with prayer beads facing the stupa hacking and spitting as everyone does at here.
In fact there's so much hacking up and spitting out that you have to sometimes jump out of the way to avoid getting a nice thick loogey on your leg or foot.
I walked down from the stupa and spun two massive prayer wheels with my own prayers in mind. They were heavy and at first you feel like a mule attached to those old fashioned circular grind mills. But once you start spinning it, it quickly builds momentum and then you find that you’re running with it. If the other massive prayer wheel behind you is going at the same rate then you can grab on to that one and spin with it as well. It was fun and everyone spinning was laughing and smiling. I said the last of my prayers and left feeling so happy and satisfied.
I decided to get a better look of the stupa from one of the cafés.
I sat down on the rooftop of a lovely little vegetarian restaurant/ bookshop.
Soon I was sipping on some freshly grated ginger and lemon tea with the local Himalayan honey and a bowl of tomato lentil soup.
I could see another rooftop café in front of me seated with monks eating their late afternoon meals. I stared at the stupa for quite sometime reflecting on my day and thinking about how much peaceful energy there was in this extremely old village.
The original stupa itself was built in the year 600 A.D. by a Tibetan king as a type of penance for unwillingly having to kill his dad by decapitation. Then in the 14th century a group of ‘bad guys’ smashed it to bits and they had to construct a new one which is the one standing now. Word has it that these domes house pieces of bone from Siddhartha (Buddha) himself. Wow!
After my small meal I circumnavigated the dome once more among the locals and monks. The air was thick with incense. Beyond the Tibetan dharma music I could hear a type of deep throat chanting from some monks. I’ve never felt a stronger spiritual vibe in my life. I left spiritually satisfied for the day.
As I walked past the Tibetan herbal medicinal shop, the smell of pine from one of the many huge white sacks of medicinal plants pleasantly filled my nose. I headed towards the street and hopped a taxi back to Kathmandu.
The little orb of a car bounced and honked through the late afternoon traffic. We hit potholes half the depth of the tires, we raced passed children playing cricket with tennis balls in abandoned dirt lots lined with barbed wire. We slung forward as brakes were slammed to avoid hitting orphans and rabid looking dogs.
We passed cold, black, mid evil ponds used for bathing, drinking and religious rituals.
Finally I hopped out in my own little neighborhood called Thamel. I headed for my first cup of locally grown black tea from my favorite guys at a bakery of which I still don’t know the name of.
Luckily last nights bout of brutal food poisoning only left me with more of a sore belly and sore throat rather than a need for a toilet.
If I try not to eat tonight my chances are better of not getting food poisoning because I really want to do more temple hopping in the foothills.
I’d like to make it to the Guhyeshwari Temple. It literally translates into “Goddess’s vagina”. Story has it that Lord Shiva’s wife was so pissed off that she burst into flames after her dad insulted her husband, Lord Shiva. Afterwards, Shiva was so sad that he carried her dead body around and her vagina fell off. This myth inspired the practice of sati, a very real event where widowed women were burnt alive at their husbands' grave. As much as the non-Sherpa women have no power here what so ever, I’m pretty sure they don’t practice this anymore..
So no more food just power bars, no more poisoning, more liquid, and the ability to do what I came here to do.
Ok electricity is out. Time to hit the streets...